Around 200 parents met in central London today, Saturday, to launch a new campaign—Parents Defending Education.
Parents are furious at the Tories' education White Paper, which threatens to force every school in England to become an academy. But they are also sick of a system that is obsessed with testing and writes off many children as failures.
Catherine Toms and Charlotte Wolf are parents and teachers in London. Catherine told Socialist Worker, "There's a lack of evidence that academisation actually makes a difference.
"And education should not be a business, which is the risk with academies."
Charlotte added, "There shouldn't be competition in education, every child should have a good, local school."
Like many at the meeting she was heartened by the disarray engulfing the Department for Education.
The Tories recently withdrew baseline tests for four year olds and had to cancel a Sats test for seven year olds after it was leaked.
Tory MPs are also demanding that education secretary Nicky Morgan removes the plan for forced academies from the White Paper.
"It seems there are cracks appearing," said Charlotte. "Everyone is saying this isn't appropriate. I support strikes over this. It's essential—our voice has to be as loud as possible."
The NUT union plans to ballot teachers for strikes over the impact of forced academies and funding cuts. NUT deputy general secretary Kevin Courtney told Socialist Worker that teachers must fight even if the government retreats.
"The government may have to drop forced academies," he said. "But even if they do, their direction of travel is very clear. They want more academies and they are attacking local authority funding.
"It's absolutely right to press the point now. There is profound anger among teachers and I think it will lead to a strong ballot result."
Parents spoke about the devastating impact academies and the testing culture is having on children. Fiona Forrest, a parent in Lewisham, south east London, said children at her daughter's academy were publicly ranked on their test scores.
She said one child was bullied after being at the bottom and was "writing in her book that she wanted to kill herself".
Fiona told Socialist Worker, "I'm not particularly political, I'm just a mum. But I want to help give parents a voice.
"In my daughter's academy the money's dried up for children—but managers' salaries have stayed. You can't talk to anyone there about it. They just fob you off."
Author Michael Rosen denounced the "test-crazy regime" in education. He said the forced academy plan would mean the "theft" of buildings, land and schools by the private sector.
ATL union general secretary Mary Bousted said the Tories face "real problems" and said, "They're in trouble—we can win this."
"If we can't have inclusive schools, how can we have an inclusive society? We need to stand together and get rid of this government."
Parents applauded junior doctor Fiona, who compared the fight to stop academies with the battle to stop NHS privatisation.
Parent and teacher Lucy Cox attacked the harm that academies will do to children with special educational needs. She said the rate of exclusions from academies was "breathtaking" and hit vulnerable children the hardest.
Lucy said, "If we can't have inclusive schools, how can we have an inclusive society? We need to stand together and get rid of this government."
The campaign's launch statement pledges to oppose academies, testing and cuts, fight for a good school place for all and defend parents' involvement in schools. Parents left with plans for building resistance in their areas, including a "student strike" over Sats on 3 May.
Alasdair Smith from the Anti Academies Alliance told the meeting, "We need a movement of parents. Even if the White Paper goes, there is still the issue of testing. The fight will not be over."