Worrying news today about one of our local schools, Sheffield Park Academy, formerly Waltheof, where I have some experience of teaching.http://www.guardian.co.uk/education/2009/sep/13/sheffield-park-academies-ofsted-failureThe school has been labelled “inadequate” by OFSTED. It comes as no surprise that the United Learning Trust has not succeeded in turning round this school. The Green Party believes that schools should be governed in the interests of pupils and parents, not un-elected trusts, businesses or religions. Building a new school has done nothing to remove some of the deep seated problems in the area- poverty and unemployment, many generations of educational underachievement, anti social behaviour and a culture that does not value education. One of the things I said at conference was that the major division in our society is class. Sheffield secondary schools are extremely class dominated. Comprehensive schools that take from the local area sound like a good idea in theory, but in Sheffield it means that the kids fortunate enough to live in the posh areas go to successful schools, and the kids from the housing estates end up in schools that are always going to struggle. If the system was truly comprehensive we would find a way of mixing pupils from different areas. One of the few schools that does this in Sheffield is All Saints RC, where my own children went- because it is a Catholic school its intake is from all over the city, so is very socially mixed. But many of my friends in the Green Party argue that this is divisive too as it splits religious groups. Maybe the answers to some of these problems don’t lie in educational policy at all- the root of the problem is the poverty. When the Greens eventually come to power we will tackle that head on, with policies like the Citizen’s Income Scheme, the Living Wage and higher taxes for the rich. When our society is fairer the schools in the inner cities and housing estates will at last have a chance to thrive. But the Academies will be returned to the local education authority, not controlled by businesses or religious trusts with no political accountability.
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