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Posted on 18 February 2011 at 18:03 GMT

Victory for Huddersfield anti-academy campaign

Huddersfield Youth Fight for Jobs march, photo Huddersfield YFFJ

Huddersfield Youth Fight for Jobs march, photo Huddersfield YFFJ   (Click to enlarge)

On Tuesday 15 February Kirklees council's cabinet was forced to abandon their preferred ambition to establish an academy at Fartown High School in Huddersfield by a highly successful campaign by local parents. They instead voted to establish a local community trust school.

Mike Forster, Kirklees Unison education lead steward (personal capacity)

This was following a 'competition' organised by the council to consider bids by private companies to take over the running of the school. Three bids were received from private sector organisations to set up an academy and one from the acting head teacher who put in a bid to set up a local community trust school in partnership with another local school.

Unfortunately for the council, such competitions have to be run according to some rules so they had to seek the views of the community.

At this point the joint union staff group pulled together to ensure as many parents turned up to hear all the bidders put their case to be selected. The academy bids were appalling and deservedly got a rough ride. The cool dudes from a group calling itself 'Lilac Skies' even introduced their presentation with the opening line from Pink Floyd's song "We don't want no education"!

Huddersfield Socialist Students say no to rip-off graduation ceremony, photo Huddersfield Socialist Students

Huddersfield Socialist Students say no to rip-off graduation ceremony, photo Huddersfield Socialist Students   (Click to enlarge)

The audience of 300 went strongly for the community bid but we all knew that the clapometer would not be enough. Out of that meeting a local Parents Action Group was set up. The joint unions organised a public meeting to explain the real meaning of academies and those attending it were frightened and shocked. They were angry that the council had not given them all the relevant facts.

They swung into action and took away petitions, set up a website group, organised another much bigger public meeting and demanded that the councillors attend. The councillors, including the leader of the Labour Group, were given a roasting and several pledged there and then to oppose the academy bids. They were told in no uncertain terms that they would lose their seats in the May elections if they did not follow the community's wishes.

2,000 signatures were collected in three weeks and a lobby of the MP also took place. Councillors were told in private discussions that if they selected the academy bid, the school would be boycotted by parents and students and a picket line put in place on the first day of term! The message was getting home.

The result of the consultation showed that a massive 92% favoured the community bid with none of the academy bids getting more than 2%! By the time of the cabinet meeting, the outcome was a formality.

Parents, students and staff hugged, cheered and celebrated after the meeting. The outcome is hugely significant both locally and nationally. In Kirklees, up to nine High Schools are seeking to become academies without any proper consultation. We are pressing home a very strong message that parents need to be properly informed and consulted. It has halted a bandwagon and given staff the confidence to stand up to bullying heads and say 'no' to academies. Local campaigns, supported by the joint trade unions, are springing up in every school.

Every week, the joint unions meet up to survey the battleground and prepare the next stage. The victory at Fartown was won by some very well organised parents who are now lending their support to other schools. They are out to prove that people power can work and there is nothing set in stone about this government's disastrous mission to destroy comprehensive education.

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