Tuesday, 17 December 2013

Our Community, Our Schools – campaigning for OUR schools (and against Michael Gove’s)

It’s been a busy couple of weeks for Our Community, Our Schools supporters. We’ve been raising the profile of the issue of Free Schools and countering the misconceptions about our community schools in both the local and national press – and now we’re taking our case to Parliament.

Kiri Tunks, local parent and Tower Hamlets teacher was recorded as part of the Waltham Forest Guardian’s ‘Speak Out’ series of 2 minute videos, making a powerful plea for people to turn away from backing Free Schools. You can watch Kiri’s short film here. Kiri spoke about her experience of improving schools in Tower Hamlets without any Free Schools or Academies – a theme that was picked up by Jonathan White in this week’s Waltham Forest Guardian.

The Guardian featured revealing figures showing that the vast majority of primary schools in Waltham Forest have met a tougher new government literacy and numeracy target. 75% of pupils in all but two schools are reaching the required levels and as Jonathan pointed out, this flies in the face of the government’s disaster narrative which insists that Free Schools and Academies are necessary to drive up standards.

Meanwhile, in the national press, OCOS supporter Scarlet Harris featured in Zoe Williams’ latest piece for the Guardian. Scarlet was quoted discussing the farcical process of local consultation used by sponsors and the DfE to set up a Free School and highlighting the dangers of allowing groups like Oasis and Tauheedul to essentially design their own consultations.

Zoe’s article, which details the growing local opposition to Free Schools, also quotes education expert Laura McInerny highlighting the plight of the children suffering under Gove’s experiment: ‘these kids have one shot at education. I’m not minded to sacrifice 400 children in al-Madinah so that a minister can learn a hard lesson’.

OCOS supporters are taking the campaign into Westminster this week as we have written a submission to the Education Select Committee’s call for evidence as part of a new inquiry on Academies and the processes for setting up Free Schools. We have always maintained that the process of setting up a Free School is fatally flawed, perverse and profoundly undemocratic and that’s what we’re telling the Select Committee. We'll publish our evidence or refer you to it, as soon as we're able to.

More than 800 people have now signed our petition and we have ambitious plans for a new phase of campaigning, including a new letter writing campaign, more leafleting in the New Year campaign and more public meetings, so watch this space for more details soon.

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