Link to this page: https://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/398/4855
No to Blair's academies
Education for the millions, not the millionaires!
NEW LABOUR'S 'flagship' City Academies, schools run by millionaires and private institutions but paid for overwhelmingly by us, are in disarray. Their own workforces are coming into conflict with them.
Members of the NASUWT teachers union at Unity City Academy in Middlesbrough are walking out over proposed job losses and worsened pay and conditions. The school had just become the first of Blair's pet academies to fail an Ofsted inspection. The government had bailed out the school to the tune of £1.4 million but they wanted the teachers to pay the cost.
Even Labour's own backbenchers don't trust the academies. Earlier this year the Commons education committee said the scheme should get no funding until it showed signs of being cost-effective. They said each place cost £21,000 per pupil compared to £14,000 per pupil at a new comprehensive.
New Labour recently commissioned a 'more positive' report from PricewaterhouseCoopers (PWC) a private company that makes most of its huge stack of money out of privatisation. But the best the PWC report could come up with was that 60% of students at Academies thought the new buildings had "made a difference."
Nobody's going to argue against schools needing to invest in new buildings. But the academies are trying to solve educational problems using millionaire power.
Private sponsors, rich business people or corporations, charities or even rival private schools, can put in up to £2 million with the remaining £25 million or so of a new school's finances coming from the government.
This 'investment' of less than 10% brings the fat cat great power - the sponsor can choose most of the school's governing body and have a big influence on its 'ethos'. Yet exam results, normally the be-all and end-all for New Labour, have been poor. In many cases they were worse than the schools they were meant to be replacing.
The government now say that this is because of social factors such as being based in poor and deprived areas. Precisely. Such problems have been caused by decades of under-investment in education in working-class areas.
Schools don't need guidance from the leisure-time whims of an unaccountable millionaire. They need real solutions, genuine investment and democratic control.
All around the country, there are protests against these plans. Parents, students and teachers are determined to stop the privatisation of education!
In The Socialist 23 June 2005: