A Decision Imminent

Stroud Life reminds us today that a decision from on high on the Stroud free school will be made within a week.

They highlight the objections made by Labour and others to the opening of the school, and in particular the threat to existing schools and the use of public money where it is not needed.

There is also a quote from an NUT spokesperson John Pemberthy who said “Personal choice should not be at the expense of many other parents who will lose their local schools and are adversely affected…millions of pounds wasted on free schools should be targeted where school places are needed. For parents that support free schools, it’s rather selfish.”

In the Stroud News and Journal this week there is a reply to my letter published a couple of weeks ago asking why the Green party has not supported campaigns against the free school as its policy states. The reply from Sarah Lunnon a Green Party councillor ignores their own policy to oppose free schools and instead criticises all the other political parties for their education policy. Just like all political parties, the Greens fail to step up, and they use spin to deflect attention from their own inaction.

No-one from the Greens has stated opposition except Chris Harmer here on the blog. Everyone else has simply ‘not-supported’ the free school bid. There is a difference, as I am sure party members are well aware.

Here are both the letters, mine first;


In view of the Green party’s policy on Education it is surprising we have not heard anything from them about the Stroud free school bid.

Their policy states 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.”

There are certainly campaigns locally against the school, but nothing from the Greens who enjoy considerable support in the area – apart from 1 comment on the blog.


On its website the Green party says it is in favour of cross-party co-operation so there is no reason why they could not join Labour in their campaign, or if they prefer, start their own.

Time is running out but it is not too late.

Local green party representatives have not been willing to come out in opposition to the Steiner free school plan, despite their insistence in principle that free schools are undemocratic and draw valuable resources away from other state schools. What could be the reason for this?

If the proposed free school was any other kind of school and not Steiner, we would surely have had the normally vociferous Green party keen to highlight its policy and show how they could help local people to rid themselves of this nuisance.




I would like to thank [name] for highlighting green party policy towards free schools (28/5/2014)

To repeat in a nutshell, free schools and academies are not Green Party policy and are not supported by Stroud District Green Party.

The Green Party (to use jargon) supports a “child-centred” approach to learning; building on the skills and interests of the child and would end successive governments’ obsession with testing regimes and rigid age-related bench-marking.

Thank you Labour, Lib-dems and Tory education policy.

The Green Party believes that state-funded education must be free from interference from religion and business, instead having democratic oversight and free access.

The Green Party is sympathetic to those who are unhappy with the current system.

We deserve innovative and creative education within the state system, providing children with a life-long love of learning and not the current educational strait-jacket which fails so many of our children, especially those from disadvantaged homes.

The way forward is to re-vitalise state education to free our children to learn and play.

Sarah Lunnon

Green Party Councillor for Stroud Central Ward.







  1. Helen

    I do not find Sarah’s description of what education should be very convincing. Saying that children do not get to “play”. I remember the headteacher at our primary school joking once in an assembly that “all the children did in the reception class was play” – a tongue in cheek remark which got a laugh from everyone. There was play-doh, building bricks, painting, dressing up, but importantly there were books (unlike Steiner schools at that age where they are not allowed) and a carefully constructed approach to learning with professionally trained teachers who had every child’s progress at the forefront of their minds. To criticise this and make out that children in mainstream schools are in a “strait jacket” is insulting.

  2. Rain17

    The idea that “private” equals “superior” is not limited to the right wing, by any stretch. We have a similar problem stateside regarding people who would like to consider themselves politically liberal, yet send their children to these cutthroat “progressive” private schools that charge them an arm and a leg. Also, since we have such a notorious, persistent history of segregation here, the canard that these schools that often amount in practice to white-flight schools are somehow better for or are even all that open to “disadvantaged” children is just laughable.

    • Helen

      The Town Council here saw through the Steiner initiative group’s claim to provide education for “disadvantaged” children; they asked for some funding and were denied it from this quarter, as it was clear that this kind of education appeals mainly to middle class parents with a particular set of values – not necessarily shared by the average non Steiner Stroud parent.

  3. Jube

    I am a Green Party activist here in Devon and I strongly oppose state funded Steiner schools. It is a shame to see Green Party skirt around this issue and could potentially cause a split in the party at some stage.

    • Nick Nakorn

      Jube, with a general election coming up, I will very, very reluctantly be voting Green. Reluctant because of so many Green Party people promoting Steiner Education, Biodynamics and many other things Anthroposophical. Have you noticed how even some of the Green Party candidates in Devon are supporting organisations that also support Anthroposophy?

      • Jim

        Presumably a tactical vote then? In Stroud we have a good Labour candidate ( and former MP ) who is likely to regain the seat and is opposing the Steiner free school bid. The Tory incumbent is a proven incompetent whose own supporters find hard to defend.

        • Nick Nakorn

          In my area of Devon, there’s no real opposition to the Conservatives from the left; it’ll be a fight between the Tories and UKIP. At local elections there’s often no Labour candidates at all and at EU elections UKIP is equal to Tories. So I don’t think it would make a difference. On top of that, our local Labour Candidate for the general election is Lynne Richards:

          ” Lynne currently helps manage her family owned complementary health business in Exeter and Crediton, supports her elderly relatives and is active in the local Transition Town environmental group. She is a loanstock investor in a housing co-op, a shareholder in a community enterprise bookshop and has been a school governor.”

          I’m generally opposed to private healthcare, especially if it’s not evidence based and my problems with Transition Town are well known so I don’t see Labour as being much of an alternative locally and the national race is almost done and dusted in Central Devon, Tories Vs UKIP.

          • Helen

            I think Lynne has strayed into the wrong party!
            Our marginal seat could well depend on which of the smaller parties takes more votes from Labour and Conservative this time. The big issue in Stroud at the moment is an incinerator, with large crowds forming to protest a couple of weeks ago. It is interesting to see what gets people out on the streets locally. Ed Miliband visited last week and criticised the County Council over its handling of that issue, but I don’t suppose the free school was mentioned at all at his meeting.
            Interesting to see that local millionaire Dale Vince of ecotricity has donated £250,000 to the Stroud Labour campaign, despite his enthusiasm for environmentalism and certain aspects of Anthroposophy.

            • Helen

              Not all the complementary health practitioners, co-housing people and Transitioners will vote Green, clearly – I think all that going on in Stroud has influenced my perception of local politics.

            • Helen

              re the donation from Dale Vince, this is not to Stroud Labour I read today, but to the national campaign, with another £20,00 to the local campaign. Thought I had better put that right. There is a report in the Stroud News today mentioning that Mr Vince has taken a large loan from Ecoctricity as a tax avoidance measure – not illegal, of course, but tax avoidance is also a political issue at the moment, after what happened in the Swiss banks.

            • Jim

              I suspect the tax avoidance story is just a bit of political muck spreading. Assuming the loan is to be repaid as Vince claims then the benefit in kind will be on the difference between the interest payable ( zero ) and the commercial rate of interest agreed with HMRC. Again, assuming as he claims that this has been paid then there is no avoidance.

              Of course the intention is to suggest that Vince has somehow got hold of £3.5m tax free. That’s a bit like saying that if you take a £300,000 mortgage to buy a house you have received income of that amount and should be taxed on it.

              And I speak as someone who finds Vince’s occasional holier than thou attitude quite irritating.

  4. Helen

    Thank you! I am truly astounded at the willingness by party activists and supporters locally here to stay silent on this issue.
    So much for principles of democracy – those clearly come a poor second for many people who are too afraid to upset their “anthroposophiclal friends”.

  5. Jim

    Interestingly former MP and Labour candidate David Drew, writing in today’s Stroud News and Journal, is highly critical of both the local Green Party’s fence sitting and the Steiner free school proposal. Whilst he will not got so far as to criticise steiner education in principle he is very emphatic that the Stroud proposal is unwanted so at least one party has made its opposition clear. Another writer also points out that the £6m or so that would be wasted on this school could be better spent improving provision for those with learning difficulties in the area.

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