Over 80 delegates from across the country met in Birmingham this weekend to launch a national campaign against city academies, as the Times Educational Supplement revealed how ministers “mislead” the public over the scheme.
Tony Blair insists that the academies policy is designed to combat “years of school failure”. In fact none of the schools closed to become an academy were actually “failing”.
As delegate after delegate showed, the policy has nothing to do with improving education, and everything to do with opening up education to the needs of big business, while ignoring the democratic voice of parents, teachers and local communities.
As one delegate from Manchester pointed out, all parents and teachers want new schools — but they should belong to us, not to big business.
Jill Russell from Darlington, north east England, explained how her children’s school, Hurworth Maths and Computing college, which is in Tony Blair’s Sedgefield constituency, was threatened.
The school is in the top 1 percent in the country. There are now plans to force it to merge with a nearby school, claimed to be the worst in the area, but in fact improving.
The new academy would be on a site next to an engineering plant and a planned waste tip, and next to an electric substation.
Jill talked about how the campaign was linking up with other local schools, as well as generating valuable publicity by asking for an anti-social behaviour order (Asbo) on the proposed academy.
The need for lively, outgoing campaigns that involve parents and the local community was reinforced by other speakers who had led successful campaigns against academies.
Tony Batchelor from the Sheppey Parent Action Group described how local parents had organised a questionnaire about the proposed academy. 70 percent responded, and 90 percent of those were against the academy.
Sara Tomlinson, secretary of the NUT teaching union in Lambeth, south London, described how teachers and parents forced education bosses to back off from plans to turn her primary school into an academy.
It was clear that the there is growing opposition to academies all over the country. Now we need to press the TUC, the NUT and other teaching unions to launch the national conference and demonstration agreed at last month’s TUC conference.
That conference agreed to set up national organisation, and an open steering committee will be held within the month.
It was agreed the network needed to share information and link the different campaigns, as well as producing campaigning material.
If you want to get involved in the campaign against academies, you can contact us via Birmingham NUT at firstname.lastname@example.org