Much like academies, so-called “free schools” are contributing towards the destruction of our criminally-underfunded education system.
“Cameron’s election campaign promises that the Tories will open hundreds of new ‘free schools’ in England. But when did the Tories ever give away anything free, except to their friends in big business? These schools are ‘free’ from local democracy, free from the need for qualified teachers and recognised school premises. Free schools are another step towards privatisation.”
The first free schools were opened in 2011, and unfortunately two of Leicester’s three Labour MP’s are firm supporters of a privatised education system. So when Leicester’s first free school was opened in 2013, the Krishna Avanti Primary, in Evington, the two quests of honour were Keith Vaz and Michael Gove.
As the Leicester Mercury reported earlier this year, having opened their first “free school” in Evington, the Avanti Schools Trust now “wants to open a new school that would educate pupils from the ages of four to 16.” Apparently they aim to open the school in September 2016. (May 11, Mercury)
In contrast to the Labour Party, the National Union of Teachers (NUT) are firmly opposed to the opening of free schools. As the NUT write on their web site: “We believe it is wrong that state funding should be given to small groups of individuals to run schools that are unaccountable to their local communities.” Five of the reasons for this is because they correctly believe that free schools undermine:
- teachers’ professional status and their pay and conditions;
- local authorities’ ability to plan and manage school places;
- common admissions’ arrangements and fuel social segregation;
- fair funding for schools – free schools are getting a disproportionate share of capital and revenue funding for schools at a time when education budgets are being cut; and
- democratic local accountability of schools to their communities
Such small matters mean little to Mr Vaz, who reaffirmed his love of “free schools” last October when he helped open Leicester’s first Sikh free school, Falcons Primary, in Gipsy Lane. (October 27, Mercury)
Set up and run by the Akaal Education Trust, one notable director of the Trust is Paul Stone, who is the CEO of Discovery Schools Academies Trust, which last year took over the running of running of Mowmacre Hill Primary, in Tedworth Green, when it became an academy. In an unlikely turn of events this conversion from local authority control to academy status was opposed by local right-wing Labour councilllor Vijay Singh Riyait who serves on their board of governors and followed the local Labour Party’s current line in actively opposing such conversions. (February 8, Mercury)
Another notable director of the Akaal Education Trust is local HMRC tax inspector Inderjeet Singh Panesar, who in addition to being the president of the Ramgarhia Sikh Temple, on Meynell Road, is the chairman of the board of governors of local authority controlled Soar Valley College.
The latest news in the fast moving world of privatised eduction, is the announcement that the Akaal Education Trust is “putting together an application for a State of the Art Secondary School with a focus on Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Maths (STEAM)” which if approved by the Council would be opened in September 2016 as Falcons Academy.