This is our truth, tell us yours
Apparently, we are to have 500 more free schools of the Tories win the election.
No-one’s quite sure why.
Consider the case in a recent northern urban area. It’s slightly unusual; it has 87000 people, a number of state secondary schools, two independent schools, an FE college and a university. Typically of northern urban areas, the town is heavily socially stratified. On one side of town live the university staff and lecturers, and middle managers from the local authority. On the edge of town live the junior local authority staff, and the staff of the local hospitals and prisons. Around the old road into the town from the east clusters a former mining community that has never recovered from the death of heavy industry in the north east of England; the iron foundry that sat on the river bank where the shopping centre is now may be just a memory, and the carpet mill may be a hotel and theatre, but poverty and underemployment remain a fact of life for those who don’t work in the public sector. Around the town cluster former pit villages and ribbon communities that never quite prospered.
Admission to schools is catchment area based, and heavily distorts the local housing market. If you live on the right side of town, your kids will go to school with university lecturers kids, in a hothouse atmosphere. There’s also a religious school which gets good results if you’re that way inclined. If you live on the wrong side of town though your kids will go to a school that gets good added value results, but where they’ll mingle with kids who are not as refined as from the right side of the river. There is no shortage of school places overall, but there is always oversubscription for the most popular schools, and parents eagerly discuss how to game the system at the school gates.
In such a town the attractions of a free school for those who suffer from snobbery is obvious. A Free School was duly established, and parents who thought it the best option for their kids sent them there.
Have you figured out where I’m talking about yet?
After just a few months Durham Free School is to close, having been described as a haven for every crap teacher in the north east. Even the Secretary of State, who believes in free schools as the answer to the question that no-one should have asked, cannot allow it to continue. Parents who chose it in preference to a bog standard comprehensive for their kids, now face their kids going to the self same bog standard comprehensive.
If this is sensible education policy, I’m a banana.