Free schools Essay
Are an interesting idea but the government needs to be very careful to make sure that educational standards improve for all children and that the whole community benefits. The idealogy behind “free Schools “are that they are non-profit making, independent, state-funded schools. They are able to choose what subjects they choose for their pupils to study and have many less restrictions imposed on them on how they choose to allocate their finances. For this very reason free schools would be varied in their nature as they would not be forced to follow for example the national curriculum.
They are not defined by size or location: there is not a single type of free school or a single reason for setting them up. Free schools could be either primary or secondary schools. They could be located in traditional school buildings or appropriate community spaces such as office buildings or church halls. They could be set up by a wide range of proposers – including charities, universities, businesses, educational groups, visionary teachers or committed parents – who want to make a difference to the educational landscape.
They might be needed because there simply are not enough school places in a local area and children have to travel too far to the nearest school. Free schools are not academically selective and open to children of all abilities. School is a defining factor in our lives and also promote a shared sense of community which is important as cohesive communities are generally more happy and safe than uncohesive ones – there is no discrimination or segregation and they nurture a shared set of beliefs and values and goals, living together in harmony and mutual respect.
An example of a community that lacks this is Oldham – in which the races, Asians and whites were segregated and this triggered violent race riots. This happened due to the immense divide between Asian and White communities and their inability to mix and appreciate one another. This event made me think that this was very bad for the community and did nothing but encourage racial segregation. Looking at the footage of the riots of 2001 it is clear that situation could have been easily avoided had everyone learnt to appreciate one another.
Community cohesion is about ensuring that all people from different backgrounds and communities feel they belong to the place in which they live. We cannot realise our ambitions by living in isolation to one another, it must be as a united city, where the differences of race, colour, and religion are embraced. A sense of community cohesion as we grow up makes us happier in general and encourages us to be unprejudiced and non-racist.
Our distinctive character is developed early on in life and to be encouraged to mix with other people with different beliefs and religions helps promote a safer and on the whole a more happier and strong community. We start school within the first few years of our lives and being mixed with different people at this institution endorses a stronger community. We spend a good part of a decade at school so there is no doubt that school will be largely responsible for our values and beliefs, as well as our personality.
Depending on what school we go to we are thrust into a shared community and we learn to get along and share beliefs. As stated in the Source material, “Being part of a community helps us develop an identity – a sense of who we are”. An uncohesive community has exactly the opposite effect, and children growing up in an uncohesive community can grow up to have negative views and not feel like they belong and the can feel like they do not have a stake in society and being able to join in and influence decisions that affect their lives.
When David Cameron and Nick Clegg (leaders of the Conservative party and the Liberal Democrat party) were elected to form a coalition government in 2010, one of the Conservatives policies were “the Big Society” which was apparently based on a model of Balsall Heath – A town with low levels of community cohesion. The idea of the “Big Society” was that people take greater control of their communities and not rely on the government and local authorities to provide services like schools, community centres, youth clubs. This town has now been transformed and the town is now clean and tidy and people of all different cultural backgrounds mix.
The most positive effects of this were that community cohesion increased in a drastic way. There is no doubt that there are some beneficial aspects of free schools such as people of all different ethnicities mixing together as a free school is not academically selective. This discourages discrimination and community cohesion. Some people may argue that the current government is trying to distance themselves from responsibility and segregate society but I believe that David Cameron is good to encourage people to take action if they are deprived of something that will be a credit to the community.
Further argument counteracting this is that some people think that such people in deprived areas are not skilled or have enough knowledge to undertake a difficult project of opening a school, particularly a secondary school. A quote from a recent article of the Telegraph states “These kids will be left behind, because the second point is that, if you set up a market mechanism, then there are winners and losers, but, in this case the losers are children, left behind in a “sink” school. ” The endorsement of free schools is debatable, but interesting.
Nick Clegg declared on the 5th September in his speech “Free schools would not become the ‘preserve of the privileged few'” which outlines the fact that he thinks free schools would in effect privatize the education system and allow the new institutions to cream off the best pupils and resources. On the other hand the Education Secretary Michael Gove who wholeheartedly believes that free schools will end the “rationing” of good education. He believes that free schools to replace failing comprehensives will give ‘all children access to the kind of education only the rich can afford’.
He outlines this in Source 1 as well as saying free schools will “cut the achievement gap between rich and poor”. However , free schools could lead to social segregation as middle class parents are likely to be very keen on them, leading to a situation where middle class and working class people do not mix. This could end up with middle class children going to good schools and working class children remaining in local authority schools where there is very little funding.
Another group who are really keen on free schools are faith groups and this could lead to segregation on religious grounds. Standards for school would therefore not rise uniformly for everyone which would be a big disadvantage and there would also be low community cohesion which is explained above. I personally think it is unfair that some pupils don’t have the opportunity to go to a high achieving school as I went through this whole school “lottery” trying for three high achieving schools but I failed to get into any of them, simply because I was out of the catchment area.
It is worth setting up free schools in deprived areas where children are forced to go to a low achieving school, so they have the same opportunities that wealthier children have. Michael Gove planned to branch out free schools here after apparent success in America with free schools, where 99 free schools have been established. Evidence suggests that 83% of free schools in the USA are doing no better than their conventional counterparts – which brings me to question whether the opening of free schools really are beneficial and whether the opening of them would cut the bridge between rich and poor.
However in further research some students in these schools feel that they are in a better position in a free school where they apply rigorous discipline and are challenging. This again makes the idea of free schools questionable. In Source 3, a group of six hundred parents expressed their desire for their children to go to a school other than the local state school. This brings about the conclusion that if this many parents are unhappy with the type of provision of state schooling institutions, something must be done.
This opinion is also met with Rachel Wolfs in Source 4 who argues that “hundreds of parents have suffered too long from a two tier education system – one in which the wealthy can get into the excellent local school by buying a house in the right catchment area or paying school fees, while less off parents are stuck. ” I believe this is an extremely unfair system and one in which the wealthy seem to have it all and working class citizens are stuck in a never ending rut.
In Source 5 another parents view is expressed, where she expresses her desire for a school in which most of its students could walk to and not sending their children 4 miles away. Source 6 promotes the fact that some people are planning to profit from the government’s initiative – “seeking to profit at the expense of the taxpayer” states Ed Balls in Source 8. He continues with “Since free schools introduced a free schools policy the country’s education standards in maths and scince have plummeted”. This Source brings about more negativity on the topic of free schools and questions the beneficial aspects of free schools.
Source 7, an extract adapted from the website of the National Union of Teachers promotes an opinion of high negativity towards free schools, of which 24 have opened this September. A quote of this source is ‘”This government’s attack on state education has to be opposed. Laws to create many more academies and the new so called free schools are an attack on the very existence of free, state comprehensive education which is democratically accountable. It is privatisation on a grand scale and is unacceptable”.
From my research many people agree with the condemning of free schools with NASUWT stating “”The free schools programme will be anything but free. Free schools are an unnecessary and costly gamble in educating the country’s children. The Government is simply not acting responsibly by not making clear where the money will come from to fund the free schools policy. Major education programmes have in the last few weeks been cut or frozen. The public would be right to be concerned that money saved from other education programmes will be used to fund the free schools policy.
” There is yet more negativity on the introduction of free schools with ATL an education union saying “”Parents or teachers misguided enough to set up a free school will soon find out that running a school needs a lot more than knowing pupils’ names and an alternative vision of education. It needs knowledge of employment law, health and safety and the admissions code. And private companies are waiting in the wings to provide these services. ATL has produced a directory listing the major organisations which want to get involved in managing state schools – England’s schools: not open for business.
” These all show there is much negativity on free schools. Also NASUWT outlines the fact that it is not clear where the money to fund free schools will come from which brings about the conclusion that the government are taking money from existing state schools which may not benefit the majority of children in the local area. In Source 9 a blogger wrote her opinion which depicts that instead of reducing segregation free schools would in fact increase it, by being “highly selective” especially for parents who are forcefully ambitious in their choice of school, leaving behind children, for whom there may not be a voice.
In Source 10 we look at Sweden, which already has free schools implemented but a person called Per Thulberg who analysed this said schools had not led to better results and Michael Gove contradicted this stating that if parents had more choice then existing schools would be forced to improve, but Per Thurlberg said better results simply came from students with better backgrounds going into those schools. These statistics suggest that free schools may not bring about better results and will not determine that there are better quality schools for the public to choose from which was the point of free schools being created in the first place.
Free schools may simply be taking money from the local comprehensive where students may inevitably end up. Another factor which questions the beneficial aspects of free schools are the growing popularity of faith schools – demands to build more faith schools in the form of free schools are reportedly growing – this is a feature which some say will segregate society further and not promote community cohesion. http://www. dailymail. co. uk/news/article-2046715/Richard-Dawkins-attacks-alien-rubbish-taught-Muslim-faith-schools. html http://www. guardian. co.uk/education/2011/oct/04/alarm-over-racial-segregation-london-schools.
These articles – especially the second depict the racial segregation that faith schools may cause. I think personally that large numbers of faith schools in Britain will not benefit the society as a whole. In conclusion and to be fair and in all honesty it is just too soon to say whether free schools are going to be a good thing and create a more fair educational society for all of us. It is very clear that the present system is not working and puts immense pressure on both parents and children to fulfill the need to attend a good school.
Once parents were allowed to see the published national league tables of which schools perform well as opposed to which schools did not, it was only a matter of time before wealthy parents were able to move to a “catchment” area to secure the best school places for their children leaving behind the poorer child to accept whatever was on offer. This has caused a very great divide in good and average performing schools and caused a lot of low morale for many parents in this country. If free schools can address this major issue it can only be a good thing. However, it can be argued that the odds are stacked against them.
In our present times with our bleak economic outlook any system that is trying to get on its feet will gobble a lot of financial resources and one has to look at where this money is coming from and whether our already existing state schools who do not join in will suffer as a result. Competition is whole heartedly healthy generally in a society but not an unfair one where competition takes place in schools where clever kids are already creamed off and able to go to better schools. This can be a major disadvantage and in itself causes segregation of a different sort.
I feel that if people are inspired to take on the opportunity of setting up a free school then they probably have a vision of a better , alternative system they are aspiring to which is a good thing as the government has set up a lot of stringent conditions which have to be passed to set up a free school. In all, apathy and not doing anything to address the issues in our schools is a worse misdemeanor than at least trying to see whether free schools hold the answer to our problems and so we can only hope for our future generations that free schools work. As in everything in life only time will tell.
University/College: University of Chicago
Type of paper: Thesis/Dissertation Chapter
Date: 7 September 2017
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