Education May 13 2010

Join my campaign for ‘properly accountable’ schools

The Liberal Democrats claim to have won a concession on Tory schools policy. Under the new government schools will apparently have to be ‘properly accountable’. But what does this mean? My suggestion is that all schools, current and future, should be maintained, rather than independent state schools.

 It is a subtle, but crucial distinction. Maintained schools don’t have to be ‘local authority schools’ – that is one myth perpetually promoted by the right wing press. They can be voluntary aided, foundation, voluntary controlled or trust schools.

 However their funding comes through the (democratically accountable) local authority, rather than directly from government, which automatically creates a two tier system. ‘Properly accountable’ schools would be obliged to have governing body arrangements that represent parents, teachers, a cross section of the wider local community and also leave room for outside bodies who might contribute to school improvement.

 Independent state schools are just that – independently- owned, run by the sponsors and loosely governed by ‘funding agreements’, confidential commercial contracts between the sponsor and government, which don’t necessarily give pupils, parents and staff the same protection under the law.

 Their governing bodies are controlled by the sponsoring body, often based miles away from where the school is situated. In the Conservative ‘free schools’ model, private sector companies based in other parts of the world are being groomed to take over English schools. Do parents really want to take their placards and banners to Dubai and Stockholm?

 We can take this campaign to the new government, and I will be putting the question of what constitutes ‘proper accountability’ to all the candidates for the leadership of the Labour Party. I welcome Liberal Democrats who have concerns that the schools policy agreed by their party last year, is about to be submerged in Michael Gove’s drive to create hundreds of ‘free schools’ that are not ‘properly accountable’.

 If you want to join me please get in touch on

 Fiona Millar

9 Responses to “Join my campaign for ‘properly accountable’ schools”

  1. Yes, I think this is exactly the campaign we should be having. I’ll support this. I also think the issue of admissions should be raised: we need a fairer admissions system, something the Lib-Dems are proposing, but will their ideas get past Gove?

  2. chrishusbands says:

    The two key issues are governance and admissions. It is difficult to see that academies will give way to ‘sponsor managed schools’ and, of course, LAs have been playing more and more of a role in commissioning academies. The LibDems have been sound on admissions, but there is -as Fiona says above – much less clarity about governance

  3. Politique says:

    The contenders for the leader of the Labour Party should be pressed on the hustings meetings on this issue

  4. Alan says:

    I’ll support the campaign if it seeks to abolish selection at 11. There’s no new selection so let’s get rid of the old, for the children’s sake and to restore the dynamics of inclusive education.

  5. fmillar says:

    I am going to move on how we tackle school admissions with the new government and new Labour leadership next. In the meantime, please become a supporter of Comprehensive Future
    – we are already campaigning to end selection. Fiona

  6. maurawilson says:

    I agree it’s a key issue. I hope there will also be lots of protests about freezing the Building Schools for the Future programme. I’ve just done some work in Bradford- home of ” crumbling schools” under the Tories and the difference in morale and motivation you can see in staff and students in the beautiful, well planned new schools compared with the old ones is immense-though of course teachers work incredibly hard in all the schools. It’s critical that all leaky, badly planned schools are replaced by new ones which show children and teachers that they are valued.

  7. stanterry says:

    The “market” is something the Tories and by extension now most other political parties beleive in. So its a natural progressions to “free ” schools. But do market practices actually work in the education sector? It seems once again we are about to have a “80’s” style Thatcherite attack upon the sector.A survival of the fitest or those who can mobilize the forces of mr and Mrs Pushy to support their ” revolution ” of the right philosophy. As a Governor I think the idea of all schools being “maintained” and therefore accountable to their communities is an excellent approach. So lets get Governors on board with this as an approach and stem the creeping “privatisation” of our education system.

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  9. Yes, I think this is exactly the campaign we should be having. I'll support this. I also think the issue of admissions should be raised: we need a fairer admissions system, something the Lib-Dems are proposing, but will their ideas get past Gove?

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