Radical Labour policies to scrap Ofsted and abolish private schools led to heated exchanges between councillors this week.
Plans by shadow education secretary Angela Rayner to replace the schools inspection body with a different system, as well as proposals voted through by delegates at Labour party conference to remove private schools’ charitable status, were fiercely criticised by Cllr Maria Higson (Con, Hampstead Town).
The Conservative councillor warned of the financial burden of bringing Camden’s 9,000 privately-educated students into the state system.
However, Cllr Angela Mason (Lab, Cantelowes), cabinet member for best start for children and families, countered that public funds were similarly straitened by the lack of business rates coming from private schools.
Cllr Higson said: “Ofsted is trusted by parents as an independent check on schools, a quality assurance to ensure schools are as good as they can be.
“Labour has recently proposed to abolish this, replacing it with a two-tier system led by local authority-delivered health checks.
“There is a concern about this that it will add extra bureaucracy, but furthermore that it is ‘marking your own homework.'”
When asked what planning Camden had done to ensure school standards would be protected in the event of the two-tier policy being imposed, Cllr Mason told the council chamber that the principle of peer support and local authorities working with the schools had already been established by the Town Hall.
Cllr Mason said: “There has been very widespread dissatisfaction with Ofsted, and too often it’s an unmeaningful tick exercise, but nevertheless consumes an enormous amount of energy.
“Ofsted reognise this and are trying to change their system of inspection so that it places much more emphasis on a wider curriculum and on pupils’ wellbeing.
“Maybe we all haven’t found the exact answers yet, but I think moving away from the Ofsted model we had, which was extremely coercive, which put teachers under enormous pressure – that is the right direction that we should be moving in.”