The UK’s ‘Coalition Government’ (meaning that they’re from various public schools rather than differing ideologies – whoever you vote for you get Eton!) has released details of it’s ‘Free School’ policy. This will allow parents, teachers, charities and other groups to apply to create a Free School which will be independent but funded by central government. Education Secretary Michael Gove says this system will help close the achievement gap between rich and poor and that Free Schools will be closed if they fail to do so – hmmm, sounds really well thought out.
In reality this move will create the same problem associated with Labour’s ‘Academy’ model – only worse. In a bid to stay open ‘problem pupils’ will be expelled at a higher rate and sent to alternative state schools which will have even fewer assets thanks to Free Schools taking more money from the central pot. It will also be an open invitation for more religious nutters – like the creationist Vardy Foundation – to get their nefarious mits on your kids.
Free Schools will be as ‘free’ as anything else which places it’s future in the hands of the market – i.e. they won’t be free at all.
What we really need are the truly Free Schools of Francisco Ferrer…
The ‘Modern School‘ movement attempted to educate the working class from a secular, anarchist, class-conscious perspective. There were kid’s classes through the day and adult classes at night. The first Modern School was founded in New York in 1907. It was commonly known as the Ferrer Center and was founded by some of the most notable anarchists of the time — including Leonard Abbott, Alexander Berkman, Voltairine de Cleyre, and Emma Goldman.
In July 1914, a chain of events began which led to the school’s ultimate removal from New York to Stelton, New Jersey. In that year a bomb went off in an apartment building a few blocks away from the Modern School. Three men, all of whom were regular visitors to the adult center, were killed by a bomb which was apparently meant for Standard Oil Chairman John D. Rockefeller’s estate in Tarrytown, New York. The incident led to increasing politicization of the center, compounded by the infiltration of meetings by police informers, and the withdrawal of some financial support. Believing the increasingly fraught atmosphere was bad for the children, plans were made to move the day school to Stelton, New Jersey, about 30 miles from New York. The Ferrer Center in New York lasted until 1918.
The Ferrer Colony & Modern School at the Piscataway Township, New Jersey would last as a community for 40 years until the US Government bought the land surrounding the colony and the school was subject to spates of theft and vandalism (probably at the hands of Government lackeys) that would discourage parents from sending their children to the facility. The land and assets were eventually sold off between 1955 and 1958.
A copy of The Modern School Magazine…
…can be found here – http://www.talkinghistory.org/stelton/msmapr1921.pdf , and a comprehensive overview of Skelton can be found here – http://www.talkinghistory.org/stelton/stelton.html
Maybe anarchists should apply for an application from the UK government to create an Anarchist Free School?