Personal attacks just lose friends and alienate people

5th February 2010 at 00:00

Toby Young's side of the debate may have carried more weight had he presented well-reasoned arguments for the benefits to his community of his proposed school, instead of taking personal "pops" at Fiona Millar.

His rant failed to win me round and supports my firm view that current policies on "choice" in state education appeal predominantly to the whims and egos of those with money, loud mouths and "friends in high places".

His claim that the British public has never found favour with the comprehensive system is incorrect. Those "ordinary folk" fighting for improved standards and outcomes in the existing democratic and publicly accountable state comprehensive system are given no voice nationally and seem not to count at all. I should know as I'm one of them.

Despite huge community opposition and a well co-ordinated and vocal campaign, the Department for Children, Schools and Families has signed the funding agreement for an academy in Tamworth, Staffordshire, as part of the Building Schools for the Future programme.

Soon we will see Tamworth's entire sixth-form provision taken over by Landau Forte Academy along with one of our maintained high schools. The A-level entry criteria will rise above the five A*-C GCSE grades required currently by our existing five high schools' sixth forms, thereby ensuring a good position in the league tables for the academy but creating a barrier to widening participation in a town where no other A-level provider will exist. Who benefits from choice and diversity here: the community or Landau Forte?

The idea that "choice" through competition and diversity in school governance raises standards and outcomes must be challenged. It is a system of winners and losers, when no children should be losers. It's time politicians and policymakers listened to what the majority of "ordinary" parents and children want: a good school in our own communities where the "choice and diversity" comes from within the school through a wide curriculum and a variety of courses to suit children with different interests and abilities and where they can all be winners.

Julie Morgan, Parent and secretary, Hands Off Tamworth Schools community campaign, Tamworth, Staffordshire.

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