Guerrillamum's Blog


In which Guerrillamum ponders on the nature of Inheritance and the government’s ideological cuts…

For those of you who simply wish to read about special educational needs, education or disability issues etc, you should perhaps stop reading now because this post is quite unashamedly political in nature. I was eating breakfast this morning when on Radio 4 I heard yet another government minister/apologist blaming the government’s savage cuts on their ‘inheritance’ from Labour.

It struck me like an epiphany. I’ve got very fed up with hearing this argument recycled, time and time again. Of course they are talking about inheritance because they come from a class in which inheritance (Daddy’s millions) is their birthright, their experience or their expectation. These are people with no understanding whatsoever of what it is like to live in 21st century Britain (don’t forget 19 out of 23 members of the Cabinet are millionaires).

Now, just because I understand now why they think and speak in the way they do, does not mean I feel any less angry or insulted by being patronised in this manner. We are not ‘all in it together’! The society may look big from the top where the Prime Minister and his cronies sit but for people with disabilities and those caring for them our society can be a very lonely place.

My children’s inheritance was genetic conditions, physical, developmental and sensory disability. They are not cushioned from the realities of life by ‘Daddy’s millions’, but they have the same rights to quality of life, family life, and a decent and appropriate education which this government seeks to deny them.

So the next time you hear a government representative or minister speak, listen to the words they use, the callous catchphrases and the spin they employ to try to dupe the public into acceptance of their savagery. Do not be fooled, this is not about saving money to rescue the economy, it is ideological, and it is about deconstructing our public and social structure so that big business can move in and enable those at the top to profit. Today the government is talking about selling off the Forestry Commission. The forests are part of OUR inheritance, for the NATION! Which sector of society do you imagine can afford to buy a forest? Would you rather go to the New Forest or the MacDonald’s New Forest for your holidays (assuming you can afford one this year!)?

How about a catchphrase of my own?

COALITION GOVERNMENT – PUTTING THE GRRR INTO GUERRILLAMUM SINCE MAY 2010!

(And where is the Green Paper for Special Educational Needs and Disability!?)

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Buns at Prep anyone?

On the subject of restraining pupils and bullying, the Minister for Education says “At the moment if you want to become au fait with what this department thinks on how to keep order in class you have to read the equivalent of War and Peace. There is about 500 pages of guidance on discipline and another 500 pages on bullying. We will clarify and shrink that.’’ See the article here: http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2010/oct/01/gove-education-teachers-discipline-new-deal?#post-area

I would be much more reassured by the Minister if his motives for change were based on actually improving discipline in schools and on reducing bullying rather than in reducing paperwork and the pages of guidance on how teachers should deal with it. These are complex issues, and I’m GLAD there’s a lot of guidance about them. The abiding impression that the Minister leaves us with is that he is fed up with the amount of guidance on bullying and there is too much of it. It’s inconvenient. Furthermore, the Minister is inviting a world of difficulty if he goes ahead and muddies the waters in terms of appropriate touching of pupils by staff. Some teachers might not be properly qualified ‘Free Schools might not use qualified teachers’ – Guardian 28th Sept – and the Government aims to reduce the need to have Criminal Records Bureau checks.

These actions will be very much to the detriment of our children whilst the government tells us that what they are doing is for our own good.

I can’t help but think the Minister is living in a Billy Bunter world of Jennings and schoolboy detectives where the Masters, invariably male and pipe-smoking, keep order by raising an eyebrow in the direction of the ‘miscreant’. The raising of the eyebrow implies a full range of punishments, many of which involve pain being inflicted after which there would no doubt be a hug from Matron!

It’s a far cry from the reality of modern schools in Britain. Not all teachers are huge or would be keen to step between students who are fighting, or for that matter, physically eject someone from their room, when that room is full of other students, desks, bags and the student is physically bigger than them.

Last week I saw a very slightly built male teacher verbally take to task six hulking Year 11s in my children’s school. Five minutes later I passed by again and he was still talking to the boys, who looked very shamefaced. This school is built on discipline and mutual respect. Teachers do not restrain pupils and I firmly believe it is possible to have schools like this but this becomes much less possible when you create a two tier education system.

If this is to be part of a new deal for teachers, then why on earth did the Minister not announce it at the Teachers’ conference? Doesn’t a ‘deal’ have two sides to it? He is clearly not interested in what the teachers think. This is something that is being done to teachers, not with teachers. One can only conclude that the Minister has his own reasons for wishing to bring about these changes.

Buns at Prep anyone?



Michael Rosen’s take on ‘radical Free Schools’

http://www.guardian.co.uk/discussion/comment-permalink/7582129

This is the link to Michael Rosen’s comment on an article about ‘Free Schools’ in The Guardian today. I wholeheartedly agree with his sentiments.

It’s worth reading the article and all the comments that go with it.In fact there is probably more debate and argument in this one article than the government allowed in Parliament before it forced the Academies Act through!!!!!



Is this the future we want? Private schools in 4 star hotels becoming Free Schools?

It’s hard to post about Free Schools without being mean and nasty and hurting people. I don’t mind being mean and nasty about politicians when I have to because they have put themselves in the firing line but I don’t want to upset other parents simply trying to do the best for their children. So, I am not naming the institution I am writing about, I will just use some of their press. 

This private school formed by a band of parents following the closure of its predecessor, has been set up with an initial cohort of fifteen pupils in a wing of a 4 star hotel.  The staff and Head teacher have almost wholly been transplanted from the old school, and the website looks very like the old one. 

I have no problem with parents who choose to opt out of the state education system.  However, this is an option they should expect to pay for.  Nor do I have a problem with this school setting itself up in a 4 star hotel, and providing the sort of education for these children that the parents have agreed to pay for.  I understand that the group undertook considerable fund raising activities to make their dream possible.  I am sure it will be a very good school and will provide a good all round education for the children who go there. 

The School’s governors have said that the school has applied to become one of the first free schools – a publicly funded, mixed-ability independent school set up to meet parents’ demand, and it will be free from local authority control. These schools will be able to set up their own curriculum, as they don’t have to follow the national curriculum and they will also be responsible for buying in services to meet special educational needs. 

This is where I begin to have a problem with this.  Michael Gove has funded his Academies and Free Schools projects by taking away money from the Building Schools for the Future programme (BSF) in order to give it to the Academies and Free Schools.  In fact, our mainstream state schools that are neither academies nor free schools are set to lose out twice: not only have they lost out after the cancellation of the BSF programme, but also the yearly funding costs of academies and free schools will be met by taking money from existing schools in any area where these schools are set up.

Pause for a moment to think of a select few children enjoying a publicly funded private school style education in a luxury hotel, and compare this to:

  •  images of children being educated in decrepit school buildings
  • school corridors with buckets lined up to catch the drips from leaky roofs
  • children in overcrowded portacabins
  • children wearing coats in cold classrooms due to broken and ill-fitting windows

Is this not indicative of a two tier education system with a vastly widening gap between the haves and have nots of society?

This new private school say that they have been praised by Ofsted for their policies, but these can not be seen on the website.  There is scant mention of managing the needs of children with special educational needs, and nothing about equality of opportunity or an admissions policy.  Not wishing to get too political, I happen to like the work done by the previous government in the areas of equality, disability discrimination and special educational needs, and my children have enjoyed these protections in their education.  Indeed, these policies are very evidently displayed on their school website and awareness of these issues in their school is generally very good. 

The new private school I am writing about here is still a fee paying school, but if it ever becomes a free school, it will end up being funded by public money, and the school, the governing body and no doubt many of the parents will be able to decide how this money is spent.  Not the government, not the Local Authority.  Now despite huge claims by Michael Gove that hundreds of groups had expressed interest in becoming Free Schools, there were at the last count only 16 set to open in September 2011, about which Mr Gove was reputed to be not very happy.  Perhaps, like me,  most state schools appreciate the protections offered to the vulnerable by continuing to keep their schools under local authority control?  This general lack of uptake does not bode well for the likelihood of free schools becoming a widespread and inclusive model for education. 

How can we sit by and let this happen without so much as a whimper?  This model is not an acceptable vision of the future of education for me.  Whether this model is an acceptable vision of the future of education for Mr Gove remains to be seen.  But why provide a luxury education for the few at public expense, if we can’t do it for the many?