Labour Party pushing the privatisation of schools

The new education “reforms” being promoted by Brendan Howlin and Ruairí Quinn are a step closer to the all-out privatisation of our schools.

In essence, schools would be given a lump sum in public funding but would have the authority and autonomy to spend this as they saw fit. They would have control over class sizes and over the number of teachers they required, how many special-needs assistance they required, and other resources and materials. This would remove the national regulations that the state attaches to funding, which require certain standards and best practice be met for every school, so as to leave no child or area behind or deprived.

These “reforms” would in practice result in increased funds being spent on high-achievers and increased inequality between schools and within classes. Labour Party ministers are spinning this as increased power on the ground for schools and more local control so as to respond to local needs; but the long-term objective of these policies, whether the Government acknowledge it or not, is the privatisation of schools while they still receive public grants—in other words, corporate welfare.

The INTO is rightly concerned not only for its members but also for the quality of education this system would produce. “This will lead to more bureaucracy for schools and less transparency in the education system,” the union said. “The idea smacks of a failed policy championed by the Tory Party in Britain, and teachers will be shocked hearing such a proposal from a Labour minister.”

Teachers’ performance would be monitored and managed by a centralised watchdog, the Teaching Council, which would have increased powers to discipline and even dismiss teachers. With increased pressure and more paperwork, teachers would be more concerned about ticking the right boxes and shifting responsibility so as to avoid blame rather than about the quality of education that children are receiving.

These policies are virtually cut and pasted from Britain and the United States, where they have failed workers and schoolchildren dismally, as they would here. But they were not designed with teachers or pupils in mind: they are deliberately designed to break up the national cohesion of schools, so that individual schools can be privatised bit by bit, providing an elitist and unequal education system that benefits only the few.

It is intended that this plan will be piloted before being introduced throughout the country. Unions need to be conscious of the long-term privatisation agenda and resist this plan now to prevent the complete privatisation of schools in the future.