Archive article from The Socialist Issue 398
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!
Protest through Walthamstow
AN ANGRY, noisy protest through Walthamstow, east London, on 18 June showed what people thought of Waltham Forest council's plans to cut adult education. The Learning Centre in Greenleaf Road is marked for closure and other centres are under threat.
The demonstration finished with a rally, including a play by drama students, whose teacher is threatened with disciplinary action for writing an innocuous letter to the local paper about the closure.
Many staff were even intimidated into not joining the demo because of outrageous threats of disciplinary action. But those that were there gained confidence from the demo and were determined to continue the battle.
Hackney fights academy plans
HACKNEY UNISON and NUT union branches, together with parents and local people organised a public meeting on 15 June to protest against plans to close Homerton Technology College.
The unelected "Learning Trust", which runs education in Hackney, wants to close this school and build an academy on the site. The meeting was angry at these plans and determined to fight to keep education in the public sector, and for it to be under community control.
Parent Shabbir Ahmed attacked the intimidation the Learning Trust has subjected parents to, pressurising them to choose alternative schools for their children even before the "consultation" over the plans is finished. School students are being moved to schools outside the borough that have worse records than Homerton Technology College.
Dominique, a teacher at the school, spoke passionately about the effect that the plans will have on all students, including refugees and many from ethnic minorities.
Suzanne Beishon of International Socialist Resistance spoke about the need for students to unite with teachers and staff at schools under threat to campaign against the attacks.
The meeting agreed to build for demos from both Homerton and Haggerston schools to lobby the Learning Trust's next board meeting on 30 June. The demos will meet outside the schools and go to Hackney Town Hall Square between 3.30pm and 5pm.
Save our lifelong education services
LEICESTER'S LIB Dem/ Tory controlled council cabinet are rushing through plans to cut £3.5 million from lifelong and community-based learning services. This is a vicious knee-jerk reaction to losses incurred as a direct result of a review that was supposed to achieve £500,000 savings!
Sam Lesniak, GMB member
Anyone wishing to make cuts of that size should look at the salaries of those senior management who ran this bungled programme. Steven Andrews, director of education, is currently suspended - on full pay of over £100,000 a year - pending investigations. Lifelong learning director John Crookes is also suspended.
The well-attended public meeting in defence of lifelong learning services heard newly elected Labour MP for Leicester South, Peter Soulsby, criticise the councillors and officers involved, pledge support then leave the building.
But in the past he led a Labour-controlled council, which made equally vicious cuts. Nationally the Labour government continues to attack workers. As NATFHE's Russ Escritt said, 300,000 adult education places are to go under government plans.
Socialist Party member, Steve Score said:
Redundancy notices have already been issued, even if the council say they won't necessarily lead to actual redundancies. The procedure should begin now for a strike ballot.
We're playing our part along with others in "Defend our Community Services" (DOCS) in trying to mobilise the community alongside the unions to oppose these cuts.