Welcome to 2011—now here’s what we’re cutting
David Cameron’s statement that no more special schools were to close on his watch does not seem to have percolated down to the
Lib Dem controlled City Council of Bristol.
The council, which has already proposed cutting finance to the Centre for the Deaf and the Deaf Youth Support Scheme, has now come up with the idea of closing Elmfield School for the Deaf.
This is one of the few remaining schools in the country where students whose first language is British Sign Language (BSL) are given bilingual education. Now the council wants to put these students into “resource bases” in mainstream schools.
This flies in the face of recommendations made only a few months ago by its own Hearing Impaired Review experts, who recommended keeping it open.
The majority of the children have BSL as their first language and use this to communicate alongside learning English. Many of the staff are deaf, which means that children have strong role models of deaf adults around them.
The members of the unions represented in the school (NUT, Unison, Unite, NAHT, NASUWT and ATL) are united in their determination to keep the school open. They are calling on everyone to write to MPs, the Department for Education and Bristol council. Messages of support can be sent c/o 19 Cabot Court, Bristol, BS7 0SH.
Derek Brinkley, Bristol
I am a farm worker and the future looks hard.
The environment secretary Caroline Spelman has announced her intention to abolish the Agricultural Wages Board (AWB) for England and Wales.
Farm workers are some of most low paid in the country. They will soon be struggling to feed their families. Life for farm workers is hard and they need the AWB.
I expect little more from Mr Cameron’s party—but have the Lib Dems sold their consciences for a seat in a black car and some chairs round the table?
To support the abolition of the AWB is fundamentally unfair. It makes me ask if the minimum wage is to be abolished next.
If the Lib Dems have any backbone left they should vote against the government and keep the AWB.
We the farm workers haven’t got a very big voice—and we need your help.
Robin Stuchbury, Buckingham
SW is right on racism
Ken Olende is absolutely right in his column ( Racism, not Islam, is the problem , Socialist Worker, 18 December).
David Copeland, the bomber and ex-British National Party member who planted bombs in Brixton, Brick Lane and Soho—killing people at The Admiral Duncan pub—came from Basingstoke.
I do not recall the BBC or other reporters hounding his former teachers, the local vicar or others or the tabloids declaring Basingstoke to be a hotbed of fascists.
My late mum was Jewish and in the 1930s she lived in Leeds, where fascist leader Oswald Mosley had a lot of support. She and others fought him and his foot-soldiers, who were similar to the English Defence League supporters of today.
Back then Jews were persecuted, today it’s Muslims. It’s the same old fascists with the same old message of hate.
They must be resisted.
Mitch Mitchell, Cambridgeshire
Farewell to Derek Simpson
Joint general secretary of the Unite union, Derek Simpson, has finally retired.
Good riddance! Simpson has done little to build resistance to cuts—and has denounced those who do want to fight.
Yet when he was elected leader of Amicus (which later merged with the T&G to form Unite) the left, including Socialist Worker, backed him.
He stood on a left platform against right-winger Ken Jackson and his victory was rightly seen as a victory for the left.
There’s an important lesson to be learnt from how Simpson behaved once elected.
The difference between left and right in the unions matters—but not as much as that between the bureaucracy and the rank and file.
Sarah White, Bradford
Students: we can win change in our schools
I was very interested to read Red Justice’s letter (Letters, 18 December) in which he talks about the need for school unions.
I am a member of the school council at one of the few remaining grammar schools in the country.
I have recently come to appreciate the importance of student bodies and democratic representation.
While I perhaps do not share Red Justice’s revolutionary instincts, I recently led an effort to stop what was in my opinion a rather oppressive system where the school would confiscate bags which were left in the “wrong” place—and then require the student to pay to get it back.
While this may be a trivial example, by having the student council, to which I was democratically elected, I was able to eventually prevent this poor idea being implemented.
This could not have happened if the students had no voice.
I also enjoy “free speech” in the sense that I would not find myself in trouble for opposing the school and its policies in this forum.
I believe that students, like workers, should have the right to a union to express any dissatisfaction they have and also to work with the management in order to express how the school should be run.
Whether the students will be listened to, however, is another matter altogether.
Mason Myer, Buckinghamshire
The BBC covered up a police riot
I’m fuming at the BBC’s disgusting coverage of the student protests.
This uprising has thrown the government back on its heels.
The cracks in the ranks of the Lib Dem shows that militant mass action works.
In just weeks the students transformed the political landscape, and the useless NUS and pathetic Ed Miliband have been dragged kicking and screaming in their wake.
Yet the BBC’s coverage has been appalling. What happened on the night of Thursday 9 December was clearly a police riot.
The BBC’s own helicopter footage showed ranks of coppers beating the crap out of anybody who got in their way. The Met’s tactics are quite obvious to see:collectively (and illegally) punish demonstrators by kettling them and holding them for hours in sub-zero temperatures—and when they protest, brutalise them.
For me the final straw came when I was treated to 20 minutes of presenters’ concern for the shocked sensibilities of the Duchess of Cornwall at the same time as I knew a protester was undergoing brain surgery for cop-inflicted injuries.
This is really taking the piss.
Tim Evans, Swansea
A big cheer for those students who protested ( Day X3 – the day students shook the Tory coalition , 18 December).
It’s a shame there are so few police with sufficient brain cells to realise what they are doing.
I don’t suppose they are too worried about their kids going to university—they probably leave school at 14 and stack shelves till they can join up.
Paul, By email
Off with the royal heads!
It’s not often you wake up at 6.30am, turn on the news, and then are immediately convulsed with laughter.
Cries of “Off with their heads”, which protesters had shouted at Charles and Camilla, reverberated round my flat.
It reminded me of that great socialist Leon Trotsky, who wrote that “in the struggle over the future of Britain, the English King [Charles I] left his head at the crossroads.”
And what a crossroads—the shift from feudalism to industrial capitalism.
Is there another crossroads on the horizon?
John Clossick, By email
SW’s reporting weak on Wiki
Socialist Worker’s response to attacks on Wikileaks and its founder, Julian Assange ( Wikileaks is not a threat , 11 December), is weak and muddled.
The article criticises Wikileaks and the newspapers it has supplied for redacting certain information.
Yet Wikileaks has done a great service to journalism and freedom of information.
Its exposés of US imperialism have led to a worldwide propaganda offensive and attacks.
All socialists should stand with Wikileaks, and with Assange as he faces highly dubious sexual assault allegations.
Mark Brown, Glasgow
How the Tories shape schools
Your feature on Red Saunders ( History you don't learn at school , 11 December) is very true.
There is so much you are not taught in school. There is so much that the ruling class will not allow you to be taught.
When I was a teenager at school in the mid-1980s, we were not allowed to learn about such things as the militant workers’ classic work The Miners’ Next Step.
I wonder why.
Rob Turnbull, Northumberland
Thanks to UAF for protesting
A huge thank you to the Unite Against Fascism protesters who joined a demonstration of local residents and students outside Barking Town Hall on Wednesday 8 December.
The counter-protest took place as the British National Party (BNP) lobbied the council after it approved plans to extend two mosques.
We showed that Barking and Dagenham is proud of its multicultural working class population and the BNP is not welcome.
Susan Aitouaziz, Romford
Reject lies on student action
It is good to read the report of the occupation in Cambridge ( We have the power to bring down Tories , 11 December).
We held a similar occupation in Manchester.
I would like, however, to criticise the authors’ call for non-violent direct action.
We should not fall into the trap of dividing actions into categories of violent and non violent.
Despite the fact that the student protests haven’t been particularly violent, the Tories and right wing media have tried to divide and discredit our movement.
We must defend ALL protesters and call for action to bring down the government by any means necessary.