Bill Heine radio phone-in. Sample containing about 8716 words speech recorded in leisure context

5 speakers recorded by respondent number C859

PS5VF X m (bh, age unknown) unspecified
PS5VG X m (cs, age unknown) unspecified
PS5VH X m (js, age unknown) unspecified
PS5VJ X m (hm, age unknown) unspecified
PS5VK X u (bm, age unknown) unspecified

1 recordings

  1. Tape 139401 recorded on unknown date.


[recorded jingle]
bh (PS5VF) [1] Hello, and welcome to the programme.
[2] Today we'll be talking about Banbury School opting out of Local Education Authority.
[3] There was a bid by Banbury School to opt out of local control, and in a poll among the parents sixty two percent voted against the Governor's proposals to become the first school in Oxfordshire to leave County Council control.
[4] Well, there are lots of questions that this issue raises.
[5] First of all is this decision, a vote of confidence for the Local Education Authority — Chubby Spencer, is it?
cs (PS5VG) [7] Well it's certainly a vote against the proposal to opt out, there's no doubt about that.
[8] This is a hybrid case in Banbury erm the opting out legislation was brought in for a specific purpose.
[9] erm Banbury School decided to ... or the Governors of Banbury School decided to seek opting out status on the grounds that the Local Education Authority was seeking to carry out changes to the offer presently available in Banbury for post-sixteen education.
[10] erm I believe, in fact, that the Oxfordshire County Council provides an excellent quality of education erm so that wasn't the argument.
[11] The argument was on the semantics of how post-sixteen education is presently offered in Banbury, and whereas, of course, they had every right to use the opting out legislation as a governing body, it must be said that the possibility of success under those terms erm is somewhat untried, because of course legislation was specifically geared at Local Education Authorities that do not look after their schools, and thus schools are able to opt out of a badly run, inefficient Education Authority, and we've seen that happen in many of the urban areas in the country, and indeed some schools have not opted for that.
bh (PS5VF) [12] In many, in many, listen Chubby, there are only twenty seven schools around the country who have so far opted to opt out, and by the way could you define for us what does it mean to opt out, because a lot of people might be rather vague on that idea?
cs (PS5VG) [13] Well [laugh] if the school decides to opt out it is financed directly by the D E S.
[14] It has a governing body, which is formed from parents and interested people.
[15] In other words, you don't have the political input that you presently do in erm state schools, and of course the school itself is not answerable to the Local Education Authority in terms of policy it erm ... it is almost a stand-alone exercise, with the financing coming directly from D E S.
[16] That is an opted out school as against the standard state school, which is subject to the overall policies of the Local Education Authority, and indeed it is funded by the Local Education Authority through a formula, and the amount of money that is put into that formula will obviously affect the amount of money the school has to spend, so it's providing the same range of education within the National Curriculum, but it is not beholden to the Local Authority — that's the basic difference.
bh (PS5VF) [17] All right.
[18] Well before we talk about those ... those general principles, I'd like to get back to the Banbury school opt out decision.
[19] Now, Jack Steer, you're the Labour spokesperson for education.
[20] You're the opposite number to Choppy Spencer, whose the Conservative spokesperson for education, and yet also are a parent of a child in the Banbury school.
[21] What was your stance on the decision to opt out?
js (PS5VH) [22] My stance was very simple.
[23] erm I was opposed to Banbury school opting out.
bh (PS5VF) [24] On what grounds?
js (PS5VH) [25] Well, as a parent, because I believe that there is a need in Banbury to have a much better offer at sixteen.
[26] I think if we are going to go into the next century with any real chance of providing proper education and training in the sixteen to nineteen age range, we need to do the job properly, and frankly I think the offer in Banbury at the moment is not up to scratch.
[27] The logical erm conclusion from that was to look at some form of tertiary education and that is what the County Council went out to consultation on.
bh (PS5VF) [28] Well do you see this vote against opting out as a basically a vote in favour of the tertiary college plans for Banbury?
js (PS5VH) [29] I think it ... there are several aspects to it.
[30] Firstly, I think it's a vote by the majority of parents to say that they want the school to stay local, to stay within Local Authority control.
[31] Partly, I suspect because a lot of us didn't trust the present governing body, partly because they believe, as I do, that there is a need to review and revise the present sixteen plus offer in Banbury, and partly because they could see no real benefit in opting out.
[32] In fact, I can see none at all.
[33] Choppy's comments about schools in urban areas is quite interesting, because the first one was actually in Lincolnshire, which in no terms could be regarded as an urban area, and quickly looking down the list — and there are actually about sixty throughout the country — an awful lot of them have been in rural heartlands like Oxfordshire.
[34] So the vote in Banbury was really in some ways quite surprising, but for those of us locally we were quietly confident that the parents would see the commonsense and logic of the argument and would not vote to opt out.
[35] And the fact that they have voted against with such a large majority is something
bh (PS5VF) [36] Sixty two percent.
js (PS5VH) [37] Which is ... well don't forget, Bill, that to start with the opters out actually got four hundred signatures on a petition.
bh (PS5VF) [38] Yes.
js (PS5VH) [39] They then gained another sixty two people to support them.
bh (PS5VF) [40] mhm.
js (PS5VH) [41] So it really as a very large majority indeed if you accept that.
bh (PS5VF) [42] Right.
[43] Well, Harvey Markovitch, you are a Governor of the school, Banbury School, are you not?
hm (PS5VJ) [44] I am.
bh (PS5VF) [45] And your views on this vote of sixty two percent against opting out.
[46] What do you think it means?
[47] How do you interpret it?
hm (PS5VJ) [48] I interpret it that erm parents saw that they were being asked to do something false, and if I can just correct you on something, these weren't the Governors' proposals to seek opting out, they were the proposals of a group of parents, some of whom happen to be parent-Governors, but when the Governors themselves came to vote on whether we thought
bh (PS5VF) [49] You were split evenly, weren't you?
hm (PS5VJ) [50] We were split evenly
bh (PS5VF) [51] Seven, seven
hm (PS5VJ) [52] Absolutely.
bh (PS5VF) [53] And so Mr. Green, I think it was Chris Green, had to ... he was chairing that meeting and had a double vote.
hm (PS5VJ) [54] He had the casting vote, as chairmen do, and he voted to say that he thought opting out would be good for Banbury School, but of course he was the chairman of the parents group that was trying to opt out, so that was not greeted very well amongst some of us, I think.
[55] So it was ... it was actually a group of parents that looked to opting out
bh (PS5VF) [56] Yes, but many of the leading lights of that group of parents were the Governors?
hm (PS5VJ) [57] Some of them were Governors, that's absolutely right.
bh (PS5VF) [58] Yes.
hm (PS5VJ) [59] But others of us who were Governors were so opposed to it that we all said we'd resign from the governing body if the school did opt out.
[60] Seven of us said that.
[61] erm I think, you see, that people were being asked to vote for the wrong thing.
[62] If the argument about opting out or not opting out was about whether our children would get a better education one way or another, then that's a proper argument at it's quite reasonable for there to be a democratic decision about it, but quite honestly that wasn't what it was all about.
[63] What it was all about was to do with politics.
[64] Firstly national politics, and secondly local politics.
bh (PS5VF) [65] For instance.
hm (PS5VJ) [66] Well, if we look at it nationally, the Government has had as one of the planks of its policy the fact that it would quite like to reduce the power and influence and authority of Local Government, and increase the power and influence and authority of National Government, and opted out schools is one of the stands of that particular policy.
[67] Now I ... I'm ... we're not here to argue whether that's a good thing or a bad thing, erm but nonetheless parents were, if you like, an attempt was being made to con them into voting on that particular issue under the guise of whether their children's education would be better or worse, and I think many parents realized that.
[68] And so far as the local issue was concerned, of course it's the issue of tertiary education and erm this was erm a question of erm the particular Governors and parents who wanted to opt out erm doing what the Iraquis are doing with their aeroplanes and they were basically trying to fly Banbury School to a neutral country; the idea being that erm as soon as the procedure for opting out started the Local Education Authority would not be able to use any of erm Banbury School's land or premises in part of its plans for tertiary education in Banbury, so it was really an attempt to neutralize Banbury School.
[69] Now that has nothing to do ... about whether our children will get a better or a worse education if the school is opted out.
[70] It's an entirely different argument, which is being very thoroughly discussed locally at present and will go on being discussed, and it was erm really unfair to ask the parents to decide upon that veer a vote on opting out, and I think a lot of parents, including very many whom I spoke to, saw through that argument.
bh (PS5VF) [71] Well, Bob Morgan, you're the spokesperson for education on the Liberal Democrat side.
[72] What are your views on this local and national conflict that we've seen perhaps up there in Banbury?
bm (PS5VK) [73] Well I've ... , unlikely Choppy, I see this as a distinct vote of confidence in our system of education in the county, which I think is outstandingly good.
[74] We have an excellent reputation in Oxfordshire as an Education Authority erm and a reputation which extends around the country, so I do see it as a vote of confidence, and I am very pleased about it, but I do think that the whole exercise was somewhat premature in the light of the erm research and investigation that was going on into the tertiary college, and indeed the consulting process actually ran through at the same time as the campaign was running on whether the Banbury School should opt out, and erm regrettably I think has lost something as a result of having the two run together.
[75] The time to consider whether one wishes to opt out and whether one was opposed to a certain system is always when a decision has been made, but I'd have thought it would have been far in the interests of the people of Banbury and the children and parents of Banbury if they'd taken full advantage of the discussion on the tertiary college and had made their opinions known, and in the light of the results coming out and say a satisfactory decision had arisen that was frankly the time to get into the business of opting out.
[76] But it was very premature, and I'm very ... I was very sorry that they'd taken this step, but very, very pleased when I saw the result coming out, and I'm ... do congratulate them on their common sense there that they were prepared to put the opting out aside and were looking seriously and sensibly into the tertiary college consultations.
bh (PS5VF) [77] Well I'd like to look at the national implications of this.
[78] Now, Choppy Spencer, the spokesperson for the Conservative Party on education here in the County Council, is this opting out a political stunt?
[79] I mean is it an attempt by the Government to bribe these schools to opt out by giving them more money?
cs (PS5VG) [80] Well I certainly don't think it's a political stunt.
[81] It's part of an education philosophy [laugh] which I must remind erm ... which I must remind you starts off with local financial management of schools within the Education Service erm prior to local financial management County Hall was big brother.
[82] Now school governing bodies have a degree of autonomy.
[83] Admittedly their budgets come from the County Council, but what ... how they spend their money erm is theirs to choose, and that is definitely erm part of this overall philosophy.
[84] Now the opting out I'd just like to correct Bob on one thing that he said.
[85] I was trying to rehearse to your listeners the philosophy behind the opting out legislation, i.e. that if an Education Authority was bad a school could opt out.
[86] And I think I made it quite clear that it was not the quality of the Education Authority that was the basis of the Banbury School's proposals, it was the County Council's decision to go ahead on a consultation for tertiary education, an entirely different animal in Oxfordshire, and I, like Bob, would agree that the erm quality of education offered in Oxfordshire is first class.
[87] Now, on the national issue of course, like all legislation there are all the side issues that pop up after the legislation has been passed, and there's no question in my mind that one of the side effects of the opting out legislation that it will make it very difficult for local authorities to reorganize.
[88] They may need to reorganize because of demography — that's the number of pupils that are in a particular area, where you've got too many schools, or it may be that they want to change the type of offer, such as some of us want to do in the City of Oxford.
[89] But whatever those proposals may be, schools now will have the opportunity of opting out, and I think it's a fair guess that if the opting out legislation had been in place when comprehensive education was imposed upon this county in 1964, you would probably have found a great number of the grammar schools would have opted out, using the legislation, and I have no doubt whatsoever that in every single one of those cases you would have had a large majority of parents in support of that.
[90] What is different in the Banbury situation erm is that fact that you are not only talking about one school and it's education because Banbury School draws not only it's own eleven to sixteen year old children, who have the option to go forward to the sixth form, but of course all the children that come from the Warriner School at Bloxham, all the children that come from Drayton School, and a certain number of the children who might come from the Roman Catholic Secondary School in Banbury, so there are a whole lot more people involved than just the actual children, and that's what made Banbury a hybrid.
[91] I believe the opting out legislation nationally is a very good idea.
[92] I fully support it, and I believe it is an option for those schools who have Local Education Authorities that are not progressing in the way in which the parents think they should.
bh (PS5VF) [93] Well now, taking ... taking into account the fact that there are about three hundred schools here in Oxfordshire and there's only one school so far that has chosen to even try to to opt out, and it was defeated at that school, then I see that is erm a comment on the kind of Education Authority we have here.
[94] Do you agree?
cs (PS5VG) [95] We've all agreed on that, Bill, unless your hearing was impaired.
[96] I think we've
bh (PS5VF) [97] Well I'm never sure
cs (PS5VG) [98] We've all said Oxfordshire offers a first class education service.
bh (PS5VF) [99] So that would be the argument against other schools even attempting to opt out in the Oxfordshire area?
cs (PS5VG) [100] But as I have said to you, the Banbury School's decision to opt out was not taken on the grounds of the education offered in this county.
[101] It was on a very specific issue.
bh (PS5VF) [102] Would you ... would you encourage any school in this county, bearing in mind your high praise of the standard of education here offered by the Education Authority, would you advise any school to opt out?
cs (PS5VG) [103] I believe it is very likely that, because of the savings now being made within the education service, that some schools will be looking at the opting out process.
bh (PS5VF) [104] Do you think they would be making a mistake?
cs (PS5VG) [105] I personally believe that erm education has changed and I am now talking specifically of very small schools.
[106] I am not talking of secondary schools, although there are some very small secondary schools in Oxfordshire.
[107] But at the moment small primary schools may well look at the opting out procedure, and I would have to say to you that in many cases those very small primary schools are receiving, by the wish of the Council, a very substantial subsidy from the Local Education Authority in the manner in which they are funded and
bh (PS5VF) [108] Do you think that subsidy should continue?
cs (PS5VG) [109] Well, whether I think it should or
bh (PS5VF) [110] Well, but I ask you that one.
cs (PS5VG) [111] Whether I think it should or it shouldn't
bh (PS5VF) [112] Well, wait a minute, it's a reasonable question.
cs (PS5VG) [113] It's not a matter
bh (PS5VF) [114] It's a reasonable question.
cs (PS5VG) [115] It is a reasonable question.
[116] I believe that equality of education should also extend to equality of financing and that you
bh (PS5VF) [117] What does that mean for these people who are listening and and involved with these schools?
cs (PS5VG) [118] Well that means that ... I personally believe that the problems which many small village schools face are different problems to which many large urban schools face
bh (PS5VF) [119] That's stating the obvious.
cs (PS5VG) [120] but you've got to ... you've got to address both of those schools and ask yourself is it right for one to subsidise another.
[121] Now I believe that in the case of some of our small primary schools, and you have to build into the formula an element of subsidy, it is the size that subsidy which is open to debate.
[122] That is what the County Council is presently discussing and will come to a conclusion on February the twelfth, and I believe following that conclusion some small primary schools may seek to opt out.
[123] All I would say to you is that the very small primary schools I not only have to doubt the financial viability, but I personally sometimes would doubt that the National Curriculum can be delivered to a school where you've got an age range between five and eleven and you've only got thirty or forty children, and that is a personal point of view, which I have, erm having seen many of our schools, and I believe that the problems that some of our large urban schools have, with thirty to a class packed in, is also something we should address and give careful thought to when we are resourcing education.
bh (PS5VF) [124] mhm.
js (PS5VH) [125] Bill.
bh (PS5VF) [126] Jack Steer, who is the spokesperson for the Labour people on education.
js (PS5VH) [127] [laugh] .
[128] Can I answer the question you asked Choppy, firstly about opting out being a stunt, and course it's a political stunt.
[129] It's another thing like the Poll Tax.
[130] It's a bright idea, brought up by ... thought up by somebody, writes it down on back of envelope, whacks it into the legislation without proper thought.
bh (PS5VF) [131] Well, wait a minute, a stunt is usually something well thought out, done to achieve a particular aim.
[132] What do you think this was aimed to achieve?
js (PS5VH) [133] I'm not sure.
[134] I can't get into the mind of some of the present batch of legislators, because they don't seem to think thinks out logically, but what it's actually done, or what it's trying to do, is to make it very difficult to have an education system that is properly thought out, properly resourced and properly organized for the benefit of everybody and not just one or two people, and that's one of the difficulties and that's the difficulty that we ... any Local Authority is faced with.
[135] erm I think ... I mean I do think it's a stunt and I think stunts are very often not very well thought out, and I think your your definition is actually wrong.
[136] As far as small schools are concerned, erm one of the things that that became clear during the debate on Banbury School was that the school itself is funded according to the formula that is allocated for all the other Oxfordshire eleven to eighteen schools and it is not something additional.
[137] So that if any small schools would contemplate opting out because there are cuts in their budget, then those cuts would still apply and they would not actually get additional funding through the formula for their budget.
[138] Now the formula funding, in terms of all the schools in the county concerned, has given schools more responsibility.
[139] From my position as the chair of a governing body of a primary school, I don't actually think it's given us very much more flexibility in how we run that school or how that school is operated, and I don't really ... and I find it very difficult to see the benefits of us becoming suddenly having erm the responsibility of the funding dumped on us, and therefore the responsibility of any cuts from from erm Local Authorities.
[140] I really find it difficult to see benefits in L M S.
bh (PS5VF) [141] mhm.
[142] And Harvey Markovitch.
hm (PS5VJ) [143] There's erm ... there's always a tension for those of us who are parents, particularly those of us who erm send our children to the state schools, as to erm what's in the best interests of our own particular individual child and what might be in the best interests of all the children in the area in which we live, and erm this vote was an invitation to think only, very selfishly, of what might be the situation for our children, and I'm very glad that erm many parents in Banbury thought of children in general living in North Oxfordshire and erm realise that you can't just take one limb of an education service and send it off spinning into its own orbit and not expect the rest to suffer.
[144] erm There's also a tension for Governors.
[145] You see at Banbury School our governing body erm has expressed itself clearly as against the tertiary education proposals as they were first put forward, and I am very pleased to have heard during the debate that they've been amended as a result of ... quite a lot as a result of the discussion that has gone on.
[146] That, too, is a dilemma for us.
[147] We are very proud of our school and we are particularly proud of our area sixth form centre, and my own three children have been there and I'm very grateful to it too.
[148] erm Nonetheless, while we want to carry on supporting that, we've also got to think, as Jack said, erm of ... as we enter the next century what is going to be right for our children, and we know that in many ways we have failed them and we know that we are producing many children who haven't had the training and the education that's going to be necessary for us to be erm economically competent in the future, so we've got to look at the whole of our educational provision, and frankly I think opting out was erm a sort of unnecessary blip on all of this that isn't really terribly important in the whole issue of how the children in this country should be educated.
bh (PS5VF) [149] Well what investigations have you all made into the success of grant maintained schools elsewhere in the country?
[150] For instance, did you know that on average they have increased spending on books and equipment by ninety percent and that sixty percent of schools employ at least one more teacher and many employ more classroom support staff and that morale among teachers is widely reported to be higher, even where before those teachers opposed grant maintained status.
hm (PS5VJ) [151] As erm ... as a doctor, Bill, I have ingrained on my heart Aneurin Bevan's words when the National Health Service was introduced in this country by the post-war Labour government, against the wishes of my colleagues, and he commented that he would erm cross our palms with silver, and he did that very successfully, with the result that he stifled a lot of opposition amongst some very powerful people, and erm of course when you're trying to introduce a new scheme such as this and you're terribly keen that erm it should take off and be successful, you do, of course, cross palms with silver.
[152] We've seen that with the City technology colleges, which are ... nobody talks about, surprisingly enough, when we've discovered that actually industry isn't remotely interested in them, and of course in the first year of an opted out school one might see a bit of palm crossing with silver.
[153] But you know we have to look beyond the first year or two, we have to look at what's going to happen to that school over a much longer period of time, and quite frankly erm I would feel safer with erm what was called the big brother of the Local Authority.
[154] But actually big brothers can be quite kindly and look after you and help you with their experience.
[155] I'd be much happier with that because, as local people, we could influence our local Government at the ballot box.
[156] erm I feel much safer with that that the erm ... than our schools being under the control of the Department of Education, who will be very difficult to influence.
bh (PS5VF) [157] Bob Morgan, spokesman for education on the Liberal Democrat side, do you see that there is a case for abolishing local control of schools and having the schools under the Department of Education?
bm (PS5VK) [158] Oh, most certainly not.
[159] Under no circumstances.
[160] I
bh (PS5VF) [161] It would certainly reduce a lot of bureaucracy.
bm (PS5VK) [162] Well of course.
hm (PS5VJ) [163] Rubbish, you'd increase it.
bm (PS5VK) [164] You ... you'd ... all it means is you'd have longer lines of communication to an even worse bureaucracy, and I think if a bureaucracy which can produce this situation of opting out as an alternative is any example to have, I would choose to be away from it.
[165] I think that this whole opting out system is exactly what Jack said.
[166] It was the back of a postcard and it's like so much else of this Government's policy.
[167] erm Take Poll Tax, for example, I can imagine a previous incumbent of Number Ten shrilly demanding that the spread of tax across the country should be done on a one off basis and charging forward and she's introduced it, and look what a bag of worms that's turned out to be.
[168] And I think we're going to have exactly the same thing with this opting out system.
[169] It's a erm ... it was let's see what we can do to these nasty Labour controlled authorities and see how we can break down their erm their control of education and immediately they introduce it then suddenly the things start happening and they have second thoughts about it, and I'm sure as night follows day that they're going to have second thoughts about this when it actually occurs.
[170] You've got erm ... you've got a perfect example of what you threw up to us a moment ago.
[171] In the early days of the school it does get more money, no question.
[172] It does get more money, therefore it's able to afford, I think you said one more teacher, which doesn't seem a tremendous expansion.
[173] It's able to spend ninety percent on books.
[174] I mean I notice you picked one of the matters of expenditure which is not the ... certainly in the higher range of of expenditure and pick out this one example.
[175] But what you're actually going to find is that what they've divorced themselves from is the assistance and the technical help that comes from the County Council, and whilst you may have your teachers trained up to a certain point you therefore have at that particular time you ... you have them fully trained, and then you say oh well I don't need any training for the next couple of years so I can step back and save on that area.
[176] In a couple of years time the other schools have gone past you and you suddenly find these services that you need to buy in are ... become very expensive and become unattainable because you've been spending your money in other directions.
[177] And a perfect example happened the other day — Kidlington School was burnt down.
[178] It took the Local Authority one week to have that school up and with resources there to enable it to run, and that's the sort of support and local school gets.
[179] Now you can ... there is no way that an opted out school on its own could repeat the exercise which was done by and absolutely excellent staff at the headquarters of the Local Education Authority, who managed to achieve this great success.
[180] Great credit to them.
bh (PS5VF) [181] Yes, but that's
bm (PS5VK) [182] But the others couldn't do it.
bh (PS5VF) [183] That's a worst case scenario.
[184] Do you think that all policy must be established on the basis of worst case scenarios?
bm (PS5VK) [185] No, I certainly don't think it should be, but I'm giving you an example.
[186] This isn't the first time that we've had a fire in the school and it isn't the first time that we've solved the problem quickly, and we'll have more again.
[187] What I'm saying is that an L E A can supply that sort of service, can do it really well, really well, and it isn't available to opted out
bh (PS5VF) [188] I'd like to find out if part of your opposition to grant maintained status is due to the fact that as a councillor you would no longer be able to exercise control over grant maintained schools.
js (PS5VH) [189] I'm ... I'm not entirely convinced that we have enough control over the existing county schools, never mind, never mind whether we'd be able to retain it or increase it.
bh (PS5VF) [190] Well if you don't have control over them, who does?
js (PS5VH) [191] I think the governing bodies do.
[192] You mentioned some figures just now, Bill, about nine percent increase in books, additional teachers and things.
[193] My local primary has, in fact, at least done that in the last year, and we haven't opted out, and secondly you will remember the article in the Guardian from thirteenth of November — thirteenth of November last year — Hull Grammar School, which was one of the first ones that went independent erm have now applied for an administration order which gives them breathing space before winding up petitions can be launched.
[194] Now in terms of the parents and in terms of the kids, that is no benefit to any of them.
[195] And what has happened is that they have done your one extra teacher and the extra books bit and they're finishing up effectively going into liquidation.
[196] Now that is not the sort of scenario we want, and it certainly wasn't the sort of scenario we wanted in Banbury.
bh (PS5VF) [197] Choppy Spencer is ... are you prepared to accept the conclusion that some people might be suggesting right now that this whole stunt of opting out is a political fumble?
cs (PS5VG) [198] Well [laugh] I'm not
bh (PS5VF) [199] It's another political fumble [laugh] .
cs (PS5VG) [200] I'm not prepared to accept that any more than I am prepared to accept the hogwash that we heard from Bob Morgan and his Liberal Democrats [laugh] , because of course it may be extremely comfortable for him to be acting like a beached dolphin on the shores of Abu Dhabi, but the fact of the matter is, of course, that the Liberal Democrats, with or without the backs of their envelopes and cigarettes packets, are extremely unlikely to be making any national legislation, so they are quite comfortable in being able to observe how others might or might not do it.
[201] The fact of the matter is, as far as the erm ... and I accept to a certain degree what Jack has just said, that the power for schools lies with the Governors, and it lies with the Governors because the Conservative Government has enacted legislation to allow that to happen.
[202] And we are fortunate in Oxfordshire, and I have said that before, but all the country is not like Oxfordshire.
[203] There are some Local Authorities, in the main they are run by the Labour Party
js (PS5VH) [204] What, like Lincolnshire?
cs (PS5VG) [205] Like the inner London boroughs that were, and the Inner London Education Authority which adopted an extremely dictatorial attitude — well that's all right, I don't necessarily disagree with that — but a very a very expensive attitude [laugh] with it.
[206] Children cost twice as much to education there than they did in the outer London Boroughs, or indeed out in the styx as we are here in Oxfordshire.
[207] So that I'm very supportive of parent power.
[208] But on the question of grant maintained, of course, let's not forget what happened some time ago in places like Manchester Grammar School erm long before we had this new opting out legislation they were forced by the Labour Government to go direct grant, which they did, and they are a highly successful ... and I could rehearse just as many success stories, in fact many times more than Jack has rehearsed with his Hull Grammar School.
[209] I have to tell you I am not any sort of an expert on the budgets of grant maintained schools.
[210] It's not something that I've sought to examine.
[211] I've purely been concerned with the budgets of our own schools here in Oxfordshire and one of the ways that you can compare how efficient Oxfordshire is in terms of its expenditure is by looking at the national figures for recoupment, that's where a county takes in a child from another county, and look how that compares with the amount of money the Authority spends on educating that child.
[212] And we already know in Oxfordshire at secondary level that we have a very good record.
[213] The cost of educating our children is below the national recoupment figure, and that I think is good, right and proper and it reflects the many years of excellent Conservative administration that Oxfordshire has enjoyed.
[214] There is a little blip at the moment, certainly, but I
bm (PS5VK) [215] Little?
cs (PS5VG) [216] have to tell Bob whatever he might like to talk about that he turns it to the Poll Tax, the fact of the matter is that the Poll Tax is nothing to do with Oxfordshire County Council.
[217] Oxfordshire County Council was required to pre-set the amount of money it wanted from the District Councils who set a rate.
[218] They still have to pre-set the amount of money.
[219] This time the District Councils collect it from Community Charges payers, and whether you had a rating systems in place at the moment, or whether you have Community Charge, Bob and his high spending friends would still have to rein in their expenditure and recognise that the people of Oxfordshire cannot keep paying for his profligacy.
bh (PS5VF) [220] Yes, I don't want to go into the Poll Tax argument on this
bm (PS5VK) [221] I don't want to either, Bill, but I must come back on this, I mean Choppy wants all things ... and wants to be all things to all men.
[222] At the beginning of this erm programme he admitted that we had an excellent education service in Oxfordshire, and he's now, having taken no part in managing it for the last five years, he is now claiming that in fact it's due to what happened before.
[223] The effect here is that during the last five years the Conservatives have played no part in the management of this county whatsoever, and it has been left to the other two parties to come to an agreement.
[224] They have come to their agreement, they have done their job well, and they have produced and excellent education system and the blip which he is talking about is one which is forced on us at the present time by a Conservative Government, who has decided that there is going to be no further expansion in the school service which we're providing, and indeed is imposing upon us cuts which are going to mean that we reduce those services, and to argue that from a point of view that it's a considered piece of policy from a Government which if I ... has introduced, if I may say, Poll Tax, an economy which is a disaster area, exports in ... nothing happening there, inflation
bh (PS5VF) [225] We want to keep the commercials down to a minimum.
bm (PS5VK) [226] Well I promise I won't keep them more than that, but this coming from a party that's brought about that, and then being critical of others and the lack of intent, I think the ... he said it right at the beginning we have a very good education system, and I'm saying we've got one despite this Government.
bh (PS5VF) [227] I'd like to ask Jack Steer why does the Labour Party want to return grant maintained schools to Council control, bearing in mind that the Labour Party say they're going to abolish County Councils, so who will erm these schools be returned to?
[228] Will they be re ... will schools in Banbury be run from Birmingham, or
js (PS5VH) [229] The Cherwell District Council will run it.
bm (PS5VK) [230] God forbid.
bh (PS5VF) [231] Jack Steer.
js (PS5VH) [232] The Labour Party view is that there should be unitary authorities.
bh (PS5VF) [233] Now what does this mean?
js (PS5VH) [234] It means that instead of County and District Councils you have one authority that takes over both sets of functions.
[235] It gives me great pleasure to announce that that would mean Cherwell District Council would have to disappear as well, and that would be another blip off the horizon erm but that what would happen ... you would therefore have a smaller authority, who would then become the Education Authority, and that would be ... would have to be, I think, somewhere in between the current District Council size in Cherwell or the Vale, of what about a hundred thousand, and the present county, which is rather more than half a million.
bh (PS5VF) [236] mhm.
[237] Is it still labour policy that erm sixth forms should be abolished and replaced by tertiary colleges?
js (PS5VH) [238] It's ... the last manifesto, which went out in eighty seven, included a promise to erm develop tertiary education wherever it was appropriate locally.
[239] erm there has not been a manifesto for the next General Election, which may take place in a week or two, or in a year or so.
[240] So until that comes out I cannot actually confirm what may or may not be in that manifesto.
bh (PS5VF) [241] Yes, Harvey Markovitch.
hm (PS5VJ) [242] Yes, I can see, Bill, that the reason why you invited me today is that I am Mr Clean [laugh] , not being a Local Authority Councillor of any shape or hue erm and I seem to remember [laugh]
bh (PS5VF) [243] Well I knew I would have three people in the studio with sandwich boards on.
hm (PS5VJ) [244] Of course.
[245] Well erm I seem to
bm (PS5VK) [246] Oh, really.
hm (PS5VJ) [247] You did ask a question earlier on and I think the the erm behind the question was the suggestion that erm the Local Authority Councillors we have on the governing bodies are a terrible interfering lot of bigots erm and erm surprisingly you might like to know that they're not really.
[248] They tend to ... they tend to be a bit noisier than the others, but actually they are very constructive, and on Banbury School Governors it's not the political appointees that erm I've seen as a problem particularly.
[249] You have to remember that on the whole the school is run by the principal and her staff and erm the teaching is related to the National Curriculum.
[250] The Governors control very much of the finances of the school and supervise what is going on.
[251] They get advice from the officers of the Local Education Authority, so there's a number of people who are running things, if you like to put it that way, and they have to have good relationships erm and I must say that erm I haven't seen anything obstructive, particularly on our Board of Governors, from local Councillors and we've had nothing but help from Local Education Authority officers, and I'm glad we're not going to lose that help.
bh (PS5VF) [252] Harvey Markovitch, are you a political appointee as a Governor?
hm (PS5VJ) [253] No, I'm not, I'm a co-opted member of the Governing body.
[254] [laugh] I assume that that's because I'm a Consultant Paediatrician in Banbury [laugh] .
[255] I deal with children all the time erm many of my ... I've been there eight years now and so lots of children have passed through my hands who in particular have lots of educational problems and need special help, and I suppose somebody though erm that although the rage now is to have Governors who are working in industry, and that's perfectly proper, that it wouldn't be a bad idea to have somebody who is supposed to have some knowledge and background of the way children behave and what children need, so erm although I do have some politics, you know, Bill, I erm largely keep them quiet in the governing body.
bh (PS5VF) [256] mhm.
js (PS5VH) [257] Governing bodies, Bill
bh (PS5VF) [258] Jack Steer, from Labour.
js (PS5VH) [259] only work when you actually have a proper partnership between staff, parents, erm the senior management of the school, the Governors themselves, and the L E A.
[260] Now in those circumstances, and I can think of a number of schools where that works very well, the governing body is a very powerful force, for links out from the school into the outside world, not only into business and industry, but also into the L E A, and it's actually quite ... a lot of schools quite like to have a County Councillor on their governing body because it gives them an in to the L E A at a policy-making, or an individual decision-making level.
[261] Where it breaks down and you get a governing body that is split down the middle, where you get staff who tend to ... who might tend to go in an opposite way to the head teacher, where you get parents who are asked to make difficult decisions as with an opt out ballot, then I think that you have to look very hard at the way that that school is managed and the way that it's going in the future, because those are the sort of issues that unless you get those right the future for the school cannot be as bright as it is for one where they are working as a team.
hm (PS5VJ) [262] Nonetheless, parents have given Banbury School a vote of confidence.
bh (PS5VF) [263] Yes, I'd like to be clear about the amount of control that the Education Authority has and the amount of control that the parents have.
[264] How would you divide it?
[265] Harvey.
hm (PS5VJ) [266] Well parents, of course, can have their voice heard in a number of ways.
[267] Firstly they have, from Banbury School at least, four specific parent Governors, who are there to act on behalf of parents.
[268] Secondly, erm actually most of the rest of us on the governing body, or many of the rest of us on the governing body, even though we're not parent Governors, are either now or have been parents of children at Banbury School, and that includes some of the political members too, so that erm I hope we all share the same interests.
[269] So parents can erm have an influence via their parent Governors.
[270] So far as the Local Authority is concerned, it's still got to act within the bounds of the National Curriculum, for example, and erm I suppose theoretically one could imagine a Local Authority doing malevolent and malignant with schools but that's
bh (PS5VF) [271] Or incompetent things?
hm (PS5VJ) [272] Yes, but that's really not the case here.
[273] What particularly worried me about the whole issue of opting out was that some of the services that the Local Education Authority provide are minority services, and I feared they would go by the board.
bh (PS5VF) [274] Like for instance what?
hm (PS5VJ) [275] Well like, for example, we have excellent educational psychologists in Oxfordshire and erm we have advisers for children with special needs in Oxfordshire, and they are extremely useful people in helping out those many children who are not like the average run of children and have specific and particular problems, and I was very fearful that eventually an opted out school might turn its noses up at such children, and I think they needed protection, so that's one example.
[276] There are also the children who are musicians.
[277] There are also the fact that children have the opportunity to erm go to Local Authority run residential centres to do fieldwork and so on.
bh (PS5VF) [278] Like Hill Inn for instance?
hm (PS5VJ) [279] Absolutely, and all of these things ... all of these things could, potentially, be at risk if everybody starts running away doing their own thing.
bh (PS5VF) [280] mhm.
[281] Bob Morgan, from the Liberal Democrats.
bm (PS5VK) [282] Bill, there's a point, you keep referring to Governors who are political appointees, and the inference that you give to that.
bh (PS5VF) [283] I've referred to that once.
bm (PS5VK) [284] Yeah.
[285] Well you did it actually a bit more than that — you've referred to it about two or three times, but that's immaterial.
[286] The point is that the inference which you give to it is that they're not quite fit to be Governors, by comparison with others, and I'd like to defend that because I can assure you that I have never ever nominated a Governor for a school who I have not thought would be advantageous to that Board of Governors to have as a member and that he will be ... he or she will be a contributor to that particular school, and I've done it time and time and time again and indeed on occasions have had headmasters coming to me and thanking me for the particular person that I put in.
[287] Now I say that as myself, but I know it is reflected throughout the whole of the county.
[288] We are all very conscious that the people we appoint to governorships these days are going to be a.
[289] working Governors and b.
[290] are going to be those that will give something to the school, rather than simply be an appointment just for some stature.
bh (PS5VF) [291] Yes, but as a County Councillor I didn't expect you to attack the idea of politically appointed Governors.
bm (PS5VK) [292] There you are again, you see, politically appointed Governors.
[293] Why can't you simply say County Council appointed Governors, which doesn't have that same inference of the word political.
bh (PS5VF) [294] Choppy Spencer, you've heard Harvey Markovitch suggest that if schools opted out certain very important facets of the schools might be trimmed down terrifically, or might be excluded altogether, like for instance music teaching.
[295] That's erm a fairly series erm vision of the future of schools that have opted out.
[296] Do you think that that's realistic?
cs (PS5VG) [297] Well I don't think it necessarily applies to opted out schools.
[298] There's no secret about it at all, the County Council is looking very carefully at all of its centrally held services.
[299] The peripatetic music service is but one, although some schools of course have their own music departments in addition to peripatetic music teaching.
[300] erm the services in terms of the special needs
cs (PS5VG) [302] I think there's no doubt at all that erm from a Conservative point of view I actually believe that schools, under their heads, know best, and I am quite happy to trust schools with a budget of money which will enable them to buy in the specific needs that their school requires.
[303] And it may be, for example, that you will have a school that has a very high erm high number of children perhaps who are particularly motivated towards computer studies.
[304] Now if you give the school its own budget it can in fact, if it so wishes, go to the private sector, it can buy in private sector computer expertise to teach the children, and that will be very beneficial.
[305] That is getting away from the old system whereby the County Council held a vast store of advisers in Macclesfield House, stacked up, and schools that needed them [laugh] requested them and off they went, but schools in fact that wanted perhaps a different sort of advice, wasn't able to get it from Macclesfield House, and couldn't buy it outside because it didn't have the money to do so.
bh (PS5VF) [306] But if if a lot of schools opted out could you imagine that there might be one school that was famed for its computer excellence, and another school famed for its musical excellence, and you might have different specialist kinds of schools, not quite as dramatically delineated as I have suggested, but that would be the balance of interest in these different schools and would that be healthy?
cs (PS5VG) [307] Well I certainly believe that many of these expertises will be held centrally at County Hall and will be purchased in by the schools, and there is nothing wrong in that.
[308] I will see that happening, but it is the freedom of schools to choose that is all important, and there are some particular elements of expertise which are not available to schools because it's not available centrally, and I believe that giving schools their budgets goes a great way to meeting this.
bh (PS5VF) [309] Harvey Markovitch, your views on the lessons of this opt out exercise at Banbury.
hm (PS5VJ) [310] I think the erm major lesson was that it was an irrelevance.
[311] We are going through enormous changes in the education system at the moment and as Governors we have had to struggle terribly hard to learn how to govern schools as more power and more authority has been devolved to us, and we should have been spending this year erm working together on learning how to run a more successful school, and instead erm we've had to waste a hell of a lot of time on really what was an absolute political nonsense and irrelevance, and I am glad we can turn aside from that.
[312] Can I say one more thing?
[313] You've asked us a lot about what Governors can do and what Councillors can do, it's teachers that make a school and schools are going to be excellent if the teachers and heads of faculty in those schools are excellent, and we've got lots of those in Banbury.
bh (PS5VF) [314] Jack Steer, what lessons do you think we've learned form this exercise?
js (PS5VH) [315] By and large I agree with Harvey erm I think one of the lessons that is becoming more and more obvious to more and more parents is that schools are there to educate.
[316] Whether they are in a particular building in one place or another, actually I couldn't give a monkey's as a parent, and I don't care where the school is as long as I can get my kids there and they get a good deal.
[317] And as far as this freedom for schools, I am rather more interested in freedom for parents, and things like open enrolments seem to me to be more akin to how far the au pair can drive the Volvo in twenty minutes than any real choice for parents.
bh (PS5VF) [318] mhm.
[319] And Bob Morgan, your views on what have we learned from this.
bm (PS5VK) [320] I think we've erm [laugh] we've erm obviously learned that opting out is not for the Oxfordshire people — I'm delighted about that and I just hope that as a result of this we do not see too many problems for Banbury School, both in the fact that the exercise has been somewhat divisory and I hope that they're able to bring it together quickly afterwards.
bh (PS5VF) [321] Well, many thanks to my guests here discussing the Banbury School opt out and the general principles of opting out.
[322] Jack Steer is the spokesperson for education on the Labour benches, and Harvey Markovitch is a Governor at the Banbury School.
[323] Choppy Spencer is the spokesperson for the Conservatives on education, and Bob Morgan represents the Liberal Democrats.
[324] That's it from me, Bill Hiney.
[325] Thanks for joining us.
[326] Goodbye. [recorded jingle]