Another Labour U-Turn: Free schools to continue

(14 Posts)
meditrina Sun 13-Oct-13 08:50:38
meditrina Sun 13-Oct-13 08:52:30

That's a BBC article, btw, for those who don't like links to the unknown.

And they don't just mean allowing those which have opened to continue, they mean continuing to allow new ones to be set up.

prh47bridge Sun 13-Oct-13 11:16:03

This is not actually a change to in policy. This was already Labour's position. The difference between them and the Conservatives is that Labour will only allow free schools where there is a shortage of places whereas the Conservatives also allow free schools to be set up where parents are unhappy with the existing schools.

meditrina Sun 13-Oct-13 13:11:28

Thanks!

Given the huge projected shortfalls of school places, that's not going to make a huge difference in practice, is it?

I suppose the timing of this coming up is related to the new shadow Sec for Education, and a possible wish to distance himself fro the earlier Labour policy of opposing at a national level whilst supporting at a local one.

nlondondad Tue 15-Oct-13 22:36:13

At present only about a quarter of Free Schools are parent led. The others are being set up by a wide range of groups, with various religions being well represented. A number of Free Schools are being set up by profit making commercial companies.

As it is government policy to encourage a market in education they are paying for Free Schools to be set up in a number of cases where there is no shortage of places.

However, budgets being finite, every Free School set up where there is no shortage of places must mean less money to set up schools where there is a shortage. I can see a big row coming....

prh47bridge Wed 16-Oct-13 10:32:33

Labour haven't been very clear what they mean by "parent led". It may be that some of the groups you mention would classify as parent led.

every Free School set up where there is no shortage of places must mean less money to set up schools where there is a shortage

Being pedantic, not every free school means less money elsewhere. The startup funding given by the government to free schools is often relatively low. They are generally expected to meet the bulk of their own startup costs. Some free schools have not received any startup funding at all. But there is clearly some truth in what you say.

"Encouraging a market in education" can, of course, also be described as giving parents a choice. If we try to match the number of school places in each area to the number of children it inevitably means that some parents will end up with schools they don't want. Of course, you may equally take the view that surplus places are wasteful and that avoiding such waste is more important than giving parents a choice. Both views are valid.

nlondondad Wed 16-Oct-13 10:47:58

@PRH47

You remind me that almost all general statements one may make about Free Schools are subject to exceptions. Also you are absolutely right that "parental choice" is a meaningless concept unless there is some surplus of school places in an area allowing parents an option of at least two schools...

(I am in Islington where there has been a surplus of school places for so long, it is easy to overlook this point.)

What I was aiming to do is to explain that current government policy, which seeks (if you prefer this language) to increase parental choice quite logically includes setting up Free Schools in areas that already have enough school places, and actually creating a surplus of places, to enable choice, is intended. The labour announcement is that they would end this.

The practical problem for schools is that the funding system does not pay for a school to have surplus places, (and indeed this can equally well be a problem for Free Schools.)

prh47bridge Wed 16-Oct-13 11:07:44

I don't actually have a preference as to language, just playing devil's advocate a little. I think we actually broadly agree.

warwick1 Wed 16-Oct-13 13:27:44

Are you saying nlondondad, that labour now has a policy of reducing 'parental choice' for those who can not afford a private education for their children and that that parental choice will be reduced still further if their free school policy is implemented.

prh47bridge Wed 16-Oct-13 14:15:23

I think that is overstating it a little. I would say Labour's policy is not increasing parental choice rather than actually reducing it.

warwick1 Wed 16-Oct-13 14:48:29

I see prh47bridge, so labour hasn't made a U-turn, they have just extended their policy of restricting parental choice for those who can't afford private education to free schools.

nlondondad Wed 16-Oct-13 22:11:38

Surely warwick, the issue is going to be those who have no place for their children at all, while in other areas money has been spent, out of a limited budget, on Free Schools in areas where there is a surplus of places...

straggle Wed 16-Oct-13 22:53:48

Parental choice was always an illusion - it boiled down to (a) girls' schools without a boys' equivalent which means a less than balanced intake in surrounding schools, (b) faith schools, which are only a choice for some and segregate communities, (c) grammar schools which aren't a choice for those who don't qualify, and (d) comprehensives which don't always have a balanced intake and yet are the only option for those not qualifying for (a), (b) and (c), or worse, secondary moderns.

A lot of free schools have gained support because they are in areas with (a), (b) and (c) for parents who don't want (d). However, category (d) suffers even more and becomes half-empty as a result with double the FSM, SEN and low attainers who live in the wrong catchment area for the free school.

Specialisms aren't meaningful any more with a strictly prescribed curriculum and Ebacc targets. So that's not really a choice either.

Leaving school planning up to parents isn't a brilliant idea because they mostly only care about their own families, not the bigger picture. But sponsored academies often fall into category (d) too, so Labour wants to make sure they get buy-in from parents and fill up.

But Labour still needs to tackle faith schools and how to have fair admissions policies generally. Then we wouldn't need the 'choice' smile

smee Thu 17-Oct-13 09:36:18

I was shocked when I saw the headlines, but reading the policy you're right as it's not that much of a change. Some very good things being stuck to, e.g they're still resolute about only allowing qualified teachers to teach. smile

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