Socialist Worker

Bolton anti-academy activists chalk up a success

by Barry Conway, secretary of Bolton NUT (pc)
Issue No. 2111

A desperate attempt to turn the Hayward school in Bolton into an academy by September came unstuck last week.

Bolton Council has retreated from plans to challenge legal action by the NUT union. The union is seeking a judicial enquiry into the lack of consultation over the council’s academy proposals.

This news came just 48 hours after an unprecedented joint strike at the school by Unison and NUT members over the change of employer and lack of consultation.

The council claimed it was withdrawing from legal action to avoid “distressing” pupils and parents with litigation over the school holidays.

But the climbdown was clearly a defeat for the council. Campaigners across the country should take note of yet another successful tactic for holding up the academy process.

Council officials and councillors fell over themselves to establish the Hayward academy after successful strikes at nearby Withins school had shown the strength of feeling against an academy programme there.


For the past six weeks there has been turmoil in council offices as their plans for a smooth transition to two academies have been derailed by staff action on the ground, official legal action at the top and dissent from pupils and parents.

Meanwhile tensions are appearing among councillors and governors as they realise precisely what the privatisation of education entails.

As in all these situations, rumours abound on resignations, jittery sponsors, special offers to unions, back door deals and so on.

What is absolutely clear, however, is that historical precedents have been created that cannot be ignored.

It is possible to challenge privatisation through strike action. It is possible for education workers to unite and strike on the same issue. It is possible to challenge what politicians call “consultation”.

But it is equally clear from recent events that there is still a long way to go before we can claim success.

A small clique of undemocratic elites and self-interested bureaucrats remain thoroughly opposed to the provision of good local comprehensive schools that are publicly funded and publicly accountable.

These elites and bureaucrats are backed with money and influence. As we raise the stakes, so do they.

We need to find ways for anti-academy campaigners elsewhere in the country to follow our example and generalise our experiences.

So far there are only 83 academies – a miniscule amount – and they still have a long way to go before reaching their critical mass of privatised schools. Meanwhile we still have the time and resources to derail their plans.

For more information on the campaign against academies go to »

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Tue 22 Jul 2008, 19:22 BST
Issue No. 2111
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