Standing up for City of Leeds….
Last night I attended the public consultation meeting held on the future of City of Leeds School in the packed sports hall of the school. Parents, students, residents and the hopefuls in the upcoming council by-election were all in attendance along with representatives of Education Leeds. Unsurprisingly, the meeting was overwhelmingly hostile to the proposal to close the school.
Substantively, the proposals are based on a failure to achieve government targets, a ‘failure to attract leaders’ and rather absurdly (for a school under almost constant threat) a failure to attract local intake. Students told of the disruption the plans would bring to their education while emotional teachers told of their pride in the school and its pupils. It was not hard to see how extensive the damage these proposals would do to the local community. This is something that slips under the radar in the results-driven mania that drives education policy; as it was pointed out we should not judge human beings on their exam grades and similarly we should not judge schools in the same way.
It is said that this mania shows ‘aspiration’ but it shows nothing of the kind; rather it displays a poverty of ambition, a vision of ambition that is driven by a narrow ‘aspiration’ to churn out economically useful ‘units’. It displays no ambition for local communities and in fact, cripples them under the tyranny of impersonal stat obsession. One contribution that struck me came from an academic from Australia which has ‘abandoned the notion of failing schools’ and its place there are ‘development schools’ which get the lions share of resources. This seems an eminently sensible idea to me and one that this Labour government should adopt.
Meanwhile, Leeds City Council continues to do a very convincing impression of a jellyfish; it’s Liberal Democrat leaders blame the national government for their own policy priorities and in a totally spineless manner they try to turn the fire on Labour locally. In doing so they are cynically seeking to exploit anger over the issue for party political gain and avoiding the issue; they could stop this if they wanted too. Let’s be quite clear; the majority of the Liberal Democrats including the leadership want to drive a coach and horses through City of Leeds and tear down other schools and turn them into academies.
Liberal Democrat councillors who resist the leadership line are punished; one who spoke out against academies was stripped of their lead membership and the issue is, like everything else, dictated not debated. Alternatives exist; StandUp4City has produced proposals and with the support of a committed community these would succeed. However, the question is will the council even give them the chance?