NEWSLETTER - FEBRUARY 2005
WHY WE NEED TO OPPOSE ACADEMIES
Bradford Council is considering a move which would have serious repercussions on our salaries and conditions of service, on children’s education and on the democracy of schools.
The NUT is aware of plans to persuade the Governing Bodies of some schools to step aside and to transform those schools into Academies. This is in addition to the two schools – Cathedral College and the CTC – for which plans already exist. Although the exact number of schools is unclear, a Yorkshire Post article on January 14th claimed that as many as five schools - Rhodesway, Carlton Bolling College, Greenhead, Nab Wood and Wyke Manor – have been considered for Academy status.
What would this mean for those schools?
* They would, in effect, be taken out of local authority control and turned into independent schools.
* They would be run by a sponsor who would receive the school budget directly from the Government. Expertise in education is not a condition for becoming a sponsor – Saga Holidays, Amey Construction, and Peter Vardy of the Reg Vardy car dealership are sponsors of some existing Academies.
* Sponsors often want their business or religious interests to be reflected in the running of the school.
* Teachers’ pay and conditions of service would be threatened as Academies do not have to accept the School Teachers’ Pay and Conditions Document, nor do they have to recognise trade unions.
* Fair admissions procedures could be disrupted as Academies are responsible for their own admission arrangements subject to approval by the Secretary of State.
* School democracy would be undermined as the sponsors can ensure a built-in majority on the Board of Governors. They need have only one member of the LEA on the Board, and are not required to have a teacher governor.
Teachers’ Pay and Conditions in Existing Academies.
There are at present 17 Academies operational in different parts of the country. The NUT has information on 14 of them. Of these:
Over half do not apply the pay structure and pay levels set out in the School Teachers’ Pay and Conditions Document
Almost half do not apply teachers’ conditions of service set out in the Burgundy Book
Several have longer working hours and more working days in the year
Almost half have no recognition agreement with trade unions
In only a minority of Academies have pay, conditions of service,working hours and union recognition all remained unchanged
Financial burden to other schools
Academies also bring with them the threat of a significant financial burden to other schools in the Authority. This is because when a school closes and re-opens its debts are wiped out and the responsibility for them transfers to the LEA. Four of the five schools mentioned above which are being considered for Academy status are in the red, and if they are still in this position when they close, the debt would have to be paid for by an increase in Council Tax (politically unpopular) or by the general education budget.
Teachers and Governors will be offered the carrot of new or refurbished buildings, and more control over their admissions policy, to persuade them to go for Academy status.
But in reality the carrot is miniscule when compared with the permanent loss of our rights to fair and decent pay and conditions, our rights to negotiate, and a fair secondary school system free from the influence of sponsors with their own agendas.
The move towards Academies in Bradford seems to be taking place behind closed doors. Is this because there has already been substantial opposition to Academies in other LEAs, for example in Doncaster and Waltham Forest?
The NUT will continue to oppose Academies and to press for plans to establish them in Bradford to be brought out in the open.
ED BRAD'S TARGETS TO BE LOWERED
Education Bradford/Serco are again asking the Council to lower their performance targets.
A significant proportion of their earnings for running Bradford schools comes from the number of targets, based on the results at key stages, they manage to achieve. The current target of closing the gap between Bradford results and the national average is proving far too difficult (and is it too cynical to say unprofitable?) so they want the targets made easier.
All schools were sent a questionnaire asking them to select from some target options. Only 34 responded, with a majority choosing the option which would compare Bradford with the ten biggest English cities. This is also the option favoured by EB. This is much easier to achieve and it is understandable that schools have gone for an option which could reduce the pressure on their staff.
What is not so understandable is why the previous targets, now described my most EB and Authority spokespeople as “unrealistic”, even “barking”, were signed up to in the first place. And why have teachers been put under pressure to try to achieve “barking” targets?
The request is to be considered by the Council. Politicians need to ask themselves whether the new targets are primarily about improving education in Bradford, or about improving Serco’s finances.
THE IMPORTANCE OF REPORTING RACIST INCIDENTS
Since the Ousely Report steps have been taken in Bradford to improve cohesion and understanding between racial and ethnic groups. The Linking Schools Project is one such step, allowing children to visit and make friends with other children of different ethnic groups.
An attempt to gain an overall picture of the extent of racist behaviour in schools is essential if the success of such projects is to be assessed. One important way of gaining this picture is through the use of racist incident forms.
Under the Race Relations Act, schools are obliged to record and report to the Authority (to Education Bradford in our case) all incidents which are of a racist nature. There are standard forms for doing this.
Many schools in Bradford make nil returns. What’s wrong with this, you may well ask? In some cases nothing, as there are schools that will not have had any incidents. On the other hand, the experience of many of our members does not tally with this large number of nil returns and suggests not that the picture is rosy but that the system is not working properly.
The reporting of racist incident forms should be easily available in school so teachers can fill them in without any difficulty.
FREE HEALTH AND SAFETY INFORMATION FOR SCHOOLS
“European Education Consultants” have reached an agreement with the Safety Advisers in the Occupational Safety Unit at Bradford Council, to offer all Bradford schools free membership of their health and safety web club. Joining this club will enable schools to access a wealth of health and safety advice and support, free of charge, for a year.
The NUT Health & Safety Advisor, Miriam Murch, recommends the website as a valuable aid to schools in their quest to eliminate health & safety risks to pupils and teachers.
“I think this facility will direct teachers to exactly the information they require, when they need it, and ensure that teachers’ time is used effectively. Those teachers responsible for school trips, for instance, can download a ready-prepared risk assessment from a comprehensive list of destinations. The risks have already been considered by those with past experience of taking children to a specific place, so teachers with no direct experience can learn from this. The website is well worth a visit.”
LINK TO EEC FLAMEFAST WEBSITE:-
If you are a teacher of young children, have you an adult sized chair you can use in the classroom?
There are dangers associated with the constant use of small chairs, especially over an extended period of time. The most common type of injury is to the back.
The problem is at present being investigated by the Health and Safety Executive.
Ask for an adult sized chair in your room, and contact the union office if you have difficulty obtaining one.
See the article in this month’s Teacher – page 35.
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