Sunday, 16 January 2011

The Bankers 'Free' School


Britain today is akin to living three hundred thousand fathoms under a sea of wealth, that’s if you consider that we have the highest levels of income inequality for over half a century. Household and personal wealth of the top 10% of the population is 100 times greater than that of the poorest 10% and 30% of children live in poverty.

There is most definitely something very wrong somewhere, and like most things in society it is either, hidden, obscured and generally not spoken about or highlighted in our wonderful and enlightening free press. For instance last year because of the Olympics being hosted in Newham where I live, a local school was relocated from another part or the Borough to Canning Town, and so each morning, when I look out of my kitchen window whilst making my early morning brew, often than not, I see the youngsters gathering in the playground, this by the way is a senior school where the children end their formal state education before either going on to futher and higher education, starting employment or just leaving school if you get my drift, well the point that I am trying hopelessly to make as it seems, is that the children arrive on the school premises from about 7.30am which is rather early, but the reason is that the school like many these day’s runs an early morning breakfasting club. There has been a trend or rather a need as it turns out over the last ten years for schools to introduce breakfast clubs, especially primary schools. This has mainly been driven by concerns that a substantial proportion of pupils are not eating breakfast and arriving at school hungry, which some say impacts negatively on learning and behaviour. But I will also argue this has more to do with family poverty and the times in which we live and the real inequality that grips and blights the lives of millions of Britons today and which as I say, that which we do not read about in the press, although I have spotted very occasionally a story about the return of rickets, scurvy and distended bellies amongst our children, and yes, in this the twenty first century.

So against this setting a generation has been growing up with demands and expectations placed on them and the educational system which is best described as excessive and manipulative in order that it meets the needs of business, we often read in the press that the CBI or others think that schools do not meet the requirements or modern business, and whilst government introduce league tables and all manner of tests to plicate their concerns. In the last twenty years we have seen business get more involved in the running of schools because it has been argued that high rates of education are essential for countries to be able to achieve high levels of economic growth. So in short our education system is really about turning out products not people, products that will service the needs of capitalism. I have one example to demonstrate that education is now quickly becoming the preserve of the well off affluent and rich in this country.

Furious parents and I’m pleased to see trade unions are waging war on a proposed new "bankers' free school" in the leafy, family-friendly suburbs of Wandsworth, London. In a controversy that is likely to be repeated across the country as the "free school" programme of education secretary Michael Gove is rolled out, the new school will exclude children from poorer neighbourhoods and waste valuable public resources at a time of fierce public spending cuts.

The proposed academy, spearheaded by a group known as the Neighbourhood School Campaign (NSC) and the education charity ARK – founded by London-based financier, Arpad Busson – is expected to open on the site of the disused Bolingbroke hospital in the Northcote ward of Wandsworth, an area known as Nappy Valley due to its high birth rates and affluent residents.

Backers of the Bolingbroke academy, which benefactors hope will open in September 2012, include 25 local bankers working for top City businesses including JP Morgan, Morgan Stanley, Citigroup, Barclays and RBS. Worrying that a school for the well-heeled residents of Northcote will suck resources away from the rest of Wandsworth, a group of concerned parents and councillors have written to the education secretary and the Conservative-run council calling for a review of future education provision. Chief among the concerns raised were access and cost. The hospital site will cost the council £13m to purchase outright on behalf of the NSC and ARK. Central government will pay for subsequent renovation costs.

So the end of our little story the moral is, if you have the wedge the connections you get what you want.    

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