The Tories are out to wreck state education with a toxic cocktail of testing, funding cuts and privatisation.
Campaigners forced education secretary Nicky Morgan to withdraw a threat to force every school in England to become an academy by 2022. It was a humiliating defeat—but the fight is far from over.
Victoria Baskerville is chair of the Redbridge Against Academisation campaign in Redbridge, east London. She told Socialist Worker, “I don’t doubt that they’ve felt the pressure from people, but the small print says they still want all schools to be academies by 2022.”
The Tories also want to impose massive cuts—some London schools face funding cuts of over 20 percent.
Redbridge NUT union rep Mike Dance told Socialist Worker, “My school’s budget is tight. There could be cuts if we lose more funding.
“School management could target things they see as ‘non-essential’ such as teaching assistants. That will hurt children’s education.”
Victoria spelled out how the Tories will pressure schools to become academies. “The funding cuts mean lots of local authorities could be deemed as failing,” she said.
“The government has said it could forcibly academise failing local authorities.
“They’ve lifted the bar in terms of the Sats tests this year—meaning more schools will be deemed as failing. And they have said failing schools could still be forced to become academies. They have also said they’ll give money to good and outstanding schools to help them become academies.”
Fleur Patten, an NUT rep in Cambridgeshire, agreed. She told Socialist Worker, “Schools face a funding cut in real terms of about 17 percent. But if you become an academy you get a cheque! It is hard for head teachers to resist that.”
Fleur said the reason for the Tories’ academies drive is “ideological”.
“I work in an academy and it’s basically a private school paid for with taxpayers’ money,” she said. “I think the endgame is to get rid of the accountability and democracy that we have with state-run schools.
“It’s to say we won’t have an inclusive society, we’ll keep the less able children out. It’s to basically run education as a business.”
Victoria stressed that it’s possible to stop academisation and defend state education. She was part of a campaign in 2013 that successfully stopped Snaresbrook Primary School in Redbridge becoming an academy.
And she said parents are open to the arguments about what’s wrong with academy schools.
“This is about business people running schools,” she said. “There’s no accountability.
“Academy chains could get control of school land and sell it off.
“They can hire unqualified teachers. It doesn’t take much to get across what the problems are.”
Tories are in a mess over education—now is a good time to strike back
The plan to turn education into a business is bad for children, parents and teachers.
Sarah, an NUT member in Sheffield, described the situation facing an IT teacher friend. “They used to work five days with lessons one-hour long,” she said. “Since the school became an academy lesson times have been reduced to 50 minutes.
“They have to deliver the same number of lessons, planning and assessment—but it’s now squeezed into four days. They were given the option to leave or accept a four-day contract.”
Sally Kincaid is joint divisional secretary of Wakefield and District NUT. She said, “Our working conditions are children’s learning environment.”
Sally said many academies were “just making life more difficult for parents”.
“One academy in the area has changed its holidays,” she said. “So if a parent had one child in primary and another in secondary they won’t be off together.
“One parent has to pay £4 for the breakfast club in their eldest child’s academy. The youngest child in a primary school pays 50p.There are also stories of academies excluding children who it’s thought won’t get ‘good’ results.”
Simon Murch teaches in Sheffield and is on the NUT’s national executive committee. He told Socialist Worker, “We’ve heard lots of evidence about academies not serving pupils, parents or teachers well.
“One Sheffield academy has been advertising for unqualified teachers—which has got people angry!”
Fleur said, “It will be a different culture if every school becomes an academy. We will lose our terms and conditions—maternity leave, limits on working hours, holidays.
“It’s all of the things that we take for granted.”
And Fleur stressed that children will feel the impact. “When our terms and conditions are gone, kids could be made to come into school on Saturdays or do longer school days,” she said. “And the stress levels of children because of testing is huge. We deal with much more self-harm in our school than in the past. I have a tutor group where around 40 percent of students are on anti-depressants.
“Under the Tory plans Qualified Teacher Status would go. Academies can employ unqualified teachers. People are shocked about that.”
She added that the curriculum is being narrowed because only some subjects count towards “Progress Eight”. This puts results from certain subjects together to grade schools.
Fleur said, “Most children are being encouraged to take triple science, for example, instead of art. Science counts towards Progress Eight.”
But there is potential to push all of this back. The NUT is set to ballot teachers across England for strikes to stop the assault (see page 20).
Sally said, “The Tories are in a mess over education—not just over academies but with Sats tests too. It’s a good time to fight.”