Link to this page: http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/400/4547
Don't scrap our school!
No to an academy!
TWO HUNDRED angry school students, parents and teachers from two secondary schools marched and then demonstrated outside a board meeting of Hackney Learning Trust last week.
Judy Beishon, Hackney parent
This unelected Trust was the first local education authority to be privatised by Tony Blair's government and has never been less popular with local people. All the students were desperate to be part of a delegation that went into the 'public' hour of the Trust's meeting.
They wanted to tell them what they thought of the attacks on our schools. Most of them were barred entry, so showed their views by chanting loudly outside for hours!
"How many schools have you closed?," a parent shouted at a Trust manager who's now seen as a hatchet man. His latest deed is to try to close Homerton Technology College for boys, to then replace it with a private academy - which would be the fourth in the borough.
Homerton parents and students are outraged at the Trust's methods. These include bullying parents to choose a school outside Hackney for their sons, before the 'consultation' over closure has even been completed! The schools they are being offered do not have better results than Homerton.
Parents furiously accused the Trust of trying to improve school exam results by "cleansing" low-achieving children out of the borough. Drawing on the fact that Homerton college has a rich composition of students from many of Hackney's ethnic communities, a Muslim parent said he and other Muslim parents wanted their children to stay in an integrated community and not be forced into "segregation" in neighbouring Tower Hamlets.
There is also strong opposition to replacing the school with an academy. We have seen that Hackney's Mossbourne academy is so selective that many students living on council estates within a few hundred yards of it can't get places.
Students, parents and teachers from Haggerston girls' school also had a very lively march to the demonstration. They are fighting the Trust's plan to make the school mixed-sex, which is seen as unwanted interference in a successful school, and a prelude to further attacks, especially privatisation.
We are now looking into the murky world of the Learning Trust, to see exactly who is wrecking and privatising our schools. The Trust's chair, Mike Tomlinson, happens also to be a non-executive director of GEMS, a provider of private education that has just been forced to drop a planned academy project in Milton Keynes following protests there by parents. Blair's government knighted Tomlinson for his devotion to privatisation!
The success of our demonstration and the unity being developed by the two school campaigns boosted morale. It gave everyone a feeling that we can defeat the Trust's proposals if we keep building our campaigns.
In The Socialist 7 July 2005: