Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Only Ronnie Has Balls

Ed and Ronnie

In a Statement in the Commons today, the new Schools Minister Ed Balls encouraged Universities to involve themselves in the expansion of Academies, by removing the need for them to find £2million when acting as a sponsor. Unfortunately, no MP asked him whether yet more Academies were advisable and whether any alternative form of linkage could be provided between Universities and Local Authority Schools for educational purposes. Nor did anyone check out as to whether the £2millions would come from the Exchequer instead, and (if so) whether the money couldn't be better used by Local Education Authorities.

All the MPs present who wished to asked questions were called by the Speaker. Yet the only left-wing Labour MP who raised a matter was Ronnie Campbell. He was justifiably concerned about a matter in his Blyth Constituency where two neighbouring and newly built schools are in a damaging competition with each other - one an Academy, the other a Local Authority School. Ed Balls offered to attend these with him, to try and defuse the situation. I am sure that Ronnie will make good use of the visit.

Ed and Gordon

It was interesting to see that Gordon Brown turned up for Ed's statement. Tony Blair tended to ignore Statement's from other Minister's unless they were what he considered to be high matters of State, such as a Foreign Affair's crisis or a Budget Statement. Does Gordon's appearance indicate a greater commitment to the Common's than was the case with Tony? That would, at least, be helpful.

Ed also offered to meet a whole host of MP's to discuss matters they raised. Even though they had seldom asked for meetings. With most others, he promised to further investigate the matters they raised. But only Ronnie won a Constituency visit from him. Either this was all a new inclusive form of governing, or Ed isn't yet sure how he should answer parliamentary questions about schools.


mrs k said...

If I had my way, all schools would be state run and all private and/or religious schools would be closed down tomorrow. These new Academy's seem all to be funded by 'born again' Christians. Religion of any kind should be kept out of Education.

Harry Barnes said...

Mrs K,
Yet Ed's Statement moves us even further in the opposite direction.

mrs k said...

I know and I weep for the party I knew and loved. At three score years and nine, I still live in hope that it will come back to the people and ideals it has mislaid.

Tim said...

Of the output of our schools 24% - rising to nearly 40% in places cannot read or write properly or do simple sums. I can't see that building a stack of "Academies" (in the absence of evidence of their benefits) does anything to address the simple fact that the only system of education which we know for certain does not work, is the one we have.

Harry Barnes said...

Tim and Mrs K,
In terms of quantity; New Labour can point to a growth of pre-school activities, smaller primary class sizes, better test and exam results and the expansion of University Education. It is when it comes to the nature and quality of our education system that it shows its shortcomings. Expanding children's and adult's horizans requires a different approach than repeated testing, qualifications by modules, non-educational interests being opened via Acadamies and the burden of student loans. These New Labour arrangments are being used mainly by those from the middle-class and are speading self-advancement and other middle-class values. We need an education system for all which opens up our minds, leads us to intelligent interests and equips us fully to participate in a mature democracy. Economic growth then comes as a spin off from these greater aspirations. It is because we don't do such things that Mrs K weeps.

Harry Barnes said...

Mrs K seems to have been 17 to 22 during the period of the 1945-51 Attlee Government, which gave us a vision of the aspirations I stress above. What are New Labour's visions?

mrs k said...

I was 7 in 1945, and I clearly remember singing 'vote vote vote for Zilliacus' during the election and learning how to fold leaflets, delivering same. I benefited from the 1944 Education Act and also from the Classes at the Miner's Institute. Education was the be all and end all for the working class, the way out of poverty of ideas and yes, Harry, the spin off was economic growth and I and my parents did benefit.

The aim was to make us think for ourselves and gain a wider experience. It worked, warts and all. It taught me how to think and challenge the status quo.

When and if someone works out what are New Labour's vision's. I will be grateful for the enlightment.

Tim said...

"We need an education system for all which opens up our minds, leads us to intelligent interests and equips us fully to participate in a mature democracy."

Now that is worth aspiring to and would be worth working to achieve.

Harry Barnes said...

Mrs K,
Sorry. I misread "three score years and nine" and added a decade! I was 8 when the 1945 election took place, but 9 by the result was announced - for it took a fortnight to complete the count as the forces vote had to be collected in from overseas. As voters needed to be 21 or over in that era, we would both first vote in the 1959 General Election, when I was a sub-agent for Manny Shinwell with the task of getting the vote out in Easington Colliery. That must have been the easiest job I ever had in the Labour Party - but the Constituency just failed in its objective of getting him a 30,000 majority. Whilst we lost Hartlepool next door by 56.

My big educational chance came the following year, when I went to the adult education college at Ruskin without formal qualifications. Whilst Ruskin still exists, it no longer caters from the category I was in. The new educational norms have taken their toll.

I run monthly Sunday evening Labour Party Discussion meetings at the Contact Club in Dronfield, with outside speakers. It isn't limited to Labour Party members. The next round of discussion starts up again in September. I will post details when these are sorted. The first one we held was on education - perhaps its time to return to the topic.