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From The Socialist newspaper, 6 January 2010

Academies: 'Hands off Weston Favell' wins!

TORY CONTROLLED Northamptonshire County Council (NCC) has been trying to force the infamous United Learning Trust (ULT) on Weston Favell school, in Northampton, in the form of the New Labour part-privatisation academies agenda.

Lee Dunkley

The threat has been looming over the mixed state comprehensive for over a year. Initially the school was set to be taken over in the last academic year - but the determination of the organised campaigners forced the date back twice to April 2010.

Socialist Party members teamed up with trade unionists (at the school), parents, the student council, the governors and other activists to form a solid campaign against the proposal.

This came to a peak last month, when both the Nasuwt and NUT teaching unions came out on strike together on 3 December. Then followed an 'extraordinary cabinet meeting' at NCC on 10 December which saw 24 members of the public speak - every single one in opposition. 400 letters were also sent to NCC about the plans; 390 of those were against.

Despite the overwhelming opposition, the so-called "listening council" steam-rollered the proposal through.

Campaigners were left disgusted by the actions of the cabinet, who argued that 400 parents' letters still left around 1,100 parents who did not write who, in their eyes, did not object!

The response of Sally Keeble, the Northampton North Labour MP, was to issue a warning to the teachers saying that her support for the cause would be withdrawn if further strike action was undertaken.

Further strike action did loom, however - and the teaching unions were beginning to prepare for ongoing action.

Before the Christmas break, year ten students attempted to organise a student strike, but heavy-handedness from senior management, and a lack of term-time meant this had to be delayed until January.

But other things were happening at ULT. Their two 'sister' academies in Sheffield had been flagged up to the government as failing. ULT were informed just before Christmas that they could no longer take on the two academies that they were in the process of obtaining - one in Oxfordshire, and Weston Favell.

This has left both the Labour government and the Tory local council with egg on their faces. They were willing to disregard the whole community, and jeopardise the students' short term education, as well as begin to privatise education. Yet another example of how out-of-touch mainstream politicians are.

The hard work done by the 'parents' action group', by the teaching unions and the Socialist Party has provided the momentum needed to quash the proposal, and has demonstrated that a unified grassroots fight can beat the unrepresentative and self-interested authority.

Congratulations to all involved in the 'Hands off Weston Favell' campaign, and thank you to all those who sent messages of support to the striking workers.

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In The Socialist 6 January 2010:

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