Academies and Free Schools are attempts to wedge privatisation into the publicly-funded education system, removing local authority influence and putting pupils at the mercy of profit.
This means that the number of places available is dictated according to profit levels, rather than local need – and that seems to be what is causing the problem for Conservative MPs and councillors now.
It would be easy to point out that they should have considered this eventuality – and the effect it may have on their own positions, before blindly supporting the evidenceless policies of an ignoramus like Michael Gove, but that would be avoiding an opportunity.
It would be better to hope that these Tories are recognising their mistake and will be able to exert a policy reversal on a government that – let’s not forget – has a working majority of just 16 MPs.
Leading Tories are demanding change to government education policy and an easing of cuts, amid predictions that councils in Conservative-run heartlands will soon be unable to provide school places for all the children in their areas.
The growing concerns of Tory MPs and council leaders are being relayed to ministers by the Conservative-led Local Government Association, which is calling on the government to hand back powers to councils so that they can expand schools or open new ones. The alternative, it says, will be a crisis of provision across the country.
Such a move would require a major U-turn in government policy. In the last parliament Michael Gove, while education secretary, imposed restrictions on councils’ ability to force academies to expand, arguing that headteachers should be free to run their schools as they wished.
He also said that where new schools were needed, councils should seek sponsors for “free schools” – which are funded by central government but not run by the local education authority.
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