I loved the idea of Building Schools for the Future (BSF) long before I had school-age children who might benefit from it, and not just because someone needed to (literally) fix the school roof.
The public sector’s realm used to be ugly, grimy, cheap and second-rate. Asked to think about the public sector in the 1980s and chances are you pictured schools with leaky roofs, outside loos and children taught in pre-fab huts which were inhumanly hot in summer and deathly cold in winter. NHS hospitals were painted grey and sludge-green and the lino on the floor was cracked. There were plastic chairs chained to sticky grey carpet tiles and staff behind protective barriers in council offices and job centres. Those mental images, I’m sure, helped undermine confidence in the whole value of the public sector. Public was for losers who couldn’t haul themselves into the promised land of Private.
The notion of BSF was a welcome vote of confidence in Public. It was a philosophical Trojan horse which didn’t just make a practical point – that children couldn’t learn and teachers couldn’t teach in those conditions; but introduced the idea that people who used the public sector should be treated well and deserved excellence. That Public could be as good as Private.
For all its problems of slowness and bureaucracy, you’ll have guessed that I’m not overly chuffed at the news that Michael Gove is halting investment in BSF; especially as rumours persist that part of the savings from this and other cuts to the education budget are to be used to fund free schools and the dash to academies which are not exactly uncontroversial.
Still, as the man said don’t mourn, organise. I’m not sure what can be done to save school building, but here’s a campaign to try to secure parental consultation before schools can opt for academy status; here’s info about another campaign in support of local schools, and here’s the Department for Education case for and the anti-academies alliance argument against – for those who want to see both sides …