Revolt Against Academy in Blair's Backyard
More than 300 protesters converged on the town centre in Darlington, last Saturday, to protest against council plans to close two local schools and replace them with a City Academy sandwiched between a factory, a lorry park and a recycling tip.
The demonstration was organised by Save Hurworth And Rural Education (Share), which has brought together local parents and residents opposed to the academy plans. "This is about stopping these academies and the privatisation of our children's education," says Jill Russell, chair of Share. Her two children attend Hurworth Comprehensive, one of the schools earmarked for closure.
Like other parents, Jill is not convinced by Darlington Council's claim that the closures will work to the benefit of pupils at both Hurworth and Eastbourne Comprehensive, the other threatened school. She sees Darlington Council's plans as an attempt to drive any vestige of community control out of the education system, by handing it over to big business - an ambition shared by at least two prominent local MPs, Tony Blair and Alan Milburn.
"We're just one big experiment for central government," says Jill. "They're pushing things through here that they intend to push up-and-down the country. We've got to say no here - you've got to stand up to the bullies."
I'm tempted to add another irritating educational phrase this month - parental choice. If this government started to listen to what parents and teachers actually want, their "more choice" mantra might not sound quite so hollow.