An angry protest by school students in Carlisle last week has highlighted the failures of the government’s city academies programme.
Some 200 students demonstrated over the standard of education at the Richard Rose Central academy on Friday of last week.
They were demanding a change of management. Their protest forced the authorities to shut down the school and pushed the issue of academies back onto the national news agenda.
The academies plan allows businesses and rich individuals to run schools, even if they have no experience in the area.
Students held placards that read, “They won’t listen” and “We’re taking action”.
Some brought their old uniforms from before the school was turned into an academy as a symbol of protest. Parents and sixth formers also joined the demonstration.
This is the first significant action taken against an existing academy – most campaigns are based around trying to prevent schools becoming academies.
Richard Rose Central was opened last September – a year earlier than planned – and has been beset with problems ever since. It is run by Peter Noble, an ex-health service manager.
In just four months it has temporarily excluded around 10 percent of its students.
Overcrowding, inadequate facilities, and health and safety concerns led to an emergency Ofsted inspection in November. It is due to report this week.
Students, parents and teachers are united in their condemnation of the academy.
Last week 200 parents met and passed a vote of no confidence in the school’s management. They demanded that the school be brought back under local authority control.
Parents have also started the Parents Action Group for Education (Page).
Carol Thompson, a former governor at the school, helped set up the group.
She told Socialist Worker, “I fought against the school being turned into an academy when I was a governor, along with other people. But they took no notice.
“Parents are sick of not being listened to.
“Children are being excluded for no reason. The school is overcrowded. Children of different ages are all being put in the same class. School is meant to be a good experience but my kids don’t want to go.
“They’re not getting a proper education because lots of teachers have left and the school is relying on supply teachers. The teachers have got a nightmare of a job.
“If nothing is done Page is thinking of pulling all the kids out of school for a day as a protest. We have to show that we mean business.”
Meanwhile, teachers are threatening strike action over restructuring plans that could mean pay cuts and job losses.
Alan Rutter is the NUT union rep at Richard Rose.
He told Socialist Worker, “Ever since the academy opened there have been issues with the working conditions.
“The school is operating in temporary buildings and there are high levels of stress and illness among teachers.
“Many teachers have left because they didn’t want to work in an academy on principle. But a lot more have left since because of the stress and this affects the quality of education we can give.
“The restructuring means that some teachers stand to lose thousands of pounds. The NUT will ballot for strike action if the results of the negotiations are not acceptable. The other unions at the school are also opposing the plans.”
Other academies are also running into serious problems.
Derby council has withdrawn plans for academies after a campaign against them, that involved teachers taking several days of strike action.
Teachers at five schools in Croydon, south London, struck on Tuesday of this week against plans to transform their schools into academies (» Action on academies in Croydon).
This growing opposition, and the economic crisis, means that problems are mounting up for the academies scheme.