was anyone listening to PM on R4 a short while ago - about Free Schools?

(40 Posts)
carlajean Thu 17-Oct-13 17:42:04

Sorry not to be more specific, but there was a fantastic woman who was criticising Free Schools and a guy, who sounded substantially less intelligent, supporting them. I wish I could remember the names, but she was absolutely wiping the floor with him, and I was wondering if anyone else heard it.

lalalonglegs Thu 17-Oct-13 19:02:31

I didn't hear thst bit but would lay money on it being Fiona Millar who is the go-to talking head on these matters.

lalalonglegs Thu 17-Oct-13 19:03:27

I didn't hear thst bit but would lay money on it being Fiona Millar who is the go-to talking head on these matters.

carlajean Thu 17-Oct-13 19:07:10

Yes, that's who it was

claig Thu 17-Oct-13 19:17:52

Was the man Toby Young?

lalalonglegs Thu 17-Oct-13 19:31:08

claig: that would have been too perfect but clearly he was in hiding busy today. I've just listened on iplayer (I've been following the story but had to go somewhere in the middle of the PM report) and it was someone called Nick Le Haine (sp) who is a HT at a free school.

hackmum Thu 17-Oct-13 19:36:49

I caught the end of it and it was indeed Fiona Millar.

claig Thu 17-Oct-13 19:38:56

Thanks, lala
Is it Mark Lehain.? I saw his speech on BBC Parliament at Gove's session at the Tory Conference. Can't remember how good his speech was.

lalalonglegs Thu 17-Oct-13 19:43:55

Er, probably, yes <goes to wash out ears>

claig Thu 17-Oct-13 20:05:31

Yes, II just listened to it. Fiona Millar did well and did wipe the floor with him.

Teachers don't have to be qualified.
Ofsted inspects in second year - but what hapens for entire first year? He said there can be monitoring visits. But it seems it is not transparent so not easy to check what sort of monitoring is going on.

Does sound like a bit of an experiment. He argued that state schools are failing too. But what is the extent of that failure? At least they have qualified teachers.

I'm not sure if the free schools experiment will work. Maybe the shit will hit the fan in a few years' time when more inspections have been carried out. Probably after the next election.

lalalonglegs Thu 17-Oct-13 20:16:03

I think Al-Madinah has brilliantly highlighted pretty much everything that can go wrong with a free school - it was a law unto itself for more than a year; there was no overseeing body; no one to measure standards or to advise on basic legislation (equality rights, child protection etc); it seems that not only were the teachers unqualified - perhaps not the end of the world in itself - but completely inexperienced and possibly incompetent. The list goes on.

My children are likely to go to a free school for their secondary education so I'm not against them per se but it seems mad to me that a group of zealots are given money - religious in this case, ideological in the case of the Pimlico primary - and there's no one to point out the basic deficiencies in their scheme. Millions get wasted. I think at the very least, in order to qualify for funding, proposed schools should have to be run by an education provider with a track record and, preferably, there should be no religious affiliation. Hopefully the Al-Madinah debacle will see some checks and measure introduced to the process.

claig Thu 17-Oct-13 20:23:50

I think Fiona said that the ex-headmaster of that school is currently trying to or is setting up another free school somewhere else.

We know schools fail, but it is crazy to set up new ones (whose aim is not to fail) and then they fail so quickly. It does have the whiff of amateur hour about it.

He went on about "business plans". I'm sure there are some good business people involved and there is the talk of letting headmasters take ownership etc but the headmaster can't do everything. What about teh untrained teachers?

What percentage of teachers in free schools are unqualified and what percentage are not members of teaching unions?

LadyBigtoes Thu 17-Oct-13 20:24:43

Yes I heard it too, she was spot on.

I just can't believe the whole free schools thing is actually real. I find it so astonishing that they can just mess with a state-provided professional service like that just for the sake of indulging people who think they know better. Not that our school system is perfect of course, but people actually do train to be teachers and may have more of a clue about education than the average punter.

You wouldn't just let people set up a "free hospital" because they think they can do it better, and start doing operations on patients.

Actually, I probably shouldn't say that in case Michael Gove reads it and starts getting ideas.

claig Thu 17-Oct-13 20:31:32

Agree entirely, LadyBigtoes

I don't know much about free schools, so I trusted that they would be alright. But to allow business people and pioneering heads etc to set up new schools with some unqualified teachers and bypass the years of educational experience and knowledge of local authorities and state maintained schools seems like a recipe for failure.

Yes, there are unqualified teachers in independent schools, but not every independent school is like Eton, and some of them are probably failing too.

"You wouldn't just let people set up a "free hospital" because they think they can do it better, and start doing operations on patients."

I'm not so sure anymore. If there is a good "business plan" and a pioneering health executive in charge, who knows what can be achieved?

hackmum Fri 18-Oct-13 09:38:58

I agree. It seems quite bonkers. I think it's a common phenomenon though that the less you know about a subject, the easier it seems. So that 27-year old woman with no teaching experience who became the head of a new free school in London (and resigned after a few months) probably went in thinking, "How hard can it be?" I imagine Michael Gove thinks the same thing.

I think free schools are a bad idea in principle, but I expect a few of them will work because they've been set up by former teachers and heads who know what they're doing. But this idea that, as lalalonglets puts it, you give a group of zealots a load of money to do their own thing, is just asking for trouble. At a time when existing schools are desperately short of money, why on earth would you do that? You'd think that even an ideologue like Gove would spot that it's not working to work.

moldingsunbeams Fri 18-Oct-13 09:48:24

There are a couple of private schools changed to free schools near me. Both are getting fantastic results still. There is a new free school near us that is doing really really well too.

But the Al Madinah and unqualified head and what could go wrong put me right off tbh.

lalalonglegs Fri 18-Oct-13 11:08:12

The original headteacher at Al-Madinah, who has to shoulder a lot of the blame for its problems as he only left a couple of months ago, is now setting uo another free school in Newark shock.

claig Fri 18-Oct-13 13:43:13

Just listened to the news about the possible probation workers' strike.

Just made me think that one day we might have companies like Serco running some of our probation services, some of our prison services, some of our police services and who knows, maybe one day some of our "free schools". The term "free schools" even sounds slightly Orwellian.

What next? Our hospitals, our care for the elderly? Who knows?

Seems the pendulum has swung away from our State, which is answerable to the public, to a "free" society. Free for whom? More fat cats, more rip offs and a worse service?

claig Fri 18-Oct-13 13:52:37

And the worst thing is that when they read from their teleprompters, from their pagers and from their autocues, all of the parties say essentially the same thing.

The State seems to be being slowly dismantled, they are all in it together just like birds of a feather.

claig Fri 18-Oct-13 14:05:47

If there is truth in the claim that they really are all the same, how can we prevent our society going down the drain?

How do we escape from this vicelike grip, how do we end this nightmarish trip, is the only answer UKIP?

lalalonglegs Fri 18-Oct-13 14:10:33

No, claig, it certainly is not smile.

claig Fri 18-Oct-13 14:12:51

smile Probably not. But I'm stumped. Who to vote for? How to get change?

claig Fri 18-Oct-13 14:43:09

It's OK I have thought about it, I don't know why I started to doubt it, I'll wait to see what the Daily Mail has to say about it.

By God we need a free press to get us out of this mess.

I won't listen to chancers, I'm looking for answers. If we're ever going to get out of jail, we'll need Dacre and the Daily Mail.

<<off to ponder and to think, and maybe pour myself another drink>>

moondog Fri 18-Oct-13 23:36:08

I would have thought that you of all people would embrace the free school movement claim. It represents a real opportunity for people to break free from the pointless bureaucratic hoops they have to in schools. I know several people, quite ordinary people, who have done so, so disillusioned are they with the status quo.
As for Fiona millar, she is the lowest of the low and, in cahoots with the unions, done everything she can to intimidate and silence and bully those who will not shut up and put up with the left wing myth of inclusivity ( for all apart from their ow. Pampered offspring).
She and her appalling consort gave sucked long and hard on the test of the state run sector and he in particular rakes over and over his brief time in the spotlight.

claig Sat 19-Oct-13 09:51:57

I don't know much about free schools and so what I heard on TV sounded OK. Some schools are failing, parents want better schools, make it easier for people to set up new schools and give them a chance. But I have now read a little about the Al-Madinah school. Has giving a chance led to getting chancers?

I am against "pointless bureaucratic hoops" and the pontificating, patronising progressives who often go hand in hand with them. That's why I like real conservatives like John Redwood who believe in "cutting red tape" and freeing and energising people by removing the weight of an over-heavy progressive bureaucracy from their backs. But if there is too much bureaucracy, then remove some of it, change it, but there is no need to overturn the applecart and throw the baby out with the bathwater.

Just because hospitals are failing and because there is too much form-filling and box-ticking and target setting, does not mean that we should create new "free" hospitals based on "business plans" and a committed group of ex-hospital staff and local citizens. What we should do instead is work within our current system, built up over decades, and remove the barriers to good service and "free" up the workers so that they can provide exceptional care to the public. We don't need new "free hospitals", we need to "free" our existing workers from pointless progressive bureaucracy.

I am sure that we could do the same in our existing schools. If our new schools are "free" schools, then what our our thousands of existing schools and the millions of children in them - "prisons" and "prisoners"? Just because they are State schools does not mean that they are not "free". The State is not a "prison" and the government runs the State, so if the State is too bureaucratic and too progressive, then just change the State, don't treat it and the millions of people who depend on it as a lost cause, don't let them languish in a "prison", and open up a shiny new "free" alternative.

I am a conservative, not a progressive, which is why I am not for constant change which progressives claim will be for "building a better Britain". I am conservative and like things how they were. I preferred it when the energy companies worked for us, when their chief executives got ordinary State salaries unlike the millions in bonuses that they get now. I preferred it when a Prime Minister could tell them what to do instead of telling us to go on to websites and "switch" to another provider because he is "disappointed" in the level of their price rise. I preferred it when our government didn't issue advice to elderly people frightened by the price increase, to put an extra "jumper" on. I preferred it when our Prime Minister and government could do something rather than issue empty words.

I am against progressives and a progressive elite, but I am not against our State or our millions of hardworking state workers. I don't want to see our prisons or our probation service or our police service or our ambulance service or our fire service or any of our other public services privatised and contracts given to the less accountable private companies like Serco, G4S etc. I don't want it because I think the service will deteriorate. I think all these things should remain in the hands of the State. I think that the State has more accountability to the public and is more ethical than private companies. I think that state employees have more pride in working for the State than in working for G4S because the State serves the people and G4S serves its shareholders.

Also, who profits from "free schools"? What are their qualifications? It worries me to read the following about Al-Madinah school and I wonder who was regulating this school and why did it take so long to apparently find that the school was "dysfunctional" and why aren't any heads of bigwigs rolling over it?

"The governors did not answer a series of questions put to them by the Guardian on Thursday regarding alleged nepotism.

This includes allegations al-Madinah's poor computer network has been outsourced to another nearby school, the Noel Baker School, where one of the governors, Ziad Amjad, is head of information and communication technology.

A source at al-Madinah also claimed the school's HR department had been outsourced to a firm, Prestige HR Solutions, run by Javid Akhtar, who became a governor soon afterwards. He is now believed to be chairman of the committee that oversees HR at the school.

Relatives of Akhtar and another governor, Shahban Rehmat, work at a cleaning company awarded a contract at the school, the source said.

The source also claimed that one of the geography recently teachers appointed by the governing body was the brother of Fasal Hussain, another governor. The source said this geography teacher had been turned down for a job earlier in the year when Andrew Cutts-McKay was still head teacher."

www.theguardian.com/education/2013/oct/17/al-madinah-free-school-faces-closure-government

Also, when I read about progressives being advisers to companies like A4E, which have huge state contracts, then I start to worry about the relationship between progressives and some of these large service companies and between ex-civil servants and government people and these giant service companies. This is all State money, the people's money, the money of the "hardworking" millions.

"Blunkett registered earnings of between £25,000 and £30,000 from A4e in the December 2008 Parliamentary register of members' interests under the heading "remunerated directorships". "

www.theguardian.com/politics/2009/feb/01/david-blunkett-private-companies

I am a commonsense conservative, not a progressive revolutionary who wants to change what was good and create a "brave new free world". I have no time for Campbell and his progressive crusade against the Paper of the People, and I don't agree with much of what Fiona Millar says. But I read recently that Fiona Millar decided to turn down the chance to be a One Nation Labour MP and my respect for her increased. Maybe it is because her opposition to free schools and her views on education for which she has campaigned for so long are strongly held and real. Maybe she has principles and is not prepared to follow the New Labour Whips and argue for free schools when she fundamentally disagrees with them. Maybe her principles are more important to her than pleasing the progressives.

When I watch these public school educated Murdoch Sun journalists on Sky News Press Preview, I find I disagree with most of what they say. I wonder if they are in fact progressives rather than commonsense conservatives. They seemed to support that progressive Blair, and maybe they are the progressive heirs to Blair. When they extol the virtues of having ex-soldiers in the classroom in free schools, I think they are wrong.

"Michael Gove has said that he would welcome the idea of former soldiers coming into teaching because they would be capable of re-introducing discipline in the classroom."

blogs.telegraph.co.uk/news/janetdaley/100065195/ex-soldiers-in-the-classroom-thats-how-it-used-to-be/

I'm old school, I believe that schools are for teaching, for teachers who teach maths, not ex-servicemen who can set a good example to "da yoof" and who can instil discipline. Has our society really got so bad, has Britain really broken so much, are our children really so feral and wild, that we need ex-military personnel in our schools to teach discipline? Did the progressives ruin our country to such an extent? Is our future to be one of "free" schools staffed by ex-military personnel who will be charged with instilling discipline on our "free" people?

I am a commonsense conservative, old school, from a time when grades were worth something and when standards counted. That was when our State was in charge, when a Prime Minister could tell an energy company boss exactly what to do, not when he had to cajole and ask and invite and then be totally ignored. I don't want a future of having services provided by Serco and G4S and all the rest, and I am beginning to wonder too about these "free schools". I don't want the progressives to play the public for fools.

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