Ex-heads' leader to stand in PM's ward

31st January 1997 at 00:00
Frances Rafferty examines the election wish-list of the Secondary Heads Association, and samples three individual views

Peter Downes, former head of Hinchingbrooke school and ex-president of the Secondary Heads Association, is standing for the Liberal Democrats in the local elections in the ward where the Prime Minister lives.

And if he gets a chance to canvass John Major, education will be the first talking point.

He said: "I think many features of Conservative education policy have been positive, for example increased accountability of schools and the increased involvement of parents and governors, but I think the excessive emphasis on raising standards through competition and the gradual erosion of funding has been to the detriment of the service."

Mr Downes, now an education consultant, agrees with many of Labour's policies, but thinks some of them are gimmicks.

He said: "I'm sceptical about the practical application of some of the proposed schemes. I would also prefer the Labour Party to make some of its intentions clear, for example on grant maintained schools. We have said we will bring GM schools back under the aegis of the local authority and have not resorted to the fudge of creating foundation schools - whatever they will be."

He is unconvinced by the Labour idea to parachute charismatic heads into nearby failing schools and expect them to turn them round in six months.

"This is not a realistic understanding of what happens in schools," he said.

The Liberal Democrats, he said, are the party most committed to increase investment in schools and would raise taxes if needs be.

"I'm looking for a Lib-Dem programme that is gimmick free and does not involved lots of new legislation and will free money for decent resources and decent buildings."

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