Socialist Worker


Issue No. 2409

Our schools have problems - but this won't solve them

An academy chain wants to set up a new free school in central Barnsley, and there’s a lot of anger.

The overcrowding in Barnsley schools is crying out with the need for a new one.

But what’s shocking is that the council is apparently not allowed to build new ones itself.

That’s pushing education into the private sector of free schools and academies.

The press has widely reported that the school will aim to help “white working class” children. 

That follows a report last week that identified them as the most disadvantaged group.

There was a time when you would have described Barnsley as white working class. But today it’s quite multicultural, and using that description now seems like a slap in the face for the new arrivals.

There is clearly a class basis to our educational system, and that means working class children are suffering.

But that’s not something that’s exclusive to white children.

It’s being used to play into the agenda of racists who think there are too many immigrants, too many black faces.

There is no way this will improve education for children in Barnsley. Neither will privately-run schools that can hire unqualified teachers and set their own curriculums.

Dave GibsonBarnsley

I am a parent of two secondary school teenagers. We are appalled at Michael Gove’s proposal to make the school day and terms longer. 

Students are on their knees by the end of each day and especially towards the end of term. Gove’s gruelling regime of tests, targets and intensive sedentary classroom work leaves them exhausted and often lethargic. 

The days they come home energised are when they have done after-school clubs. These are relaxed and they get to know their teachers, who put in goodwill hours. This will be sacrificed if the official school day is extended.

Diana SwinglerEast London

Defend rep to defend the union

The sacking of Unite union convenor Bryan Kennedy last week cements a disgraceful reputation for One Housing Group (OHG) in its treatment of union representatives. 

It follows the dismissal of Unison rep Debbie Cordrey in 2009 and more recently the sacking of Unison rep Winston Roberts. 

OHG’s chief executive, Mick Sweeney, said during a telephone conversation with the housing regulator at the time that Debbie was sacked for being a “subversive”.

The charge sheet against Bryan is threadbare, after the original allegations of bullying and harassment quickly collapsed. 

It could have been pursued through capability procedures.

Unite feels it is Bryan’s trade union activities that have resulted in him being given the push. 

Under his leadership Unite quadrupled its membership in OHG. 

And last year’s 11 days of strikes led to concessions of £2.3 million from the organisation as it attempted to impose deep pay cuts. 

Kevin Beirne, director of One Support, part of OHG, stated in a meeting during the pay dispute, “Bryan Kennedy is the problem”. 

OHG’s new department, One Direct, has seen a works council imposed on it.

That appears to be the desired model for industrial relations rather than facing a fighting union led by popular figures like Bryan Kennedy.  

One Housing Group Employee, Name and address supplied

Can workers stop the attack on our homes?

Britain’s homes are the smallest in Europe, according to new research by Cambridge University.

Meanwhile rents and prices are rocketing. Britain has a housing crisis. So what can we do about it?

Tenant-led campaigns have been effective against the bedroom tax.

Marxist academic David Harvey argues that community campaigns and squatting movements can take on the question of housing more generally.

He believes that housing is becoming more central to the economy—and that workers are no longer the main agent of change.

But will this be enough to stop council housing selloffs, rip off estate agents, slum landlords and speculative bubbles?

Or do we need to use the economic power of the working class?

Fran Manning, Kingston 

Vile Pickles is not welcome in our city

When Eric Pickles comes to Manchester this week, we’ll be there making a racket that can raise the dead. Let’s tell him he can’t silence dissent and he can’t have our homes and our jobs.

Pickles is the keynote speaker at the landlords’ Chartered Institute of Housing conference on Thursday of this week.

This is the man who tried to gag the whole of democratic society with a ban on the phrase “Bedroom Tax”.  

This is the man who responded to flooding by blaming the very organisations he had been cutting to the bone.

He has set about destroying local democracy, undermining jobs and services with massive cuts—particularly in areas where the Tories have no influence.  

The Tories talk about building “garden cities”. 

But Pickles is trying to take away the right to secure homes on one of the most successful real garden cities ever to be built—the largest council estate in Europe here in Wythenshawe.

Honor DonnellyManchester

What about Palestinians?

When Palestinian children are killed by Israeli forces it doesn’t seem to be newsworthy.

But when three Israeli teenagers were kidnapped in the West Bank I heard it on the BBC first. They haven’t said much about the collective punishment of Palestinians since then.

We sympathise with the Israeli teenagers’ families. Can’t we extend the same compassion to the Palestinians?

Jo HammondLambeth and Wandsworth Palestine Solidarity Campaign

Tories left us in darkness

This vicious government is intent on dragging us back to a Dickensian nightmare.

Lights are being switched off across the country to save money.

What next? Candlelight surgery in an ever more privatised NHS? The ruling classes are using this crisis to wage class war and punish the working class.

We need to fight back now so we can punch this government’s lights out indefinitely.

Jon WoolardChelmsford

We don’t want British values

I read with interest your article on the Myths of British Values (Socialist Worker, 21 June).

I have thought for a long time now that these false values are the same ones that the morons that support Ukip think are “great”.

Eric Purvison Facebook

Online spooks get personal

Many of us thought internet search engines could help us answer embarrassing questions that we wouldn’t want to ask in public.

But we are expected to share them with some snooping hack at GCHQ.

And recent reports have revealed that security services record a high proportion of perfectly consensual “sexting”. 

If the spies want to see a picture of my privates, they should have to ask like everyone else.

Geoff DexterBirmingham

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Article information

Tue 24 Jun 2014, 17:34 BST
Issue No. 2409
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