Politics Again

This week there will be elections for the European parliament and local councils. All the parties want our votes, and this year we have had more leaflets in our letterbox than I ever remember before.

The UK Independence Party (anti EU) seem to have really stirred things up among the other parties and it is seemingly the aim of the main parties, all of whom have been losing support to UKIP, to discredit them.

Local elections produce different voting patterns to a general election, with people voting partly on the popularity or unpopularity of the national parties, partly on national politics, and partly on local issues.

If you are someone who always votes for the same party anyway, no matter what the current political climate may be, the decision is easy, but if you are someone who looks at current issues before making a decision, there is research to be done to find out what each party’s policy looks like on the issues important to you.

So if one of your priorities is education – in particular free schools, on what would you base your decision?

We have pointed out here before that the only party locally to protest publicly about the Steiner free school initiative has been Labour. Today I found a new video on the Steiner free school initiative by David Drew the labour party parliamentary candidate;

https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=mQpm62thsgc

He and the party object on the grounds that there are over 600 surplus school places here, and existing local schools will be under threat.

Despite the previous MP for Stroud objecting to the free school, it is still unclear what the Labour Party policy is on free schools. It was Labour who allowed the first state-funded Steiner school to open as an Academy .

Our Conservative MP has sat on the fence in relation to our specific case, although in principle he is in favour of free schools to provide “choice”.

The Liberal Democrats are in favour of free schools but “only where they are needed”, which is a bit wishy-washy since as we have seen “need” can mean lots of different things.

So much for the three main parties.

After some searching I found the Green party clearly sets out its policies on education. Given the general opinion in our area that the Steiner community and the Greens are “at one with each other”, the policy comes as something of a surprise;

“ED134 … the Green Party is opposed to creating more Academies and Free Schools and will support community, school and parent campaigns that share this aim. The Green Party will integrate Academies and Free Schools into the Local Authority school system.”

http://policy.greenparty.org.uk/ed.html

So the greens will do their best to rid us of free schools and academies. I have tried and failed to find out how they would achieve this since schools which do not teach the national curriculum, have exemptions from Key stage 1 and employ unqualified teachers would be difficult to integrate.

They will also insist on Qualified Teacher Status for all teachers,

“ED211 A Green government will work with the teaching unions to reverse the process by which teachers have gradually been deskilled and their professional autonomy eroded …”

And on religion they say

“No publicly-funded school shall be run by a religious organisation. Schools may teach about religions, comparing examples which originated in each continent, but are prohibited from delivering religious instruction in any form or encouraging adherence to any particular religious belief”.

They also distinguish between religious education, which they view as “…a celebration and recognition of religious and cultural diversity and spirituality.” and religious instruction, which “may only take place outside of school curriculum time”.

Of course Steiner schools continually claim to be “non-denominational”, although the evidence points to their being extremely religious in their ethos, and to anthroposophy being taught in classrooms.

The green Party may be viewed as the natural political home of Steiner supporters, as most would identify themselves with the natural, wholesome eco-friendly lifestyle advocated by Greens. Some also support Labour and there must be a conflict for those wishing to see the Steiner free school open.

Last night Stroud unanimously re-elected a Green Mayor and Deputy, and the Green deputy (and former) mayor is a known supporter of Steiner and anthroposophy; he very proudly told me once that he lives with an anthroposophist, so he must be well-informed.

Local and European elections may not be the time to vote on the matter of education, but certainly it is a time many people are considering their political preferences, and it is interesting to look at the way the parties are promoting themselves with a year until the next general election and a chance to establish their credentials between now and then.

 

 

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11 comments

  1. Helen

    In the video David Drew also complains about the costs of setting up a free school, and about the running costs which he says are higher than for local authority schools.

  2. Helen

    My e-mail to the local Green Party
    “As the elections approach I have been reading up on what each of the parties have to say about free schools and I see the Green Party is against them.
    From the website;
    “ED134 … the Green Party is opposed to creating more Academies and Free Schools and will support community, school and parent campaigns that share this aim. The Green Party will integrate Academies and Free Schools into the Local Authority school system”.
    In view of this policy I wonder if the party would care to state their objection to the proposed free school in Stroud, as has the local Labour party?
    I would be grateful if you could let me know.”

  3. Nick Nakorn

    As recently as March this year, the Green Party’s Education Policy finally dropped it’s endorsement of Steiner Schools. Having communicated with the Green Party several times about this issue over the last 6 years and not had a reply, it would have been nice if they had acknowledged that they had finally done something about it. But, clearly, they would rather just drop the reference to Steiner without attracting attention to the fact that they used to cite Steiner thus:

    “Amendment ED120:

    ED120 Delete first two sentences (‘Many different types of schools currently exist, including comprehensive schools, boarding schools, public schools, specialist schools and ‘alternative’ schools such as Steiner schools. In the state sector there are also specialist schools and schools for young people with special needs’)

    and replace with:

    A range of different types of schools exists and is being extended through academies and free schools. Currently diversity of provision is rapidly creating fragmentation and a lack of democratic accountability. The Green Party recognises that we do not yet have a fully comprehensive system of education.”

    The above quoted from http://sheffieldgreenparty.org.uk/2014/02/27/greens-plan-to-bring-free-schools-and-academies-into-local-authority-control/

    I’m very pleased they’ve changed their posiition and hope that their new policy heralds a more active distancing from Anthroposophical influence. I still have a huge amount of time for the Green party but a great many of their officials are still very much Steiner-oriented; so much so that I can not get involved in Green politics locally – simply because I am the only voice in my area speaking out against Anthroposophical values.

    • Helen

      Oh, I see. I admit I was feeling silly in not finding this out before, but it is a very recent change. Democratic accountability is the important factor for the Greens, not the issues highlighted by Labour – there are just so many reasons for these schools not to go ahead…
      It’s a strange situation; Labour have not said they would do away with free schools, but here in Stroud have spoken out vociferously against the planned school; The Green Party on the other hand have officially said they would abolish them but have failed to make any statement contrary to the local plan.
      I have to say the way things look at the moment you have to admire Labour locally for their candour; they may lose some votes over this, but are sticking to their principles.

  4. Helen

    I had a reply from Molly Scott Cato this morning
    Dear Molly
    As a South West area voter I have been looking at the Green Party policies in general, and was interested to see in “Education” the following
    “ED134 … the Green Party is opposed to creating more Academies and Free Schools and will support community, school and parent campaigns that share this aim. The Green Party will integrate Academies and Free Schools into the Local Authority school system”
    In Stroud there is a campaign to stop a free school opening, and I wondered whether you would be able to support it?

    Our Tory MP supports free schools, but the local Labour party has publicly stated their objection to the free school, by writing to the local press and with their own campaign.

    http://www.stroudlabour.org.uk/campaigns/local-schools-under-threat/news.aspx?p=103641
    The labour party objects because there is already a 600+ surplus of school places in the area, and also because of the threat to existing schools and the cost of opening and running the new school.
    Please let me know whether you will be able to help with this issue in Stroud, where the Green Party has a strong presence.
    Kind regards
    Helen Saunders
    ************************************************************************************
    Dear Helen
    Although we favour diversity of educational provision and support parents who choose to educate their children at home we are concerned that Free Schools are publicly funded but not subject to democratic accountability and control. Our policy is therefore to integrate them into the local authority school system.
    Best wishes
    Molly

  5. Jim

    As said above, Labour is the only party to come out clearly against the Steiner free school proposal, but unfortunately will not extend its argument beyond the question of need.
    I did try to engage David Drew on this point in the hope that maybe he would be critical of Steiner education in principle but no success. He seems to have some positive views of Wycliffe but whether this is due to limited knowledge or positive commitment I couldn’t tell as he refused to be drawn. Perhaps he’s just reluctant to antagonise the Steiner mafia any more than necessary.

    • Jim

      Correction – I should have referred to Wynstones above and not to Wycliffe, which has no connection with Steiner.

  6. Helen

    Molly Scott Cato (see message above) was elected last week as the South West’s first green euro MP. Given the “non-answer” she gave to my question on the Green party’s view of the plan for the Stroud free school, she is already well-versed in avoiding answering questions.

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