Socialist Worker

Uprising at Downhills school against privatisation

by Alasdair Smith, national secretary of the Anti Academies Alliance
Issue No. 2297

Christine Blower, general secretary of the NUT teachers’ union, last week warned that the whole education system could be privatised by 2015.

Private equity firm Clarendon Academies recently announced its plan to take over 2,000 schools.

Downhills school in Haringey, north London, is at the sharp end of this process.

It is being forced to become an academy under the Harris Federation, a private company controlled by Lord Harris—Tory donor and owner of Carpetright.

Ofsted recently declared Downhills to be failing—even though its results have improved. Ofsted chief inspector Michael Wilshaw is a former director of a chain of academies.

Many parents and teachers feel that Downhills has been branded as “failing” so it can be sold off.

But the significance of Downhills does not lie in its shoddy treatment. Hundreds of schools are facing the same.

The significance of Downhills lies in the inspirational scale, breadth and tenacity of the resistance there.

The parents’ campaign has united the school community. The head, staff, governors, the local MP and local councillors opposed the forced academy.

Campaign

The campaign hit the national stage with a public meeting of 600 local people. Three weeks later 1,000 people marched through Haringey.

This and the prospect of a legal challenge shook Gove.

He resorted to abusing the parents as “Trots”, while his friends in the media attempted a witch-hunt of Haringey NUT branch secretary Julie Davies.

The leaders of the Labour-run local authority have collaborated with ministers.

Some heads and governors caved in. But Downhills parents and staff stood tall.

Last week NUT members in the school voted unanimously to be balloted for industrial action.The ballot will open after the Easter holidays.

It will be the first such ballot against forced academies. There is also a legal challenge by a parent, Susan Moyse.

When Harris Federation bosses visited the school, parents laid carpet over the entrance to remind them that they could “walk over the carpet, but not the parents”.

This campaign will need all our active solidarity, including financial support. It will take the fight to Gove and the corporate bosses behind him.

It will also send a message to other schools that if you are facing academy conversion, now is the time to fight.


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Tue 3 Apr 2012, 18:39 BST
Issue No. 2297
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