Privatisation menaces 40 per cent of schools
by Daphne Liddle Britain's Labour Government has announced plans to contract out the work of three Labour-controlled local education authorities (LEAs) which were deemed to have been "failing". Another three LEAs, Liverpool, Hackney and Islington, have already been sold off. In the same week, Chris Woodhead, the controversial chief inspector of the Government's education watchdog Ofsted, condemned another 23 out of 59 LEAs as failing in their duties — indicating that the Government intends to step up the process of privatising the administration of education in England and Wales. Woodhead said that the 23 were found to be wasting public money and making it harder for schools to raise standards. Another 92 LEAs are yet to be inspected but many of these are also expected to "fail". Schools Minister Estelle Morris has announced a big drive to recruit more (management) consultants to help with the expected increase in "interventions" (sell-offs). The list of complaints against the failing LEAs is predictable: councillors competing for funds for schools in their own wards, poor repair of buildings to the point where teaching is impaired, and so on. Cuts to education budgets have been going on now for two decades and it is this which lies at the root of what problems the LEAs' have. It is amazing that anyone should think that people from the business sector who have no experience or understanding of education should be able to improve things. It is almost like sacking bus drivers because they can't make their vehicles go properly without petrol and imagining that bringing in newsagents will be able to do the trick. But that of course is looking at it from the point of view of pupils and parents. The business sector looks at it from only one point of view — is there a profit to be made? And if there is, they will be very efficient at doing that and in their terms it will be a success. But it will be from middle class schools that the private sector would make real money, and Chris Woodhead has dutifully warned that many middle class schools are "coasting": he accused their teachers of complacency and failing the children, despite apparently good exam results. He said the "hidden crisis in the leafy suburbs" will be revealed soon. The Labour Government is now to make it easier for schools to fail — and so become eligible for throwing to the private sector — by introducing a new category of inspections for those that are apparently doing well. From now on, schools deemed not to be pushing their pupils hard enough will be marked as "under-achieving".
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