Anger is still raging across the country at the Tory-Liberal government’s axe to over 700 school building projects.
The Education Secretary has still not replied to my letter of a week ago asking whether he ignored advice not to announce the cuts in this way – which could put taxpayers’ money at risk as local councils and contractors seek compensation.
The thoughtless and botched way Michael Gove announced it showed the hurry he was in. But far from being in a hurry to save this money, he is in a desperate hurry to spend it – because Michael Gove’s cuts have little to do with reducing the deficit.
The Academies Bill which he is bringing to Parliament tomorrow will allow him to spend the money he has snatched away from hundreds of schools across the country to build his “free market” schools. That reform was tried and failed in Sweden, but it saw standards fall and inequality rise as only the better off took advantage.
It is deeply unfair that Michael Gove wants to put money into this failed idea at the expense of schools in hundreds of communities that are crying out for 21st century facilities and which now won’t get them.
That’s why I will be joining hundreds of parents, teachers, young people and trade union members at tomorrow’s rally in Westminster to Save Our Schools.
It’s why Labour will table a reasoned amendment to force a vote on the Second Reading of the Academies Bill – a Bill which even the Conservative chair of the education select committee agrees is being rushed too quickly.
And it’s why I will also be bringing an amendment to the Bill to require local government to consult local communities and parents on whether they believe an existing school being rebuilt or refurbished is a higher priority than an extra privately run school being built with public money.
The Liberal Democrat Deputy Leader Simon Hughes says it would be “a nonsense” to use money intended for existing local schools for these privately run schools. I agree. But his Party will have to vote with their Tory coalition partners to make it happen.
I’m calling on parents, teachers and local councillors to put pressure on their MPs, especially Liberal Democrat MPs, to support my amendment instead and to save 700 new school buildings. It’s time the Liberal Democrats stood up for their constituents and not for their own jobs in the coalition government.