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Education and New Labour


John Simkin
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The Guardian:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2009/ju...labour-ed-balls

The government is to abandon the most significant education reform of the New Labour era in order to end the centralised control of schools and grant headteachers more powers, the Guardian has learned.

In a totemic break from the Blair years, next week's education white paper will signal the end of Labour's national strategies for schools, which includes oversight of the literacy and numeracy hours in primaries. The changes will strip away centralised prescription of teaching methods and dramatically cut the use of private consultants currently employed to improve schools.

They will give schools more freedom and establish new networks of school-to-school support to help drive up standards in what will be described as a "new era of localism".

Ed Balls, the schools secretary, has masterminded the plan, which could save the government up to £100m a year on its contract with the private company Capita, which delivers the national strategies. It forms part of an efficiency drive to slim down government bureaucracy.

Instead, money will be redirected to schools to spend on forging networks with neighbouring schools and buying in their own advisers to help them drive up teaching standards and exam results. Good schools will be expected to federate with lower-performing schools to help them improve. Schools will still be able to teach the literacy and numeracy hours, but there will be no central bureaucracy to support it.

All teachers realised this was a daft policy when it was first introduced. Why was Blair so keen on this policy? Because it enabled Blair to reward his friend, Rod Aldridge, the Chief Executive of Capita, the man they called the 'privatisation tycoon'. This schools contract was worth £100m a year. Then there was the £400 million contract to run the Criminal Records Bureau (CRB). This was the agency that failed to provide adequate security checks for staff working with children and the elderly. Capita also ran seven contracts out of the Darlington office that used to be the Teachers' Pension Bureau. Another contract given to Capita was the London Congestion Charging scheme. Aldridge had a £44m stake in the Capita Group. Other assets add £8m to his wealth. Aldridge's wealth is based on obtaining PFI contracts.

In 2006 Aldridge resigned as chairman of Capita after it was revealed that he had lent the Labour Party £1 million. The loan, which was secret at the time it was made. Other paybacks that Aldridge paid to Blair have so far not been revealed.

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Aside from the financial shennanigans John outlines it was indeed educationally a stupendously 'daft' idea for central government to plan and attempt to direct the english and maths lessons of all primary schools. The idea doesn't stand any analysis whatsoever.

One wonders why the teaching profession and its professional associations at the time did not boycott the strategies and thus strangle them at birth saving us a great deal of time, stress, effort and money.

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Aside from the financial shennanigans John outlines it was indeed educationally a stupendously 'daft' idea for central government to plan and attempt to direct the english and maths lessons of all primary schools. The idea doesn't stand any analysis whatsoever.

One wonders why the teaching profession and its professional associations at the time did not boycott the strategies and thus strangle them at birth saving us a great deal of time, stress, effort and money.

I wonder if the decision to leak this story today was connected to the death of Michael Jackson. After all, it is a good day to leak embarrassing news.

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