School year started today. My son Alex is going into Year 2 (SATS year - boo hiss!) at Brook Community Primary School here in Hackney. His brother Joe starts in the nursery class in a couple of weeks' time.
Brook is entering its first full year as a Fresh Start school, after its forerunner Amherst School failed its OFSTED inspection and went into Special Measures. The teachers, other staff, and the kids, are all working hard, and things seem to be getting much better.
But is the school getting the support it deserves from the Powers That Be? The Learning Trust (the 'arms-length' body that runs Hackney's education) clawed back funding and forced three Year 1 classes to merge into two over last Easter break. The school submitted its plan for improving attainment - a document which is vital to getting government funding - but the DfES did not even read it for several months! And today, the school year began without desks when the suppliers failed to deliver.
Last week, Education Secretary Ruth Kelly announced that 'failing schools' that do not 'improve' within a year could face closure. Brook's head teacher assures me that the school will not be affected by this, as it is improving fast. More cynically, I could add that there is nowhere for the school's 400+ pupils to go, so closure is not an option.
But other schools will be affected, and Kelly's announcement sends shivers down my spine. Of course there are many schools with problems, and it is the government's job to make sure they improve. But why is imposing arbitrary deadlines going to achieve this? This has all the hallmarks of a 'look tough' announcement which actually delivers none of the genuine help that schools need.
Obviously the planned accelerated closure programme fits in nicely with New Labour's privatisation plans for education.
We need a national campaign against both the closure threats on schools under pressure as well as the establishment of the private academies.
We have a local campaign in Nottingham against closures anxious to make contacts. I would be pleased to pass on details to anyone interested and will make sure this campaign is publicised here.