Tuesday, 1 February 2011

Why I support Free Schools

As a past teacher and current parent of four (whose ages span 4-13) with considerable involvement over many years in a variety of schools I deplore the narrow restrictions of the National Curriculum. The neglect of the individual, the abandonment of meeting the needs of the spectrum of ability in favour of focussing on bringing the bottom up to meet the mean. Our schools fail too many children. Watch this http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o8limRtHZPs and tell me you don't know a Bee or a Fish or a Squirrel in that video. I intensely dislike putting children in boxes and expecting an average outcome.

I have seen too many bright children classed as disruptive because they should be in a different environment, Special Needs kids deprived of an SEN place because our County pioneered inclusion and closed the moderate special needs places and no longer *really* recognises Gifted and Talented kids. Schools focussed on PR missions, social need and community status, banging on about funding when some of the best schools have far, far lower per capita funding and achieve phenomenal results.

The Free School campaign does not need to condemn or criticise any other school, yet so many people feel incredibly vulnerable in the face of it. The focus of this campaign is choice.

I have four children at three different schools and am considering Home Educating one, because "one size" does NOT fit all. Communities and individuals have unique and wonderfully different requirements. And before you slam the "snob" criticism at me one of my children is at a large primary in a deprived area - because it is on the whole a good school with a truly fantastic and inspirational SEN department. I look at my children as individuals, not a group and that was how I taught my classes. An individual school may well be a wonderful for some, and if it is it will continue to attract many pupils and maintain its funding - why the insecurity? But it cannot be - as no school can - a wonderful place for all children. I love the opportunities Free Schools bring - meeting local need for local people for the children who might otherwise NOT have their needs fully met.  I deplore "Big government", the red tape which restricts so many of us meeting the needs of our children.

Education is a legal requirement - how it is delivered is not. Free Schools will have to meet certain criteria to qualify for funding and local groups will have the freedom to determine the rest. What a fantastic opportunity - personally I am hoping for an increase in variety to meet the needs of our young people in the 21st Century.
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