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Fight Blair's Privatised Academies
THE RECENT fanfare announcement on education 'academies' (legislation is already on the statute books) shows that Labour want to encourage private schools to empire-build in the state sector.
Linda Taaffe, NUT executive (personal capacity)
Government and private school heads recently held a cosy chat. Dulwich College, a very swish private school has, it seems, expressed interest in running an academy in east London. How will their expertise in managing well-heeled pupils match up to the challenging behaviour of some of our East End kids?
Academies are a milestone in the deregulation of education. Voluntary or private-sector sponsors are asked to stump up 20% of the capital cost for an academy - around £2 million. The government will then provide the balance, around £8 million to build a new school, and will then provide ALL running costs.
A newly built, or refurbished school set up as a company limited by guarantee will be independent, owned and controlled by a private company, but fully funded by the state.
It is barefaced transference of public funds into private pockets; and there's no public control either. The sponsoring outfit is only required to have one local education authority (LEA) representative on the governing body. Nor is there a requirement to have a teacher governor.
But they can bring in as many of their governors as they want. In the Capital City Academy in Brent eight out of the 13 governors are appointed by Sir Frank Lowe, the sponsor.
Academies will have complete freedom to be flexible in all areas, in the curriculum, in organisation like the timing of the school day, and won't need to keep to national pay and conditions for staff including teachers.
Bexley Business academy's curriculum has been altered so the national curriculum fits into a four-day week. Friday is given over to business studies. The school has its own mini-stock exchange and trading floor. Ealing Academy's sponsor wants all students to adopt the vision "Me, plc".
The proposed academy in inner-city Waltham Forest, yet to be finalised, is likely to have the speciality "life and vocational skills", or as a top official put it, 'Learning by doing".
Is this a euphemism for sending pupils out on extended work experience at 14 perhaps connected to a sponsor's company interests? So far academies have been associated with business, ICT and technology while few are based on the arts.
The first academies have made rich pickings. The main sponsor of Walsall and Sandwell Academies is Thomas Telford Online, which markets online maths and technology teaching packs for a profit of £7 million.
Might not the next round, involving more working-class kids, be geared to preparing them for a life of low-skill, low-wage jobs with attempts to inculcate the "right" attitudes towards employers?
Academies are a full frontal attempt to roll back state education. The National Union of Teachers vehemently opposes the privatisation of education, and has had to fight in various academies to prevent the erosion of pay and conditions, even for simple union recognition.
The government's announcement came with school holidays looming - that's very timely from their point of view. However, a massive public campaign of teachers and all education workers, parents and older students against this attack is now more urgent than ever.
In The Socialist 17 July 2004:
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