Gateshead Council's all-Labour cabinet met yesterday and at one point it wandered off into a discussion about failing schools and parental choice. I sat at the back of the room as an observer and listened as Cllr Mick McNestry talked about how Highfield Primary School, seven years ago, had not performed well, but since then had turned itself around to become, according to Ofsted, an excellent school and was now oversubscribed. Parent had "voted with their feet", according to Mick. This was followed by a discussion in which some of the "socialist" comrades let rip about people exercising parental choice by moving their children to better performing schools. "Socialist" Catherine Donovan swung the boot the hardest at the right of people to choose for themselves and their children what they should and should not do. She raised the prospect of ending parental choice by forcing children to go to the local community school to ensure they all stayed open.
Quite what her constituents feel about being forced by "socialists" such as Catherine Donovan to send their children to a failing school if that is the only school serving a particular community is still to be made clear. Highfield however seems to give a clue. Faced with competition from other schools, Highfield was forced to improve, to turn itself around. That means a better education for the kids attending that school. That is to be welcomed. And the improvement was clearly noticed and welcomed by parents who started to queue up to get their children into it.
We may find out soon what the residents of Cllr Donovan's Lobley Hill and Bensham ward think of her comments. The next Focus is being written already!