Tory education secretary Michael Gove is causing chaos in our schools.
Gove last week scrapped more than 700 school rebuilding projects. He has condemned thousands of working class children to crumbling, unsafe buildings.
But he has also created deep anger. Even some of the government’s own supporters are horrified by what he has done. This is not just an issue for teachers or parents. This could become a campaign focus for everyone.
The cuts hit some of the poorest areas in Britain. In Doncaster, South Yorkshire, Gove scrapped 16 building projects.
At one of them, Campsmount Technology College, children are stuck in portakabins after their school burned down seven months ago. All that is left of the original school is a gym, library and one block of classrooms.
In South Thanet ten of the 13 planned rebuilds are gone. In Blackpool, Gove cancelled ten projects and left the fate of the other three uncertain. Twelve out of 14 rebuilds in Batley and Spen, West Yorkshire, now won’t happen.
Gove stopped all eight projects in Sunderland and all six in Tamworth, Midlands.
The cuts are indefensible. The mainstream media reports of the move were full of students and teachers describing the terrible conditions that they currently endure. Children spoke of being in Portakabins where they were too hot in the summer and too cold in the winter.
Such is Gove’s contempt for ordinary people that he didn’t even bother to make sure that the list of axed projects was accurate. Some 25 schools that weren’t originally on the list later found out that their rebuilds would not go ahead.
Teaching unions have called a lobby of parliament on Monday of next week over the cuts and the Tories’ academy plans.
It should be made into a mass show of defiance against the Tory assault on education.
Christine Blower, general secretary of the NUT union, said that, “cutting school building projects is unnecessary and will jeopardise the educational future of many children”. The government didn’t slash all school rebuilding. It allowed another 700 projects to go ahead.
The Tories decided which schools to axe and which to save based on money rather than any sense of need.
The Building Schools for the Future programme involved private companies bidding to win contracts to rebuild schools.
Those projects that were cancelled were less far along the process than those that will still go ahead.
So, Gove scrapped all building contracts where no final bid had been submitted—presumably to cut the amount of money to be paid out to compensate contractors for work already done.
This is another grubby attack made in the name of cutting the budget deficit—a deficit which children are not responsible for making. But the Tories aren’t always so tightfisted.
Gove has said that the money saved by refusing to improve existing schools could be channelled into building free schools.
Free schools are yet another Tory ploy to increase the power of business over our education. So the money is there, but the Tories want business to benefit from it instead of young people.
The Tories have made attacking education a priority.
They want to dismantle comprehensive education by turning all state-run schools into privately-run academies.
This would hand billions of pounds worth of land and buildings to private companies for free and put businesses in control of children’s education.
Now they are refusing to repair and refurbish hundreds of existing schools.
Gove says that he scrapped the Building Schools for the Future programme because it is “wasteful” and involves “needless bureaucracy”.
There is some truth in that—but that’s because it relies on competing private companies to build schools.
If the government invested directly in schools it would be far cheaper.
We need parents, children, school workers and everyone who wants to fight the cuts to unleash a storm of anger against the government. Every school must have decent buildings.
Save our schools rally 1pm Monday 19 July in Methodist Central Hall, Westminster