Socialist Worker


Issue No. 2243

Speech therapists harangue health secretary Andrew Lansley. They are workers who support children with special educational needs—and are facing cuts (Pic: Mark Thomas/Unite union)

Speech therapists harangue health secretary Andrew Lansley. They are workers who support children with special educational needs—and are facing cuts (Pic: Mark Thomas/Unite union)

Neoliberal agenda lies behind attacks on special educational needs

Michael Gove and the Tories are right about one thing—the current system of providing services to students with special needs is “bureaucratic, bewildering and adversarial”.

But what is even more so is their attempt to fix the problem by striking children off the special educational needs (SEN) register and dismantling centrally coordinated services.

Under the government’s plans, outlined in a green paper released last week, 17,000 children could be struck off the SEN register.

Children will be told they no longer have special needs and, moreover, no longer have access to additional support or specialised services.

The plans will also give parents control over a budget so they can buy services for their children. At face value, placing parents’ knowledge about their own child at the centre of these decisions seems sensible.

But we must have no illusions that what it will really mean is cuts to the overall budgets for children with special needs and to the specialist services—while passing the administrative burden onto parents.

It’s not much use giving me a budget to buy the services my child needs if the services no longer exist.

The government wants to push the idea that the market will provide for SEN children—but we already know that markets don’t work.

Xanthe Whittaker, South London

Many local authorities have already started sacking specialist advisory teachers and psychologists.

The large majority of disabled children—85 percent for those with a Statement, which qualifies them for learning support, and on School Action Plus, or 95 percent if we include those on School Action—are in mainstream schools.

According to the NUT union, 87 percent of secondary schools and 60 percent of primary schools are having their budgets cut this year.

The cuts will go on for four years.

Meanwhile the government is throwing money at the voluntary sector. Its Green Paper suggests that voluntary organisations can take over from local authorities in providing some SEN services. Where is the local democracy and accountability in this?

The government is exploiting parental fears, suggesting they can have more control and choice over their disabled child’s education.

Parents in the main do want a say—but they do not want, or need, to be in charge of the reducing budget to meet all their children’s needs.

These things are not inevitable.

We have four months of consultation where we can begin a fight for the alternative—a fully inclusive school system where children’s needs are met by proper resourcing and trained staff.

Richard Rieser, North London

Jamie isn’t qualified to teach kids

Yet again because everyone has been through some kind of school, think they know better than those trained to teach (Jamie Oliver patronises us with his Sainsbury’s school experiment, Socialist Worker website, 3 March).

Good education is about much, much more than merely knowing your subject.

What a pity these “celebrities” didn’t learn anything from the “Classroom Experiment” TV programmes guided by the expertise of Dylan Wiliam and qualified teachers.

They saw that their profession is complex and needs to evolve with the responses of the students.

A first essential is to develop mutual respect. A second is to have the humility to know that education is not a simplistic or one-way process.

P Smith, Newcastle Upon Tyne

An excellent piece on the Socialist Worker website on Jamie Oliver’s Dream School.

The key to crap TV like this is to ask, can the programme show us anything that could be reasonably reproduced by real teachers in real schools?

If not, it’s just showbiz crap or worse—as you suggest blaming working class kids for the overcrowded, under-resourced schools they’re in.

I did a programme for BBC 4 about encouraging schools to focus more on books, but my bottom line was: how can all schools do what this school is doing?

And the sub-text was: how come the present curriculum constraints and dogma prevent it from happening in most places?

Michael Rosen, East London

Most teachers could work miracles if they had only 16 in a class—and in Jamie’s Dream School Rolf Harris said that was too big!

The programme demonstrated that, just because you have been to school, you do not necessarily understand how to help children learn.

Jane Eades, South London

International Women’s Day isn’t about bosses

This month, activists across the world celebrated the 100th anniversary of International Women’s Day.

The day was pioneered by socialist revolutionaries in the early 20th century and is rooted in class struggle.

The mainstream media, however, chose to bypass its political history almost entirely.

The Guardian compiled a list of the “top 100 women” to mark the occasion, broken into categories.

In the “Business and Trade Unions” category were three bosses—and no trade unionists at all!

One of the the three was president of PepsiCo Indra Noovi—PepsiCo’s water usage in some of the poorest countries around the world destroys poor women’s lives.

What importance does this list have to so-called “ordinary” women?

What about the women who make up two thirds of workers on minimum wage?

Or the women forced to work for next to nothing in sweatshops producing make up or computer software for likes of Carol Barts and Andrea Jung?

It is typical of the Western liberal media to use International Women’s Day to emphasise competition and economic success.

But the impact of women bosses on other women is not something we should celebrate.

Siobhan Schwartzberg, North London

Tory GP plans will put lives at risk

NHS Shared Business Services (SBS) plans to “cleanse ghost patients” from GP lists throughout Britain (Socialist Worker 12 March). This is extremely worrying.

NHS SBS provides a number of services for GPs and, in my experience, fails to deliver on many.

GPs acknowledge that accurate patient lists are a good thing, enabling us to plan patient care.

However the broad brush approach piloted by NHS SBS is not the way forward.

There are too many administrative pitfalls which would allow vulnerable patients to fall through the net.

There are reports of a patient in Brent who died after being wrongly removed from a GP list and hence “disappeared” from follow up care.

The multinational Steria has a large stake in NHS SBS, yet another example of how the private sector is getting a stranglehold on the NHS. We must oppose this vigorously.

The market in the NHS should be abandoned. We need to send organisations like Steria packing and run the NHS for the benefit of patients not shareholders.

Jackie Turner, East London

Ford attack no surprise to me

As a retired Ford employee of 35 years this does not surprise me at all (Unite threatens Ford with pensions ballot, Socialist Worker, 5 March).

Ford are threatening to use the CPI measure of inflation to decide pension payouts, instead of the normally higher RPI one.

When I retired seven years ago I had to sign my pension agreement before the human resources (HR) manager at the plant where I worked.

It is an agreement that has my signature and Ford’s HR signature on it, so surely it can’t be legal to alter it now?

I shall take legal advice if Ford initiates any changes to it.

Eddie Connolly, Essex

UCU shows us way to fight

Well done the UCU (University lecturers vote for strikes, 5 March)!

The PCS union should have balloted with the UCU.

Compulsory redundancy notices were issued to workers in the commission for rural communities last week. More will follow.

PCS policy is to consider national action in the event of compulsory redundancies.

Hopefully the union’s leadership will agree a ballot for action this week.

Coordinated action could begin to look like a reality.

Keith Crane, Essex

Students back Palestinians

The Palestine Society at Sheffield University has shown international solidarity with the Palestinian people.

It won a referendum calling for the student union to form links with the Islamic University of Gaza, which has suffered heavily from Israeli war crimes.

As revolution spreads across the Arab world, it is more important than ever to build solidarity with those oppressed by imperialism.

Martin Percival, Sheffield

Disillusion in Barnsley vote

The recent Barnsley by-election showed that people don’t trust the Lib Dems and have no time for the Tories.

But the low turnout also showed that the sleaze, war and privatisation of New Labour are not forgotten.

People are still angry about how the three main parties seem to offer very similiar policies.

Labour said its vote sent the “strongest possible message” to the government.

But we can’t wait four years to let our welfare state be destroyed, so “strong messages” mean nothing.

We need strikes and protests now.

Aidan Barlow, Warwick

Fury at savage health cuts

Many of us are angry to see the Tory-Liberal coalition pushing the National Health Service off the end of a cliff.

Two issues have made my blood boil.

The first is the government’s proposal to close the children’s heart unit in Leeds.

At the same time a neighbour of mine has just gone through an operation in Birmingham—more than 100 miles from where he lives.

John Appleyard, West Yorkshire

Expose this banking con

Can Socialist Worker explore the finer points of fractional reserve banking and what it has meant for working class people over the years?

I believe this aspect of the banking system is a fundamental cause of the current crisis.

The role of the merchant banks in relation to the so called “business cycle” is something that SW could usefully expand upon.

The fractional reserve system is perhaps the biggest con perpetrated on ordinary people by the ruling class.

Jon Hughes, North London

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Article information

Tue 15 Mar 2011, 18:46 GMT
Issue No. 2243
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