Socialist Worker

Teachers slam Tory academy plan—and prepare for mass protests

by Sadie Robinson
Issue No. 2496

Sixth form teachers marched on the Department for Education last week - they are determined to defend education

Sixth form teachers marched on the Department for Education last week - they are determined to defend education (Pic: Guy Smallman)


The Tories want to force every school in England to become a privately-run academy—but the plan has sparked fierce resistance.

The shocking attack was unveiled last week. The Tories also want to stop parents being school governors and to get more unqualified teachers into schools.

It exposes the Tory lie that their school reforms are about increasing parental “choice” or improving standards.

Alasdair Smith is national secretary of the Anti Academies Alliance. He told Socialist Worker, “This is the destruction of state education. It’s hypocrisy.

“First we were told academies were about choice. Then they were about standards and giving schools autonomy. Where’s the choice and autonomy now?”

Academies are funded by the state but privately-run. Converting schools into academies involves a huge shift of wealth, in terms of land, buildings and resources, from public to private hands.

And it means parents, democratically elected councillors and others have less say over children’s education.

Some 100,000 people signed a petition in under four days opposing the academies plan and demanding a public inquiry into academies.Alasdair said the attack has unleashed a “wave of anger”.

“We’ve had 100,000 hits on our website in one day,” he said. “People understand that this has nothing to do with improving standards in education.

Influence

“It’s about privatisation and removing state control or parental influence in schools.”

Paul McGarr is a teacher and NUT rep in east London. He said the Tory plan will turn schools into “soulless exam factories”.

He added, “‘Lessons’ will become repackaged corporate videos or online lessons. Unqualified teachers will supervise rows of stressed and bored students.”

NUT union branches have called a protest in London on Wednesday. Similar protests are set for Birmingham, Bournemouth, Coventry, Derby, Lancaster, Luton, Newcastle and Nottingham.

The anger sparked by the Tory plan shows the potential to build a mass campaign to stop them in their tracks.

Paul said, “The government has declared open war on public education. It’s a war we have to fight and win.

“A Saturday national demonstration to defend education in the summer term could put thousands of people on the streets. And we need to drive hard for national strikes next term as a key part of our campaign.”

Alasdair added, “The key is to move quickly. Outside London people can organise protests outside their local authority or town hall to say we want our councils involved in education.”

The NUT’s national conference this weekend has the chance to lay out a campaign of meetings, protests—and strikes—to beat the Tories. It must seize it.

Protest against Tories’ forced academies—Wed 23 Mar, 5pm, Westminster Cathedral, Victoria St, SW1P 1QW. More info antiacademies.org.uk Sign the petition bit.ly/1UCe8fy

Academies - bad for children but good for business

Academies are bad for education. Tory and Labour governments have sold them as a way of raising standards and helping the most disadvantaged children.

In reality they do the opposite.

Exclusion rates per school are over five times higher at academies than state-run schools. They take fewer children who receive free school meals.

They have the “freedom” to employ unqualified teachers on lower pay—meaning a worse education for children.

The Academies Commission found that academies use “covert selection” to improve their results. Despite this it said results are not “markedly better” than other schools.

Half the schools in Britain’s biggest academy chain, the Academies Enterprise Trust (AET), were found by Ofsted to be failing in 2014.

This year Ofsted said almost half of students at AET secondary schools are in schools that are “less than good”. It added that poorer students do “particularly badly” in AET schools.

Academies are not about helping poorer children. They are about helping big business get its claws into the education system—and funnelling more money from the public to fat cat bosses.

The Department for Education spent £8.3 billion on academies between 2010 and 2012.

It admitted last year that more academies are “likely to result in an increase in public spending”.

Academies are a bridge towards schools running openly for profit.

Research from London’s Institute of Education in 2014 said academy trusts and their firms were grabbing “very large sums of public money”. It highlighted “conflicts of interest” in a number of academies.

The AET paid nearly £500,000 into the private business interests of its trustees and executives over a three-year period. Another trust, the Aurora Academies Trust, paid £100,000 to its parent company Mosaica Education to use its curriculum.

 


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