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Education and an autocratic Secretary of State

12 July 2013


From Dr Robin C. Richmond

Sir, - Academies are certainly not an improvement ("Be more radical, Gove tells Bishops", News, 5 July).

Academies are state schools funded by the taxpayer, with no democratic control or accountability. Academies are free of the requirements of the Freedom of Information Act. Who knows what goes on inside them? Ten per cent of teachers are now unqualified, and who are these people? How do Academies and their secretive sponsors spend the large sums of public money they are given?

Already one or two stories have emerged of the misappropriation and misuse of public funds. Between six per cent and ten per cent of their budgets is paid over by many of these schools to non-statutory and unaccountable "chains". Where do parents complain or seek redress if they have a grievance? It is not OFSTED that is now the politicised enforcer for Michael Gove, the Secretary of State.

The Education Act 1944 established not only the "dual system" integrating church schools into a state system, but, crucially, a balance of power in responsibility for state education between local and central government. Local education authorities (LEAs) were responsible for proposing the opening and closing of, or any changes to, schools in their local area. It was the Secretary of State's responsibility to accept or reject these proposals. Head teachers and governors were responsible for the curriculum and how it was taught.

Mr Gove's Academies Act 2010 has swept away that balance of power and put the total control of publicly funded state education in England into the hands of the Secretary of State. The education of the next generation of children is now dictated by the whim of one politician, a situation that carries extreme dangers.

Already Mr Gove is dictating the content of the curriculum and how it is taught - in particular, his version of history and of mathematics. That the status of religious education is dependent on one autocratic politician should be warning enough.

The Bishops, alongside the Bishop of Oxford ought to have been expressing the real concerns that exist about what is happening to many church schools as an essential part of the state education system.

No one voted for these foolish changes to state education. No proposals were in the coalition agreement, and no one was consulted. Tyrants always think that they know best, and English public education will be left in a terrible mess as the result of Mr Gove's arrogance.

Providence Cottage, Burying Lane
The Downs, Bromyard
Herefordshire HT7 4NY

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