Link to this page: https://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/850/20416
Save our schools!
Education will be a vital question on people's minds in the general election and local elections on 7 May. But most voters will have very different priorities from the Tory-Liberal Democrat coalition government.
Students at school will be asking if they will be able to afford to go to university, where they are charged sky-high fees, with the prospect of massive debts. Students in further education no longer get the help provided by the Education Maintenance Allowance, abolished by the Con-Dems. In adult education swingeing cuts are now putting it at risk of total extinction.
Parents, students and teachers want places in good schools with well-trained and well-paid teachers. They will be demanding free, publicly run, good quality education for people of all ages.
But the main parties have different priorities. The Tories want 500 more 'Free Schools' set up in England. They all want more Academies. While neither of these is meant to directly make a profit, they are a step towards privatisation. They break schools from local authority control and import business into the running of schools.
The capitalist parties ignore issues such as lack of resources, poverty and the advantages of co-operation between schools. They want to 'open up' education to private investment. They want to downsize and restructure it, turning public education into a marketplace. They want to diminish the power of the unions and scapegoat teachers for problems in education and society.
The unnecessary and callous policies of cuts and austerity are part of this plan. The Socialist Party says there is an alternative to this capitalist catastrophe and is part of the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC) which is standing hundreds of candidates in the general election and local council elections.
We proudly offer socialist solutions to the problems faced by schools, their teachers, students and parents.
■ The Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC) national steering committee has endorsed the Manifesto for Education produced by the largest teachers' union in England and Wales, the National Union of Teachers (NUT). Four members of the union's national executive committee will be standing as TUSC candidates in May's elections
Labour cannot defend education
The Mail and Telegraph are trying to alarm Tory voters by claiming that a future Labour government would return academies (begun under Labour Prime Minister Tony Blair) to local authority control. If only! That, unfortunately, just isn't their plan at all.
While the NUT manifesto rightly demands: "Return oversight of all state funded schools to local authorities", New Labour policy has something very different in mind as Jane Nellist (Coventry NUT) reports.
School students and teachers protest against academies at Tile Hill Wood school in Coventry , photo Coventry Socialist Party (Click to enlarge)
The Con-Dem government is damaging children's education. Their attacks on pay, conditions and pensions demoralise school staff. Excessive testing and divisive league tables drive enjoyment out of education for staff and students alike.
With the general election just weeks away and Labour struggling in the polls, you might think Labour would seize on teachers' demoralisation and staff, students and parents' anger and create a manifesto with clear policies. People in education hope for policies that at least begin to reverse these damaging attacks.
But every time Labour's education spokesperson Tristram Hunt opens his mouth he antagonises teachers with statements and suggested policies that fail to address the real issues and some that will even exacerbate conditions in schools.
At a recent conference, instead of pledging to end 'Free Schools' he suggested "parents, teachers, businesses and voluntary groups set up schools in areas of need". He wants foreign education "innovators" to open up schools.
Well thanks Tristram for showing faith in our schools! It's as bad as handing over education to carpet sellers, car salesmen and other millionaires!
The Labour Party website has plenty of rhetoric but very little substantial about education. If you look at Labour's 'Blunkett Review' published last year, you start to worry. He says: "Academies are here to stay and we need to build on this landscape".
Blunkett, who was the Education Minister that planted the seeds of many of our problems today and created a teacher shortage, said that there is a "need to ensure that properly qualified teachers 'oversee' the learning process". That 'oversight' is a very different commitment to the one that parents and teachers seek.
Labour simply hopes to somehow manage this fragmented landscape by introducing "Directors of School Standards" to oversee school provision.
However, unlike local authorities, they would be appointed, not elected. Why not simply bring all schools under a local education authority - that actually worked in the past!
Teachers are desperate for policies to mend our damaged education system and provide us with better working conditions. Parents would back us on this.
But Labour gives no sign that it can do so. Shadow education secretary Tristram Hunt does not have the courage to listen to teachers. Instead he keeps treading the dangerous path of 'marketisation' of our education service. Labour is no alternative.
Ukip's grammar slip
Our local UKIP candidate in Worthing is calling for "a grammar school in every town." There are problems with this. It would mean taking any power away from local authorities to decide schooling policy. You would get a grammar school whether you like it or not.
Secondly, in neighbouring Kent parents send their children over the border to the maligned comprehensive schools of West Sussex because they didn't pass the eleven plus and so are not allowed into the glittering grammar schools.
There is no evidence that grammar schools improve the results for pupils excluded from them; but a wealth of evidence that tests which differentiate children at 11 are not confirmed by subsequent tests and are biased towards white middle class pupils. Like the policies of all the capitalist parties, this policy is not based on any consultation with teachers.
Fight back against academies
Martin Powell-Davies TUSC candidate in Lewisham West and Penge and secretary of Lewisham National Union of Teachers (NUT)
As in many other areas, Lewisham's education is at risk. Governors at three schools, Prendergast schools at Hilly Fields, Ladywell Fields and the Vale, want to turn them all into academies. If these schools convert, others could soon follow.
This government aims to steal away public services from elected local authorities across the country and vowed to put 'rocket-boosters' under the academies programme started under Labour. In some places, this has already led to the break-up of local schooling into different academy employers. In others there is resistance. We are fighting back in Lewisham.
The NUT, NASUWT and GMB unions locally have taken joint strike action. In just a few months, our campaign has also included marches, student protests and public meetings. Even the governors admit academies are 'unproven' but are pressing ahead with a 'consultation' to try and convert the schools quickly. Parents and local residents must act fast to make the governors think again.
If the governors are so sure of their arguments, why won't they agree to a ballot of parents on our schools' future? Maybe they know the facts show their plans are wrong! Our campaign highlights what the facts really say about academies.
Don't academy schools give children a better education?
No. "Current evidence does not prove that academies raise standards overall or for disadvantaged children", said the All-Party Select Committee of MPs in January 2015.
Won't converting to an academy improve our exam results?
No. "The rate of improvement in GCSE results in Local Authority secondaries was twice that of converter academies," said Ofsted's Annual Report for 2013/14
Won't schools be better-off if they convert into academies?
No. "There is no funding advantage to being an academy" says the Prendergast governors' report on the school website.
Aren't academies better than non-academy 'maintained' schools at supporting students from all backgrounds?
No. "Converter Academies, on average, take far less than their fair share of disadvantaged pupils. They aren't helping increase social justice in education". Professor Gorard, quoted in the Prendergast governors' own report
Won't becoming an academy "secure greater accountability" for staff and parents?
No. "Parents are sidelined from all important decisions, over whether schools convert in the first place, and over how they're run once they become academies" said a parent witness to January's All-Party Select Committee Report.
Can academies be trusted to act fairly when given control of admissions policies?
No. "Charter School (an academy in Dulwich) has been criticised for setting its catchment area to exclude children from two council estates with the risk of skewing its intake" said a Guardian report on Schools Adjudicator, 2012.
Can we trust giving academy governors control over school budgets?
No. "Nearly half of academy trusts have paid millions of pounds in public money towards the private businesses of directors, trustees and relatives," said the National Audit Office, 2014
Our campaign is determined to stop these plans but the next government must act nationally. We need all academies brought back into the hands of genuinely democratic local authorities so that parents, staff and the local community can work and plan together to ensure every child receives the education they need and deserve.
And schools' staff, parents, governors and local communities should have direct representation on the bodies making decisions about local education provision, not just politicians.
We pay for their dividends
Education can be a very profitable business - for the rich. GEMS Education is a top ranking international education business. It runs private schools in Britain and has been involved in academies and bidding to run free schools.
In a glorified advert, Investing with GEMS, they say "In 2010, the world's top ten global education companies generated over US$26 billion in revenue. Education, like the health sector, is a 'counter-cyclical' sector, performing well even in recession."
GEMS says in their experience, "education projects should generate an IRR (internal rate of return) of 15% to 30%". Such blatant private profit seekers are pushing the educational counter-reforms of today. We suffer for their dividends.
480 private supply teaching agencies are mostly competing in a race to the bottom to underpay teachers. A school may pay £150 to the agency while the teacher is paid perhaps £75 to £100. One of Britain's largest teaching agencies Teaching Personnel has reported £7.5 million profit on a £50 million income.
The Socialist Party demands
- Free, publicly run, good quality education, available to all at any age
- No to creeping privatisation. Teachers, students and parents should campaign to bring academies and 'free schools' into democratic local authority control
- Abolish Ofsted. We need democratic accountability of schools by teachers, parents and communities - not political tools to undermine state education
- Abolish university tuition fees now and bring in a living grant
- Socialist policies for the 99%. Poverty and economic inequality are still the biggest factors in educational inequality
In The Socialist 1 April 2015:
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