Teachers prepare for fresh upheaval

21 Jun 01
The government intends to give the private sector fixed-term contracts to manage schools and more 'sponsorship opportunities' under a legislative programme designed to place more pressure on public services to deliver.

22 June 2001

The Queen's Speech on June 20 – which, as expected majored on education and health service reform – outlined details of a new Bill aimed at overhauling the secondary schools system. This is understood to be Education Secretary Estelle Morris's personal crusade and will involve an increase in the use of private companies in schools.

Under the Bill, the private sector will be given specific fixed-term contracts to take over the management of schools from local education authorities. The number of specialist schools, including the city academies, sponsored by both private companies and the voluntary sector, will also increase.

A spokeswoman for the Department for Education and Skills was keen to emphasise that the private sector would work only in partnership and to support failing schools. 'The Bill will focus on what works in partnership. If an organisation can raise standards then we are interested in that,' she added.

Local Government Association education chair Graham Lane commented: 'Many LEAs and schools already know the real benefits of these strategic partnerships. However, it is vital that [they] are built on local needs and not imposed from above.'

But the teaching unions reacted angrily to the details of the Bill. 'The Maoist tendency for non-stop revolution lives on with New Labour. Teachers will be bewildered by the government's preoccupation with sponsorship and privatisation,' said Nigel de Gruchy, general secretary of the National Association of Schoolmasters/Union of Women Teachers.

National Union of Teachers general secretary Doug McAvoy added: 'The education secretary appears to have no problem with private companies making a profit out of education. Teachers and parents do.'

The government's reinvigorated Frontline First policy, wheeled out last week, also figured heavily in the Queen's Speech. Successful head teachers were promised 'greater freedom', while a new NHS Reform Bill will direct up to 75% of resources straight to doctors and nurses. It also promised patients a greater say in the running of the NHS.

Wales will get its own NHS Bill focusing on introducing more locally co-ordinated services. The government also outlined proposals to reform the welfare system, including a pension credit for pensioners, and a new complaints system for the police.


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