The campaign against academies is gathering pace. Some 600 people packed into a public meeting at Downhills school in Haringey, north London, on Monday this week.
Parents, teachers and local residents were furious at plans by Tory education secretary Michael Gove to force the school to become a privately run academy.
Three other schools in the borough are also under immediate threat. Gove wants to force academy status on around 200 schools across Britain. But the audacity of his attack has sparked enormous and broad opposition.
Labour MP David Lammy addressed the meeting. He said Gove’s targeting of Downhills was about “ideology” and pledged to “stand up for our young people”. Lammy said that he wasn’t “opposed to academies” in every case. But lots of those in the room were.
Jane Coxon is a teacher at Downhills school. She told Socialist Worker, “We don’t agree with academies in any school. If private organisations run schools, there has to be something in it for them.
“Some will want to make profit. How will they do that? Will they cut services for children with special educational needs? Will they cut music? Would parents have to pay more for trips?”
Several school governors met with Gove’s representatives in December. Wendy Sugarman is one of them. “We asked them to wait until we could have a proper consultation and until we’d been inspected by Ofsted,” she told Socialist Worker.
“Then three days before we broke up for Christmas we got a letter saying they would make us become an academy this month. They want to take credit for improvements at the school. It’s disgusting.”
Gove says Downhills is “failing”. But lots of parents disagree. Sarah Williams told Socialist Worker, “I moved my two boys here in September. The atmosphere for learning is very inclusive. Every child is challenged and supported.
“It would be dreadful if it became an academy. It would be all about branding and nothing to do with education. But it’s not going to happen.”
People are confident that they can stop Gove. And if they force him back in Haringey it will help battles against academies everywhere.
Christine Blower, general secretary of the NUT teachers’ union, also addressed the meeting. Anna Gluckstein, a local parent and teacher, asked her how far the union would go to fight academy status. Blower replied that the union would consider strikes if the government refused to back down.
Lawyers for the governing body of Downhills school accused Gove earlier this month of illegally trying to force academy status onto the school.
Gove must respond or face a judicial review. Alasdair Smith from the Anti Academies Alliance said the judicial review was “important but not enough”.
He said it was crucial to “mobilise the whole community” to defend the schools. Fiona Millar, a campaigner and writer for comprehensive education, told the meeting, “You have got them rattled.”
Last week Gove, apparently with no sense of irony, denounced opponents of academies as “ideologues”. It is Gove who puts his free market doctrine ahead of the interests of students and education—while pretending to care about improvements. But he has failed to trick hundreds of people in Haringey.
Campaigners in Haringey will demonstrate in the borough against forced academies on Saturday 28 January. Go to www.hcaa.org.uk
The campaign to stop forced academies will be a big issue at this Saturday’s Anti Academies Alliance conference in central London. For details go to www.antiacademies.org.uk
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