Socialist Worker

Resistance grows to Labour’s academies plan, where big business controls education

Issue No. 1950

The adademies programme is central to New Labour’s education policy for the third term. Academies are private schools which sponsors are given millions of pounds of public money to run.

The education select committee of the outgoing parliament called for a moratorium on the programme, but New Labour is pressing ahead anyway, with £5 billion earmarked for 200 academies.

About 60 people attended a meeting in the Packington community hall in Islington, north London, on Tuesday of last week as part of the campaign against the building of two new city academies in the area.

Parents, children, local people and teachers from Islington Green secondary, Moreland primary and St Mary Magdalene primary listened to a range of speakers.

Jane Coles of Goldsmiths College, a centre of teacher training in London, described how “parental choice” has in fact meant a return to selection as it is the popular schools that choose the children.

Christine Blower, deputy general secretary of the National Union of Teachers (NUT), called it a system of rejection as much as selection.

Islington Green NUT representative Ken Muller revealed that the sponsors of one academy, ARK, are mostly hedge fund speculators and merchant bankers.

The consultation exercise has been a sham. A parent from St Mary Magdalene told how the sponsors claim great support for the project, despite a large number of parents being against it.

At Moreland many parents only knew of the plans when union members gave out letters at the school.

Kate Jelly

Support for New Labour among lecturers has plummeted since the last election, according to a survey for the Times Higher Education Supplement.

The ICM poll found that while New Labour could count on the support of 61 percent of lecturers in 2001 that has now fallen to 41 percent.

A separate poll of students found Labour support down from 29 percent to 23 percent, just one point above the Tories.

The two polls came three weeks after the publication of evidence that the number of school leavers planning to go to university is set to fall for the first time in a generation.

The amount spent per student has dropped every year since Blair came in. One in five universities report that they plan to close whole departments.

Students will have to pay top-up fees from next year. A report by Barclays Bank predicts that in the next five years students will leave university saddled with nearly £34,000 of debt.

Part time students — who are often older, women, from ethnic minorities or from poorer backgrounds — are going to be particularly badly hit by top-up fees.

New Labour plans to make them pay the tuition fees upfront, not on graduation, as full time students will.

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Thu 5 May 2005, 00:00 BST
Issue No. 1950
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