Friday January 8, 2016
Unlike when I went to school in Brent, where you send your children might now be a community school, a voluntary aided faith school, a foundation school, an academy or a free school.
The main thing most mums and dads are interested in is a high quality of learning – and no school type has a monopoly on delivering that.
Millions of pounds are being spent on new school buildings in Brent to help provide new places and the very best environment for our growing school-age population.
Brent school headteachers generally do a great job, and they don’t need anyone looking over their shoulders all day long. Every headteacher also has a governing body they answer to, including parents and other local people.
They all deserve my absolute respect, and they have it.
But sometimes – just occasionally – something big goes wrong in a school that the headteacher and governing body can’t immediately cope with.
That’s when what kind of school it is becomes really important.
On those rare occasions, the reality is that parents phone the council or knock on the door of their locally-elected councillor. They expect us to step in and fix it.
For academies and free schools though, we’re told by the Government that it’s not our job to intervene as we would for a community school. Instead, the backstop job of overseeing those schools lies with a Regional Schools Commissioner, and ultimately with the Government.
I’m sure the Regional Schools Commissioner for South Central England and North West London is very skilled and experienced – but he oversees hundreds of academies and free schools across a huge geographical area stretching from here to Northamptonshire and Oxfordshire. Chances are, he’s not someone you’ve ever heard of, and he is certainly not someone living or working in Brent that you can hold to account.
That is why I was so disheartened when the Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne MP, recently indicated that he wanted to see all schools break their links with local councils.
The former Education Secretary Michael Gove, has also previously talked about academies being run by businesses, and I for one don’t like the idea of our children’s education becoming more of a commercially traded commodity.
In the meantime, I hope we’ll be able to carry on our mutually respectful and supportive partnership with all local schools well into the future without the government creating more of a barrier between us.
Cllr Muhammed Butt
Leader, Brent Council