The only mechanism of social mobility the state can influence is education. This is a service that no matter your background, upbringing or wealth, the state will provide.
It is surely the most important role of Government (and by extension any politician) whether on the national or local stage. If ever there were a cause to put party politics aside, this is it.
This is why Tony Blair introduced Academies at the end of the year 2000. Taking the control of schools out of the hands of politically oscillating Local Education Authorities (LEAs) - and out of reach of meddling politicians and bureaucrats - and give it back to headteachers. The torch to improve our schools was then taken up by Education Secretary Michael Gove who (like Blair) put aside the tunnelled vision of party politics in favour of doing what’s best for the nation’s children - allowing more schools than ever to remove the politically cast shackles of LEAs.
It is surprising and disheartening to see that the Labour-Liberal coalition in charge of Calderdale Council has failed to put education ahead of politics. A few months ago the council passed a motion to do all in their power to make it harder for teachers wanting to convert to an Academy to do so. It simply must have been too hard to relinquish those powers to the people who know the education system best - local headteachers.
Most disappointing of all is the flip-flopping position of the Labour councillor for Illingworth and Mixenden, Barry Collins. When Labour was in Government, Councillor Collins supported Academies, so much so that he became a governor of Trinity Academy in North Halifax.
What could possibly have occurred to convert the councillor from an advocate to someone who opponent of the school’s transformation? It couldn’t be a case of politicking, could it?
The motion to which he lends his support clearly states “The Local Authority’s role in maintaining and strengthening the family of schools is vital and should remain”. It is undermining for a school to have a governor who opposes the very principle of its existence. It seems indefensible for someone who on a Tuesday evening - in front of Labour colleagues - at the Town Hall is fighting against Academies, to the attend a governors meeting on Wednesday to influence the future of Trinity Academy. This is brought into ever sharper focus by the recent decision to convert neighbouring St Catherine’s High School into an Academy and place it under the wing of Trinity.
Decisions about education in Halifax deserve complete commitment which Councillor Collins cannot provide. The only justifiable action to take is to step down form a position where his conscience is clearly uncomfortable. Tom Lees