doublespeak: Northumberland County Council
The Council’s consultation report on education in west Northumberland, published at the end of the stage-two consultation period, contained the following emotive text: “Feedback from schools and the wider community in the Haydon Bridge Partnership has not expressed a desire to return to the 3-tier system therefore this would be an unpopular and retrograde step.”
This is baffling at best, and at worst the most disgraceful skewing of a debate through subjective language. The schools in our part of the Haydon Bridge partnership are three-tier, so we cannot “return to the 3-tier system”. Three-tier therefore, by definition, cannot be a “retrograde step” and any consultation responses which opposed change are therefore testament to the popularity of three-tier, not its unpopularity.
At the end of the day, we know there have been problems at Haydon Bridge High School. However, our arguments against the stage-two proposals hold good against these statutory proposals: don’t rob Peter to pay Paul. Don’t fix what’s broken by breaking what works. Don’t compel unpopular change on some schools to “fix” another.
One is forced to conclude:
- the stage-two proposals were a feint to draw the sting of the community and exhaust their appetite to fight the Council’s ulterior aim, which was always two-tier
- someone has a gun to the Council’s head on this issue — Whitehall? the Regional Schools Commissioner? The Education and Skills Funding Agency? — there is no other explanation for the breakneck speed of the consultations in the face of massive public outcry, the statutory consultation lasting the statutory minimum period, and coinciding with a school holiday, which DfE identifies as not best practice
If the Council had avoided all the offensive “once-in-a-generation” rhetoric and simply stated the problems (money, population, Hadrian Learning Trust’s proposal, Bright Tribe and Haydon Bridge), then we would all have had a much more honest understanding of the position in which we find ourselves, and perhaps we could have worked together, rather than fighting tooth and nail.
As it is, the community is now in open revolt against the Council. This is the endgame of a decade-long political long con to foist two-tier education on that community which the Council purport to serve. Let the next local elections serve them their just deserts.