LRB Â· Ross McKibbin on the Great Education Disaster
For Blair, the two classes of school that really mattered were the voluntary-aided schools, now usually called ‘faith’ schools, and a new type of school, the city academy.
Of the two, Gordon Brown’s government is clearly putting its money on the academies. The faith schools were a particular enthusiasm of Blair’s but are viewed with suspicion by the Labour Party as a whole. Their admirers believe they have an ‘ethos’ and an academic discipline close to those of the grammar schools… But faith schools are inherently divisive: that is their function. And their admissions practices hardly square with Labour’s policies of social inclusion. In a surprisingly frank statement to the House of Commons Select Committee on Children, Schools and Families in January, the education minister, Ed Balls, made it clear that it was ‘not the policy of the government . . . to promote more faith schools’. Communities, if they wanted, might establish them but his department was not ‘leading a drive’… The city academies are a much more serious matter. The CTCs, with their private sponsorship and independence from the LEAs, were a precedent, but it seems to have been the influence of Andrew Adonis on Blair that drove the academies forward.