The Socialist 6 December 2007 |
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No to academy schools!
HUNDREDS OF teachers from across north-west England demonstrated in Manchester on 1 December against the government's continuing drive to impose academy (publicly funded independent) schools on local communities.
Jane Nellist, Coventry NUT
At the rally following the march, teachers were addressed by Steve Sinnott, general secretary of the NUT and Jerry Bartlett, deputy general secretary of the NASUWT. Unfortunately, neither trade union leader provided a strategy for defeating this aggressive privatisation of our schools.
Teachers and parents across the country have launched campaigns to stop academies but only a few stopped the private sponsors. Trade unions should have stood shoulder to shoulder at the very beginning to defeat this outrageous plan. Our schools are being handed over for just £2 million, which now doesn't even need to be paid up front and can be less if the sponsor agrees to a 'buy three get one free' supermarket type offer.
Many local authorities have been blackmailed into seeking out sponsors for academy deals while parents are promised a 'state of the art' new school with high-tech facilities. In reality, academies, rather than improve education, can actually damage their children's education chances - the evidence is now becoming undeniable.
The 83 academies already set up are centred in our most deprived communities, communities that never received the proper funding for their schools that they deserved. Those pupils with special needs - learning or behaviour disabilities - are the ones most at risk through increased exclusion rates, selection or less support.
Far from the Brown-led government ditching the Academy project, the attack on comprehensive education has quickened in pace.
The plan now is for 400 academies to be created and a drive for new sponsors on top of the millionaire business people, Christian fundamentalist car dealers and others working in an unholy alliance to prise our schools out of democratic, accountable control.
Schools Minister Ed Balls recently claimed: "the test of... a potential sponsor should not be its bank balance, but whether it can demonstrate leadership, innovation, and commitment to act in the public interest." If that is the case, there is no question - all these schools should remain with the local authority.
The government's desire to encourage universities to become more active sponsors of academies received a blow this week when Oxford and Cambridge Universities refused to be part of the project, though it is doubtful that the twin pillars of elite academia would ever take a student from an academy in the first place.
Maybe some teachers in carpet magnate Lord Harris' seven academies will be counting the benefits of working in an academy when they learn of the offer of a 15% discount on carpet and floorings from his stores! We need to pull the rug from under his feet and return all of these schools to public ownership without any compensation.
Yes, it's called good old nationalisation! No to academies - yes to comprehensive education!