Sunday, April 30, 2006

So, who can sponsor a school?

According to the government, anyone can. Despite Ruth Kelly's claims that only 'appropriate organisations' could, the government's guidance now suggests that anyone except gamblers and pornographers can. This shows quite how much this government views the acquisition of wealth to represent moral good.

It does, however, bode well for our project. Simply wishing to start secular, humanist schools, then, there can be no objection in terms of the suitability of the sponsors. It will be interesting to see what will happen when the Jedi and the Wiccans get their acts together. Shame there are no evangelical Satanist car dealers to really shake things up a bit...

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

In Praise of Corruption

Tony Blair offered this explanation for the cash for honours crisis in the academies system yesterday: "I think if someone gives £2m of their own money, time, effort, energy, years of hard work - isn't that something we should be saying 'that's a great thing that they have done'?"

Let us note that he does not specify what they should be doing in order for them to gain our praise. Drug dealers pulling off a major deal, celebrities having their own houses built, Roman Abramovich - all of these fulfil the criteria he sets out. How you give £2 million of your own time I do not know. Or £2 million of your energy - presumably you'd get a special tarriff from your electicity provider if you were spending that much...

Wonderfully, Tony has given us the perfect rationale for bribing the government: "Look, if someone goes to the effort of buying a minister a house, thereby saving the public purse that cost, takes them on holiday, maybe pays their kids' school fees - shouldn't we be celebrating that, not condemning it? The problem with Britain is that we are so hidebound by our disinclination for 'corruption'. My new, reformed 'morality..."

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Too Optimistic?

This article is rather optimistic in its assessment of the academy scheme crumbling. However, it does point out that of the first 100 academy schools, a third will have faith sponsors.

As it points out, the only people who will be deterred from investing in academy schools as a result of the adverse publicity of the last week, will be those who had truly philanthropic motives, and do not want to be tarred with the brush of corruption. Thoxse who do not care will still be happy to buy schools and peerages.

'As Chris Waterman, executive director of the Confederation of Children's Services managers, puts it: "you pay 10% of the purchase price to buy the freehold of an academy but you get a trust for nothing; that is not selling but giving away the family silver".'

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Why Do We Want Faith Schools?

This is a good article from Peter Wilby about our assumptions about faith schools, and the impact religion has upon people. Particular highlights are:

"As I have argued here before, religion has a magnificent record of inspiring art, architecture, music, literature and even scientific inquiry. It has completely failed to improve human behaviour. Rather, it tends to persuade people that, provided they are believers, they can get away with anything.

"This may explain why several Christian sponsors of city academies come from what most of us would regard (without implying any actual dishonesty) as slightly dodgy occupations. At least two are car dealers, hardly a trade noted for its ethical standards."


"Likewise, today’s parents rationally calculate that they should at least have their children christened and send an occasional donation for the church roof, stepping up their commitment according to the state of local schools as the child approaches 11.

"No wonder the churches are so keen to sponsor schools. It is by far the most effective form of promotion they have."

La La La! Lord Adonis Can't Hear You

The unlelected Education Minister Lord Adonis yesterday gave a typically Blairite defense of the city academies scheme. It seems staggering in the 21st century that Tony Blair could ennoble on of his advisers and appoint them to being a minister for education, and yet what is more staggering is the way in which the Blairite faction are incapable of seeing any errors in their way of thinking.

Lord Adonis said: "I have had nothing but statements of support this week" (he has obviously not read any of the newspapers or read any polls); "It would be absolutely wrong for us to slow down now." (simply a patent untruth - caution and evaluation of success are never 'absolutely wrong); he insisted that nothing improper had taken place (the fact that he can see what we know went on as 'proper' shows the extent to which the Blair government is steeped in venality and corruption).

To Evangelise or Not To Evangelise...

It is reasonable to believe Mr Eric Payne when he says: "Some recent media reporting and TV programmes seem to have had a preconditioned agenda seeking to mock and destroy the evangelical arm of the Church. Linking this to certain academies was both misleading and invalid.

"Academies are required to have a clear ethos. Whilst the new academy will operate within a framework of Christian values it is not there to evangelise or indoctrinate."

He admits to being an evangelical Christian, the basis of whose Charisrtianity is evangelising. They have a duty to spread the good news, and yet he claims that an institution he is sponsoring, which will have 'Christian' values will not attempt to evangelise.

Mr Payne is either not doing his duty to his God, or to the children in his care, much as he might like to have it both ways.

Also, is it 'misleading and invalid' to link evangelical groups to city academies when they are the sponsors of city academies?

He goes on to claim that: "Amongst others, teachers, local employers and the community will benefit." This is despite the fact that the teachers will not have any of the same protections under law that their colleagues in the state sector do.

Another One Bites The Dust

Andrew Rosenfield of Minerva donated £2.5 million to the city academies programme, lent the Labour Party £1 million in secret, his predecessor lent the Labour Party £2.3 million, months before they secured planning permission for a £500 million shopping centre in Croydon. Mr Rosenfield has now had to resign as it becomes clear that he may be questioned by the police.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

The End of Comprehensive Education

This article by Melissa Benn and Fiona Millar is a good summary of the ways in which the Education Bill is an outright attack on comprehensive education. It gives interesting depth to the arguments about pupils being forced to choose an academic or vocational path at 14.

Jamie Oliver would be proud...

Steve Sinnott here proves that almost any argument can be made to revolve around Turkey Twizzlers...

One step forward...

This is all the information I have at the moment about the NUT's decision to support the existence of faith schools. It seems odd, as it comes at a time when everyone else's faith in them is waning...

Academies Represent the Venality of Blairism

This is Jonathan Freedland's perceptive article about how the flaws in the ways the city academies scheme were devised and implemented are natural reults of Blairism. I would say that this is true of all of his public service reforms: the denigration of the professional and the promotion of a mythical choice; the adoption of market mechanisms over common wealth; these are all symptomatic of Blair's ideological rabidity.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

It can be done!

This article contains a reference to Northcliffe School, near Doncaster. At this school parents exercised their choice to prevent the school becoming an academy sposored by the Emmanual Schools Foundation (Peter Vardy's organisation). 90% of response during a consultation was unfavourable. Is this model sustainable across the country?

Education, Education, Incarceration

Des Smith, one of the designers of the City Academy policy, was arrested last Thursday. He is being held as part of the investigation into the sale of honours. Mr Smith was a part of the body which recruited sponsors for academy schools. Eight sponsors who made gifts have since received honours from the Labour government. It is satisfying yet unsurprising that one of our most venal policies in a long time, the sale of our children's futurem should have been implemented by someone who was open about the buying of power. However, suggestions that the buying of honours is any more corrupt that the buying of the curriculum are laughable. Fortunately, it is more prosecutable...

Link to the story.

Monday, April 17, 2006

Worrying Implications for the National Curriculum

This article from the Socialist Worker (yes, I know!) draws attention to an aspect of the new Schools Bill which has, up until now, been almost completely ignored. Whilst this site's real concern is the setting up of divisive faith academies, the requirement for 14-year olds to be separated into two curricula, one for the 'academic' students, and one for the 'vocational' students is no less worrying.

Christian Group Opposes Faith Schools

Christian group Ekklesia also opposes faith schools, on the grounds that "faith should be a free choice, not one imposed on others through a ‘Christendom’ style deal between religious and political leaders." This article explains their position in more depth...

"The Church of England’s education supreme also appeared to attack what he deemed the “French secular system” of teaching about religion but not teaching religion itself.

But the ‘phenomenological approach’, which seeks to get pupils to understand the lives of believing and non-believing life stances without proselytising is well rooted in British educational theory, and widely accepted as a way of informing about religion without pushing for or against it.

Teaching religious faith is a matter for faith communities, not state schools which are there for all irrespective of creed or background, argue opponents of faith-based systems in the state sector.

But Canon Hall argues that faith schools enable “people in faith communities to grow in self-respect and understanding, and therefore to grow in respect for others.”

“The Church of England is defending its entrenched interests in a way which may be in danger of legitimating more extreme religious groups, sidestepping arguments about fairness and reducing Anglicanism to a semi-imposed civic religion," commented Ekklesia’s co-director, Simon Barrow.

Last year the Roman Catholic Cardinal for England and Wales and a senior Anglican bishop both admitted to qualms about Christian children going to a Muslim school, undermining the argument that faith schools are neutral. "