04 Aug 10

Premier League schools idea should be relegated

Voice has already written several times about free schools on this blog.

We've said that a "buffet approach" to education provision risks causing chaos and confusion for parents, admissions policies, infrastructure planning, employers, staff recruitment and retention.

We've said that importing an idea from a country with a different education system and social attitudes and trying to make it fit here is a risky ideological experiment that could potentially damage children's education if it fails.

We've said that free schools would need an injection of new money at a time when the government is cutting spending and create surplus places in existing schools, resulting in an even larger drain on stretched budgets.

Voice is also concerned about who will set up and run 'free' schools. We are concerned about schools being set up by those who wish to promote a particular philosophy. Providing high quality education may not be their priority.

Now the latest in the line of 'groups' wanting to set up 'free schools' is the Premier League. This has already prompted a spokeswoman for the Department for Education to say: "We want every child to have a premier-league education"! This is doubtless just the first of many puns about 'own goals', 'hitting the back of the net', 'promotions', 'relegations', 'scoring/failing to score'. We will soon all feel 'sick as a parrot' about this policy of 'two halves' very much indeed so when it generates headlines about 'Rooney School', 'Capello Academy', 'Schools United'. There's already Hamilton Academical in Scotland so roll on Arsenal Academy, Everton Educational, Newcastle Pedagogical, Chelsea College, Man U Primary, Sunderland Secondary..

Nurturing talent is a good thing but, providing a rounded education aside, how would admissions work for a start? "Free Schools will be bound by the same Admissions Code that governs all publicly funded schools. Each Free School will need to have a fair and transparent admission policy, and will need to provide places for pupils of different abilities who are wholly or mainly drawn from the area in which the school is situated."

If all the thousands of football-mad boys in the area want to go to the Liverpool FC Institute, but not many of them have the talent to play top-flight football, the schools will be over-subscribed and, inevitably, talented youngsters will miss out while non-leaguers get a place.

What about girls? Premier League players are all men. Would its schools cater for both girls and boys or be male-dominated and male-orientated or even single-sex? How would that be "inclusive"?

Perhaps it's best if clubs work with schools and nurture talent outside school and leave the running of education to its own professionals. After all, would they want PE teachers telling them how to run their clubs?

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