NEWSLETTER - MARCH 2006
EDUCATION BILL THREAT TO GOOD LOCAL SCHOOLS FOR ALL
There are some positive things in the Government's new Education Bill, in particular the resourcing of personalised education and the strengthening of teachers’ rights to maintain discipline, but its main purpose is to change the way schools are run.
Self-governing Trust Schools are envisaged, with ownership transferring to businesses, faith groups, groups of parents, and anyone else who fancies having a go. These schools will have a high degree of independence from the local authority. They will have the right to select a majority of the governors, they will take over the ownership of the school buildings and land, and will have greater freedom in admissions than local authority schools.
Staff will cease to be employees of the local authority,and may lose their right to have their pay and conditions determined by collective bargaining. Their risk of redundancy will increase.
Fetishism for “competition” and the “market” is behind these proposals.
The idea is that parents will send their children to popular schools, which by definition must be better, and that unpopular schools will close. Schools will be encouraged to attract pupils from beyond their traditional catchment areas to enable competition to work properly. In order to prevent the better-off, more articulate parents from securing all the places in the popular schools, some families will be entitled to financial help towards bus fares.
In this free for all between schools, the successful ones are to expand quickly enough to reflect parental choice (those in built up areas presumably getting permission to demolish the surrounding housing estate), and the local authority will be expected to ”move quickly to close schools that are failing to attract sufficient pupils.”
To quote James Thurber "In this rat race, it's dog eat dog."
Will a Trust school be kept democratically accountable with the majority of governors automatically backing the Trust’s decisions?
Will the local authority’s admissions procedure prevent Trust schools from attracting the more able pupils, thereby improving their results and becoming still more successful ?
Will increasing social segregation be prevented, with the more affluent parents using the system?
Will a school facing difficulties – even temporary, surmountable difficulties – be able to develop long-term plans and attract staff with the threat of rapid closure hanging over it?
The answer to all of these questions, the NUT believes, is “No”.
Where the NUT stands
The NUT believes that all children should be entitled to free, high quality education that is publicly provided and publicly accountable. We want:
* a good local school for every child
* collaboration, not competition, between schools
* support for schools so that they can be at the heart of their communities
* for all local authorities, the ability to fully support their schools
* fair, equitable and sufficient funding for all schools
* partnerships between the world of work and schools, not the privatisation of education.
JOIN THE UNION'S CAMPAIGN
The Government’s White Paper proposes legislation to establish Trust Schools and Academies with considerable control over their own admissions. The NUT is asking you to contact your MP to express your concerns over the proposals. This can be done very easily by going to the NUT website at www.teachers.org.uk and clicking ‘White Paper’, then ‘Write to your MP’.
The model letter which comes up is ready to send except for a space at the end to set out your main concerns. You could use, “ The proposals have the potential to:
* Favour affluent and articulate families over those who are less advantaged
* Fuel damaging competition between schools rather then the collaboration needed to make the education service effective for all pupils
* Extend selection by ability and aptitude
* Remove the accountability of schools currently exercised by and through the local authority.
SERCO: THAT WILL BE ANOTHER £1.5M, PLEASE.
The Council has been asked by Education Bradford to dig into their pockets in order to balance Serco’s books. (Serco is the company behind EB).
They want an extra £1.5m a year just to maintain services at their present level, and to break even financially. Where would this money come from? 55% from the schools budgets, and 45% from the general education budget.
The Council’s Young Person and Education Improvement Committee heard how Serco expected to make a loss in the first few years of their contract to run Bradford’s schools and then make profits as standards improved and interventions became fewer. But this plan went wrong when Serco found themselves unable to raise standards to predicted levels. They also hoped to make profits out of traded services, which have not materialised.
When pressed what would happen if the Council did not release the extra money, EB representatives answered that they would have to review the present level of services to schools.
It is fair to say that the Committee was deeply unimpressed, and here is a selection of their comments:
¨ it seems Serco has treated the Bradford contract as a loss leader to gain entry to a potentially lucrative national market;
¨ perhaps Serco deliberately underpriced the contract initially in order to beat their competitors, knowing they would have to ask for more money later on;
¨ Serco has the Council over a barrel, as it’s either pay up or face a cut in services to schools;
¨ the company has been unsuccessful and now we are picking up the tab.
At least this latest price hike came as no surprise. Serco got an extra £1.5m per annum out of the Council in 2003, and another £1.35m per annum in 2005. There are no promises that more won't be asked for in future.
CAMPAIGN AGAINST ACADEMIES GETS UNDERWAY
Speakers at the public meeting organised by the NUT on February 7th left no doubt about the dangers of the ill thought-out Academy Programme.
Christine Blower, the NUT’s Deputy General Secretary:
• Academies threaten teachers’ conditions of service and comprehensive education.
• In many of the new academies teachers are already working longer hours.
• The right given to academies to select some of their pupils will drive a coach and horses through a local authority’s attempt to create a fair admissions policy.
Terry Wrigley, Senior Lecturer in Education at Edinburgh University, dispelled some of the myths about how academies improve pupil results.
• The DfES have compared improvements in academies with the national average, rather than with schools in similar circumstances
• Many of the improvements in Key Stage 4 results have come from changing to vocational GNVQs, each one counting as the equivalent of four GCSEs.
A parents’ action group from Thorne Trinity Academy in Doncaster told the meeting that the level of concern about what was going on at the new Academy was so great that 300 people attended their first meeting.
But academies, like most things that are bad for your health, are preventable. They have been stopped in Doncaster and London by determined opposition from teachers and parents.
"Nearly half of academies select their pupils."
A front page report in the TES, based on their own investigation of contracts signed with academies by ministers, reveals that
"Academies are using their independence to tailor their intake", and that almost half of the 27 academies - independent state schools, part sponsored and controlled by private finance - select some pupils by aptitude."
(Times Educational Supplement, 10.2.06)
The Public Meeting on Academies at The Midland Hotel
22 Edmund St, BD5 0BH.
Tel:01274 414664 - Fax:01274 414665