Saturday, October 06, 2007

Clutching at Straws?

I was involved in a ‘consultation’ process once, even though 97% of the responses were against the scheme, the sponsoring organisation said that they were ‘unrepresentative’ and went ahead any way. I take a fairly jaundiced view of ‘consultations’ they are usually just a thinly veiled sham so it’s possible to say ‘we did ask people’.

The consultation of people living on the Heartsease estate in Norwich has come out in favour of the proposed academy sponsored by millionaire second hand car dealer turned Pentecostalist preacher Graham Dacre. It wasn’t exactly an even sided debate, the local churches were in favour, former Education Secretary and local MP Charles Clarke backed it, also there were all those glossy leaflets showing a state of the art, environmentally friendly new school. Who could oppose it?

Apart from opposing the general principle of a local authority handing control of a school over to an outside organisation, there were other compelling reasons. The Pentecostalists unlike the Quakers don’t exactly do ‘quietism’, their mission is to aggressively proselytise and convert. There are also those other little details like their belief in creationism (the earth was created 6,000 years ago), abortion is ‘evil’ and homosexuality can be ‘cured’. Just to prove how inclusive they are, all gay people are banned from being ministers.

The Governors of Heartsease voted against the academy as did the Norwich Council Scrutiny Committee. So what’s changed? Well of course there is the consultation, a whopping 62% were in favour. As local councillor George Nobbs said, ‘the public have spoken’. Or did they? Only 258 responded to the consultation.

Given this ‘mass’ public support Network Norwich are now claiming that the academy is ‘certain’ to go through the council meeting on October 8. Education officials have also claimed that Heartsease School is sill giving ‘significant concerns’, this despite being an ‘improving’ school.

Will an academy make any difference? The results from the current academies are not exactly spectacular.

Anti-Academies Alliance


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