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Education - A fair chance for all of Norwich's children

Investing in our children's education is investing in all our futures. No one cares more for our children than our friends, family and neighbours. This is why our schools must always be run by those with a stake in our community. Never as a business. Never for profit.

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And yet that's exactly what the current Liberal Democrat and Conservative government is attempting to push through. Here in our city, free schools - some part of large profit making educational chains - are being allowed to open new schools with no regard for the consequences of nearby schools and their continued viability.

As the associate governor of a city school I've watched as the principle of co-operation between schools has slowly but surely been replaced by one of competition and in some cases, suspicion.

County-wide the performance of our schools has been questioned by Ofsted. Whatever the veracity of these claims the fact remains Ofsted is being used by this government to force ever more schools into the hands of private academy chains. 

But let us assume standards have indeed fallen. Why is that? One answer could be that throughout the last decade Norfolk County Council's Conservative administration drained staff and resources from the very department tasked with supporting our schools. Is it any wonder that standards and results have fallen in this period?

But the narrow quest for ever 'higher standards' is also a mistake. Of course everyone wants to see the very best teaching and learning in our schools. But we must also question the purpose of that education. This government's definition of 'standards' is only about those for whom the academic route is fine. That means failure for those whose principle talents and interests lay elsewhere. It's an agenda that entails selection, competition, segregation and stratification between schools. Something even Ofsted acknowledges, "...impairs the attainment of students at the margin without enhancing the performance of others."

Our education system must be one that equally rewards, encourages and appreciates both academic excellence as well as more practical attributes. Our diversity is our strength and our schools should reflect this. Something that will enhance social cohesion and contribute towards excellence in all its forms. 

Ultimately we want an education system that produces and values tomorrow's workforce as much as it does good citizens for the good society. Schools who raison d'etre is simply profit will not provide that balance.

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