Free schools are a free ride
CHARLIE Werner's letter (Victorian ideas on education, February 14) provided a well-argued critique of Mr Gove's proposals for a revised national curriculum. However, the current Government's promotion of academies and free schools is perhaps a cause for even greater concern.
Not enough people understand what is happening to our education system, at their expense.
Academies are state-funded schools that have become independent by opting out of their local authority; some are forced to do so and others are seduced by the promise of extra money.
Free schools are newly created institutions, sometimes based on existing fee-paying independent schools, which opt in to state funding whilst avoiding any relationship with their local authority.
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We have now got to the stage that if Devon County Council wants to establish a new school it must first invite proposals for the foundation of an academy or free school. Worse than this, when a free school is established, its share of pupil numbers is taken from the general allocation.
In Exeter the new Steiner Academy is a free school following in the footsteps of the £4,500 pa Steiner Primary School here that closed less than 12 months ago.
This new school is for children aged 4-16 and is likely to be temporarily placed in Exwick before moving nearer to the city centre.
Although it will be maintained by the state, with no fees charged, as a free school it will be able to depart from the National Curriculum.
It will open in September 2013 and is intended to have 624 pupils by 2021. This will reduce the potential number of pupil places available in Exeter to those who do not wish to have their children educated according to the rather bizarre ideas of Steiner.
Rudolf Steiner was the founder of the occult movement of anthroposophy, which provides the theoretical basis for the schools named after him.
He was a mystic who thought he had direct clairvoyant access to cosmic knowledge. He developed an esoteric belief system based on karma, reincarnation, astrology, homeopathy and gnomes.
He also believed in a racial hierarchy of spiritual development. Given these strange ideas it is no surprise that the Steiner Academy Exeter, when referring to the founder of the movement of which it is part, states, 'the school will neither promote nor teach his wider philosophy, which he called 'anthroposophy''. That philosophy, however, directly informs the whole approach of Steiner schools.
Those parents who want this form of schooling for their children would previously have had to pay for it. Doubtless they are delighted by the generosity of the Government which is now willing to foot the bill.
Like the NHS, state-funded education is not safe in this government's hands.
Labour County Council candidate for Priory & St Leonard's, Exeter