On Friday 18 January, Greg Mulholland, LibDem MP for NW Leeds, was reported in the Yorkshire Evening Post, expressing his concerns about Horsforth School and its admissions’ policy. Responding to letters from constituents, Mr Mulholland complained that the changes were ‘arbitrary’ and threatened access to this successful school for children from Cookridge.
Well, Mr Mulholland, there’s a bit of hand-washing going on here.
These changes are a direct result of the education policy of the Tory/LibDem Coalition government of which he is a member.
As Andy Bowles, former Education Lecturer at Leeds Met, has written to the YEP
‘Greg Mulholland will find it most difficult to respond to constituent concerns about admissions to Horsforth School.
Horsforth School is described as an independent academy and therefore is not subject to democratic control through a local authority. Despite residents of North West Leeds paying UK taxes they are not now guaranteed a place in this local school for their children.
Governors of academies develop their own admissions policies within Government guidelines. It is the Governors at Horsforth School who decide who attends Horsforth School not Leeds City Council, not local residents, not parents of children who live close by and certainly not Greg Mulholland.
In its report – Unleashing Greatness – the Academies Commission, led by former chief inspector of schools, Christine Gilbert, says it has received evidence that some popular schools, including academies, attempt to select and exclude pupils. It comments that, while this practice is not new, the fact that academies have greater autonomy over their admissions has “attracted controversy and fuelled concerns that the growth of academies may entrench rather than mitigate social inequalities”.
Academies do not even publish socio-economic data about who applies and who is offered a place so Horsforth residents have no right to know if the school is involved in social engineering. No-one has! Not residents of Horsforth, not Leeds people, not the YEP! Not even the local MP!
The BBC notes that a further concern is that academies, according to the Department of Education, exclude more pupils than local authority schools. This implies that more challenging children will inevitably be concentrated in local authority schools. It is therefore much more difficult for the city council to ensure all schools are good schools as your editorial implies. Changing children is clearly a factor in academy success.
The development of academies is Government policy. This is coalition policy. This is a policy which Greg’s party have developed with the Tories.’
So let’s have more honesty here. You can’t have a policy put in place by your government, which you support, then attack its effects at local level as if it belonged to someone else.
Residents who have written to Greg complaining should recognise who is responsible, and what they can do about it. If they want some control of local schools and justice for their children they should not vote Liberal Democrat next time.