"Free schools", or segregated schools?

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The creation of a "free school" system has been the lynchpin of the education policies pursued by the coalition government since spring 2010. "But what does this mean for Yorkshire schools?" asks Melissa Benn, author of the acclaimed School Wars: The Battle for Britain's Education, in an article for the Yorkshire Post.

Benn underlines that the budget cuts introduced by the government are hitting Yorkshire schools hard, particularly those situated in the most deprived areas. No fewer than 82 schools in the county have already been forced to drop their refurbishment plans. In Benn's view, government policies are creating a sort of a two-tier system, widening the gap between elite and non-elite schools:

while schools in affluent parts of the county, and selective schools such as grammars and private schools, are, unsurprisingly, doing well, many secondaries and primaries in poorer areas are still floundering.

The introduction of academies and free schools entails the risk of deepening "segregation along socio-economic lines." In a similar vein, the new E Bac assessment system proposed by the Education Secretary Michael Gove, that favours academic subjects, is detrimental to many non-elite schools.

Referring to some interviews with experienced school officers and trade unionists, Benn emphasises that, in order to improve the English school system, one should focus first and foremost on overcoming social barriers, and on the real children's needs.

Benn also discussed her views in defence of the comprehensive system in an interview given at the Leicester Exchanges live debate 'Comprehensive school education: policy mistake, lost ideal or model for the future?':

Visit the Yorkshire Post to read the article in full.

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