Monday, 14 October 2013

A letter to Tristram Hunt

Following Hunt's support for Free Schools and Parent-Led Academies yesterday, a Labour Party member wrote to him and shared the letter they wrote with us. We have permission to reproduce it here.

Dear Mr Hunt,

I left the Labour Party after Blair got elected because of his education policy and rejoined fairly recently in the belief that Labour Party policy was changing.  I am about to resign again because of your statements.  The support given for any form of state funded school which lies outside the oversight of local authorities has to be a cynical attempt to curry favour with a certain type of middle class parent.  As a retired teacher I am fed up with those who have not set foot in the classroom making continual overt or covert criticisms of community schools and their teachers.  Michael Gove must be one of the most reviled Secretaries of State for Education there has ever been and you have already been labelled as Gove-lite.

"Free" Schools

I have been following the Ofsted reports and costs of "free" schools.  This information was recently supplemented by leaked information which included the number of surplus places in the open "free" schools. 
  • The proportion of parent/community led applications to open "free" schools has declined, overtaken by academy "sponsors"
  • The proportion of teacher led applications has also declined.
  • 47% of 2011/12 openers are deemed by the DfE to be undersubscribed, demonstrating that they are not popular.
  • The 2011 openers have all been Ofsteded, 6 of them have been found wanting.
  • 6 of the 2011 "openers" were not new schools: 1 was an independent previously rated outstanding but, as a "free" school, rated "satisfactory".
  • It would appear that some "free" schools have reported higher levels of pupils on roll than shown by the Autumn Census.


I have also been looking at the Ofsted reports for academies because my local secondary school is being forced to become one.  Whatever the reasoning behind the previous Labour Government's academy programme, the truth is that it has not been the success which was claimed.

  • Many of the new academies have claimed credit for an improvement in results which was achieved by the predecessor school.
  • Many of the predecessors of academies were already showing improvements in their results.
  • In the 2012 GCSE results (I have no access to the complete 2013 results yet), 83 academies, both sponsored and converter, failed to achieve the benchmark of 40% %A*-C e/m.
  • Of those which returned 4 or more years of results, 14 had worse results in 2012 than in 2009, some with 10% lower results.
  • Ofsted reports on "failing" academies frequently mentioned the positive value of the support given by local authorities.
  • Others have looked at the amount of "gaming" and exclusions which have been carried out in academies, deliberately to try to inflate results and against the interests of the pupils.

I trust that you will reconsider and start supporting real locally and democratically accountable, properly planned education overseen by local authorities.

Yours sincerely,

[Name withheld]

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