The Tories showed their nasty side yet again this week by threatening “at least” 500 more free schools if they win May’s general election.
David Cameron claimed this would mean “more good places for your children”. But free schools aren’t designed to benefit children—they are geared towards privatising education.
Campaigners in Brixton, south London, held a protest at short notice in response. They gathered at Trinity Academy, a free school that has opened on the site of Lambeth College.
Protester Andrea Gibbons told Socialist Worker, “Free schools are a way of transferring money from public
education to private education. And free schools have failed all around Britain.”
Akua Rugg has taught at Lambeth College since 1990. She said free schools damage education.
“The ruling class get a very broad education,” she told Socialist Worker. “But the working class is railroaded into very narrow choices.”
Free schools are privately run but funded by the government. They are “free” to ignore the national curriculum and set their own admissions policies.
Free schools took half the number of children receiving free school meals that state-run schools did in 2011.
Alasdair Smith is national secretary of the Anti Academies Alliance. He said, “Those who bang the drum for the profit motive in education, for privatisation and deregulation, are letting down our children.”
Schools inspectorate Ofsted has inspected 77 free schools and rated 30 percent as either requiring improvement or inadequate. Three were closed or taken over.
Many people are opposed to letting unaccountable bodies take over education.
Andrea criticised the consultation process for the new Trinity Academy. “It was a bunch of white men in suits presenting designs,” she said.
“They said it was all very preliminary but then it quickly became set. It was as though a decision had been made and there’s nothing you can do about it.”
Campaigners are also concerned that Dennis Sewell, head of Trinity Academy Ltd, is racist. He wrote an article for Spectator magazine that glorifies Britain bringing “personal hygiene” and “good table manners” to “the natives” in Africa and Asia.
Rahul Patel is a local resident who has also been involved in the campaign against the school.
He told Socialist Worker, “It’s despicable that a man like Sewell is allowed to be at the head of an £18 million education project. He has continually made derogatory statements about Asians, Africans and poor people.
“There’s no accountability and no scrutiny. Democracy is being wiped out.”