Forced down the wrong path

Education secretary Michael Gove claims to promote freedom and autonomy for schools and college leaders. In fact, power has been centralised to an unprecedented degree, with the role, and finances, of local councils dangerously whittled away. The rapid growth of centrally funded academies and free schools is diminishing democratic accountability.

There are real worries about the methods used to create academies. The Education Act 2010 was forced through by the use of powers intended for emergencies such as terrorism. Meanwhile, many schools have been rushed - or worried - into switching status, their local communities given little meaningful say in the process. Forced academisation is now proceeding, again without community consultation. We are constantly told the changes are necessary in the name of increased social mobility, yet the abolition of the education maintenance allowance and the tripling of tuition fees give the lie to this claim.

England urgently needs policies that promote a coherent and genuinely fair alternative, building on the proven success of international systems that combine equity with excellence.

Richard Pring - emeritus professor of education, University of Oxford

Melissa Benn - writer and campaigner

Trevor Fisher - editor, Education Politics; and 14 other signatories from the education sector.

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