Link to this page: http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/676/12272
Comprehensive education under attack
Jane Nellist, Coventry NUT, personal capacity
This year was supposed to be a special year for Coventry - a celebration of 50 years of comprehensive education in the city. Coventry was at the forefront of the development of comprehensive education with a non-selective, inclusive education system with a strong local authority which planned local education.
Instead, it has turned into a battle to save our schools with eight out of the 17 secondary schools in the city declaring an intention to seek to become an academy, with more likely to follow (two are already academies under the old system introduced by Labour).
In Coventry, a strong campaign to defend our schools has been built in the city with teachers, students and local communities joining together. We have a Save Our Schools group. Teachers have been out in the local communities leafleting and petitioning and letting parents know of the dangers to their children's education if we 'lose' these schools.
Teachers have taken strike action, with more to come. The community is just waking up to the threats posed to local education. The Labour council is being forced to come out and voice its concerns due to the pressure that is building up from teachers and trade unions.
All over the country, communities are beginning to realise that academies mean privatisation of our schools.
The Labour government introduced academy schools, which are publicly funded but independent schools. And the Con-Dem government has ratcheted this up with a much speedier process where, in some cases, schools have been transferred without staff even being aware that it was happening. Schools are literally being seized from local community control with little or no consultation.
The vast majority of schools in this country have not applied to become academies but since last year there has been a big increase, with now over 700 schools converted to academy status.
One of the main reasons that governors are giving for seeking academy status is money. They believe they will get more money as an academy, but there actually isn't any extra money in the system. However academy schools do get more control of the total budget of running a school, with direct access to funding that would have gone to the local authority. The danger with this is that, while they may appear to have more money, the governors also take on much more risk as well. You really have to ask yourself if governors are up to the task of taking on the risk of running multi-million pound budgets as businesses.
As well as the risk to their own schools, there is a risk to all of the other schools in the local authority. If a proportion of this funding is taken out from the central services it destabilises those services and we all lose out! This all has a profound impact on the services that all of our schools rely on including primary, nursery and special schools.
Just recently, the government has announced a consultation on admissions which starts to expose the real views of the Tories.
Having temporarily deserted their favoured policies of grammar schools and selective education for one of academies and free schools, this consultation still allows schools to band the intake of students.
They are also encouraging and allowing academies to admit more pupils from deprived backgrounds who are eligible for the £430 pupil premium, much-needed extra funding. You can see the advantage, when school budgets are tight, of admitting more bright poor kids who carry a bit more funding. Very soon we get selection straight through the front door!
The Tories don't change their spots, they may try and camouflage themselves but what is happening to our state education, just as with the NHS, is privatisation.
I don't want to have to have to re-fight those battles that were fought over 50 years ago to win comprehensive education and all the gains that came with it, we need to defend our schools and stop the alien invasion of academies into our school system now!
In The Socialist 22 June 2011:
Socialist Party feature
Building for 30th June
Socialist Party workplace news
Socialist Party news and analysis
International socialist news and analysis
Socialist Party reports and campaigns
Reviews and comments
Fighting the cuts