Attack on Anti-Academies Alliance in Parliament

Janet Downs's picture
 23
7 February 2011: from Hansard Margot James (Stourbridge) (Con): Will my right hon. Friend investigate the activities of the Anti Academies Alliance, which is threatening a series of political strikes against any school seeking academy status?

Michael Gove: I am grateful to my hon. Friend for drawing the House’s attention to the activities of the Anti Academies Alliance, a group that is sponsored by, among others, the Socialist Workers party. There are a number of politically motivated strikes that some have been contemplating. I hope that Members in every part of the House will condemn any politically motivated strike action that makes children a political plaything. I also look forward to hearing from the Opposition Front Bench a clear and unequivocal condemnation of such activity.

Could it be that the Government are getting worried about growing opposition to Academies and free schools? Or why is it so anxious to brand the Anti Academies Alliance as a somewhat extremist organisation?
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Jon De Maria's picture
Tue, 08/02/2011 - 13:14

Janet - as one of the parents behind the Wandsworth parent campaign, we have been on the wrong end of some rough stuff from the AAA in recent months. This is because their treasurer Jane Eades lives in the borough. Jane is part of a small 5 person executive that runs the AAA. If you want to understand what lies behind the Hansard text you quote, then it may be worth spending 5 minutes 'googling' some of Jane's colleagues on the AAA executive. Jane has also started a petition in support of strike action at one of our local schools. I don't expect many people on this site to be objective about any of this but if you want to answer your own question, then looking at the people who run the AAA is a good starting point. The one thing I think we would probably all agree on is a dislike of any extremist group of any political colour. Our own parent group has been from 'day one' in July 2009 been wholly non-political - all we have been concerned about is educational choice in our borough and obviously the children themselves. We had cross party support (including that of Ed Balls) due to the strength of our case and now happen to be working under the free school policy since the coalition was elected back in May.

Marie Faulkner's picture
Tue, 08/02/2011 - 14:41

What these people forget is that this is an organisation brought about not by politicians but by parents and teachers! The real educationalists and it is unfair to label them all as extremist just for standing up for what they believe in! We live in a democracy and they're should always be discussion when concerning such important issues.

Rosemary Mann's picture
Tue, 08/02/2011 - 15:52

It just seems another attempt to silence objectors and er, democracy. I don't condone strikes in schools against such proposals per se but if staff feel their jobs are threatened and their children will be disadvantaged then these are as good reasons as any for strike action.
Lets swop some words around; lets ' condemn any politically motivated attempts to demolish the state education sector that makes children a political plaything'. Sounds better to me! Even better add some reference to 'rushed experimental educational provision'.

Janet Downs's picture
Tue, 08/02/2011 - 17:14

I have done as John de Maria said and googled the names. It took far longer than five minutes. However, this is what I found:
Bridget Chapman: NUT member
Alex Kenny: NUT member, member of Socialist Teachers’ Alliance
Alasdair Smith: Senior Lecturer in Education at London Metropolitan University
Jane Eades: ex director of Upper School, North Westminster Community School
Ken Muller, NUT member, member of the Socialist Workers’ Party. Featured in article in Times Educational Supplement 29 April 2005 concerning a disputed OFSTED report and destroyed evidence among other things. http://www.tes.co.uk/article.aspx?storycode=2095239

If I have missed some information I should be grateful to be given links, particularly if it refers to the “rough stuff” mentioned above.

I, too, would oppose extremist groups. However, the TUC, NASUWT, NUT, ATL, UCU, UNISON, UNITE, GMB, PCS, MU and FBU are all affiliated to the Anti Academies Alliance. Are all of these organizations extremists? Or has extremist come to mean “anyone who voices opposition to the Government”?

Jon De Maria's picture
Tue, 08/02/2011 - 18:48

I suppose that depends Janet on how far to the left one defines the SWP? For those interested in the politics of this stuff then the following may be worth a quick skim:

http://edmundstanding.wordpress.com/2011/01/29/the-national-union-of-tea...

janee's picture
Tue, 08/02/2011 - 18:50

Jon de Maria and various of his friends have been resorting to this sort of attempt to smear campaigners in Wandsworth, rather than respond to questions about the fairness of their campaign. At least one woman has said that had she understood the issue she would not have signed his petition.

To be clear about the petitions that Wandsworth Save Our Schools has created. One is for people to sign against Graveney School becoming an academy. This was because we were informed that students in the school were not allowed to run one. The second is not encouraging strike action. A ballot was held in Chestnut Grove against a possible change of employer. The staff voted to strike, without any help from me! We posted a petition to allow parents, students and other residents to support the staff and to urge the Governors to vote against academisation.

Is Jon de Maria really suggesting that, after living in Wandsworth for about 40 years and having taught in Wandsworth, I am not allowed an opinion? What about the parents, teachers, etc who are also involved in Wandsworth Save Our Schools? Are they also to be tarred by whatever he perceives to be my defects?

At least one person has been banned from Streetbook for this sort of comment. The Neighbourhood Schools Campaign do themselves no credit by refusing to engage is a sensible discussion.

Jon De Maria's picture
Tue, 08/02/2011 - 19:31

I don't recall saying anywhere that you were not allowed an opinion Jane. What I and many others object to is your ongoing agitprop that you have an entirely non-political agenda and that you are nothing more than a sweet old retired ex-teacher who only cares about your students. In my opinion, if you were a bit more honest then people would have much less of a problem with you - you are the treasurer for heavens sake of the Anti Academies Alliance and yet on Streetbook you posted you had no political connections. And please do not come back with your usual reply that just because you share a platform with the likes of Alex Kenny that doesnt mean you agree with him. There are only 5 of you on the executive, its not like its a broad church. Just how stupid do you think people are? As they say, it if walks like a duck, quacks like a duck, then - well, you know the rest.

Fiona Millar's picture
Tue, 08/02/2011 - 19:51

I recently shared a platform with Michael Gove - does that make me a Tory?!!

Laura Brown's picture
Tue, 08/02/2011 - 20:17

Do you quack like a duck Fiona?

Having spent quite a bit of time with Jane, who I met for the first time in Nov 2010, I don't think she is actually that far from Jon's description of a "sweet old retired ex-teacher who only cares about [her] students" although I imagine less of the patronising 'sweet' and 'old' would be appreciated.

Clearly, most people are 'political' to the extent that they vote etc and many also care about issues that affect people in their area. Jane is not a member of a political party and it is very clear to me that she is focused primarily on the issues and not the politics. Jane does not deny being a part of the AAA - I think she became involved after her old school became an academy and former pupils started complaining about some of the changes - seems a perfectly reasonably, non-revolutionary reason to get involved to me!

Tom's picture
Tue, 08/02/2011 - 21:11

"I recently shared a platform with Michael Gove – does that make me a Tory?!!"

I once shared a platform* with Johnny Rotten, but it didn't make me a punk.

* The London-bound one at Chiswick station

Jon De Maria's picture
Tue, 08/02/2011 - 21:13

Pull the other one Fiona, that's not even a remotely similar comparison! You and I also shared a platform not so long ago.

Jon De Maria's picture
Tue, 08/02/2011 - 23:54

Thanks for clearing that up Laura. If it is the issues that Jane and yourself are concerned about - one of which is effective use of taxpayers money in an age of austerity - can you tell me what action you will now both be taking to broaden your understanding of whether (or not) £70 million is a good use of taxpayers money to add additional pupil places that will cost £144,000 per pupil more than our new school will cost on a 'like for like' basis? One can only hope that if, for no other reason than logic or consistency, you will now also add that £70 million to your list of objections so that you are not accused of double standards?

janee's picture
Wed, 09/02/2011 - 13:52

I once worked at the Daily Telegraph!

It is interesting that Jon, in effect, is berating the Anti Academies Alliance for being open. The reason he knows who the officers are is because they are on our website. Perhaps he should follow suit. Could I also suggest that the picture on the NSC's website underlines one of my concerns in that it is not representative of the students which attend the 2 secondary schools rejected by the NSC members - Battersea Park and Chestnut Grove.

Despite everything Jon claims, my involvement in Wandsworth came about as a result of working in the Citizens Advice Bureau (at that time a very prim and proper organisation) followed by working in Wandsworth Council for Community Relations. I would be more impressed had the NSC supported the campaign to keep the York Gardens Library open, serving the most deprived part of Wandsworth. At a time when the Council is cutting services to those who need them most, I wonder if there is just a small amount of guilt hidden in the attacks on the people involved in Wandsworth Save Our Schools. Can Jon understand that it is possible to be committed to fairness and the community, without the big political label?

Laura Brown's picture
Wed, 09/02/2011 - 14:41

That is a very good point Jane - I don't even know the names of the other NSC committee members apart from what I've gleaned from much googling of newspaper articles. Unlike Toby Young and many other free schools, they don't have profiles of themselves on the website or even a list of their names - as far as I can see, unless you can point us in the right direction Jon? It is strange if this information is not available for all to see...

As to the BSF funding, the argument is pointless. There are thousands of pupils already in those schools who will be positively affected by that funding - I can't judge whether it could be done more cheaply but at least many many kids will benefit in established successful schools. In fact, many of the children who you are trying to attract could benefit from the £41m being spent on Burntwood as children are coming into that school from much further away than the Bolingbroke area.

Jon De Maria's picture
Wed, 09/02/2011 - 15:02

Jane - we are very much a 'single issue' campaign and will leave the library in your hands. There are two key (and objective) issues in relation to our campagn that both yourself and Laura continue to ignore - one is the council projection for an additional 1,600 11-16 pupil places by 2017 and the second is the £70 million issue I flagged above. You are very keen to hand out your WSOS leaflets locally connecting us to the closure of the library but stay silent on the £70 million expenditure (which equates to a cost per extra pupil significantly higher than our own new school). And where exactly do you think the 1,600 places should be provided (and more to the point how?) given the political climate we currently operate in? Further, you post on local forums that you have no 'political allegiance' (?!?), that our campaign did not have cross party support (it did and Sara Linton pulled you up on that) plus that ARK don't know how to run schools (they do and Francis Gilbert would also disagree with you on that one). I am very happy to arrange a school visit to one of the ARK schools for you and laura if you wish? And around the political context - which this thread was actually about - I note that this site has still not posted a link I put up about the NUT from last night? Frankly, going off on wild tangents about your past life or whether we feel any guilt or a picture on our website is just odd.

Jon De Maria's picture
Wed, 09/02/2011 - 15:48

It is quite incredible Laura that you so casually dismiss any debate around £70 million of current capital expenditure as 'pointless'. Your campaign against our school is as baseless in its rationale as it is shambolic. Pathetic.

Laura Brown's picture
Wed, 09/02/2011 - 17:32

I am not dismissing the debate on the 70 million, I am just saying that I am not in a position to comment on it given my lack of knowledge about the details.

However, I am very clear on the facts about your school proposal based on misleading statistics about your inability to get into local schools; with its public remarks about the need to "pay or move away" if you live in Wandsworth; and its exclusive admissions policy.

No-one denies that we may need more school places over time - the question is if we need them now, in the middle of our most affluent area, in a small school, in a listed building, organised by parents who have some level of self-interest influencing their decisions and with admissions that will exclude our most deprived primary school.

For a shambolic campaign, we certainly seem to have you rattled given the rather undignified tone of your posts!

Laura Brown's picture
Wed, 09/02/2011 - 17:39

Cross party support? Not any more - Martin Linton (Battersea's former Labour MP) may have supported you in the past but I believe the Council will be debating your school tonight with opposition to it led by our local Labour party.


Jon De Maria's picture
Wed, 09/02/2011 - 19:31

Laura - far from being rattled I am comforted by the absolute farce that your campaign is. If there was a semblance of logic or joined up thinking to anything you said then it may be a different matter. You keep doing what you are doing - that's fine with me.

Janet Downs's picture
Thu, 10/02/2011 - 08:26

I followed the links given by Ms Haynes (the last one isn't working). There were indeed some very hostile comments, one being from "local humanist" who used the debate as an excuse to rant against faith schools. However, it doesn't follow that all the hostile comments originated from the Anti-Academies Alliance. Neither are hostile comments limited to one side of the debate.

What this debate seems to show is how hostility and division arise because the Government has given one section of the population permission to ignore regulations (planning permission, school buildings regs) which apply to the rest of the population. Secondly, there is the huge secrecy around funding.

Janet Downs's picture
Thu, 10/02/2011 - 08:35

Mr De Maria seems to be implying that this site is censoring his comments because it hasn't given his link to the NUT.

Anyone wishing to read what the NUT has to say about free schools can use this link:

http://www.teachers.org.uk/freeschools

There is, however, no need to have a link. Just google NUT and you will find everything they say is out in the open which is more than can be said for the DfE who ignore Freedom of Information requests by, among others, the BBC.

John Davies's picture
Fri, 06/05/2011 - 16:41

A bit of history here note how the goal posts have moved to by pass the LEAs, even Blair did not go that far

Radio 4

Subject Education Action Zones Radio 4 25/5/98


Will they ever be given total control over a British state school. Of course it is the case all the way though that if companies are involved in education action Zones the have to abide by the rules set out for the way that schools and education authorities are run and they are run under the aegis of the Education Authority. So nothing disturbes the company itself from being profitable but they are not actually going to make profits out of the schools.[House of Commons Tony Blair]

Hugh Sykes [BBC]
So any company involved in an Education Action Zone will remain clearly answerable to the Local Education Authority. So that's all right then.

Well the NUT say yes that is all right, but so long as that stringent condition is strictly adhered to, and they give out copies of a letter from the Education Secretary, David Blunkett, in which he states the EAZ does not remove any powers from the LEA



But the General Secretary of the NUT Doug MacAvoy still sounds anxious about these knew AZs.
Doug MacAvoy
"I wouldn't want any parent to believe that an American company was going to come over here and run schools. If they come over her and are involved in an EAZ we are not opposed to that. Provided they do not make profit from the provision of education"


Hugh Sykes

But America that is exactly what the Edison project does do. Here the IEA is supporting Edison's bid for an EAZ. Their director of education, James Tooley, told me how Edison operates in America. The Edison project works in the USA is that it is contracted to run, to totally manage the schools that it takes over from the LEA equivalent.


And Edison make their profit very simply, if they fulfill their contract, under budget, they bank the difference. But how do they do that without making a profit at the expense of the schools that they run.

James Tooley Institute of Economics

"There are very simple ways in which we can see how it works. For example, a single school, a single primary school has got no clout with suppliers at all. A system of fifty to a hundred schoos [ so need more Free Schools and how much to be materials] can negotiate extremely good deals with the utilities, with computer manufactures, suppliers and so on, it can already start go get a terrific margin in that way".

Hugh Sykes

And he says everybody gains.

Tooley

"The teachers get better deal, 10% more pay the children get a better deal, computers in every home, network computers, parents trained in the use of the computers. A better liberal education curriculum, higher standards, its win win there is no way in which schools are squeezed in order to give that return".


Sykes

"But what he calls win win raises other questions.To get their extra pay, will teachers have to negotiate local pay deals ? Will they have to work a longer school day, take shorter holidays",

This is the NUTs Branch President in Bolton, Barry Conway.

Barry Conway

"If we have deals, local deals, set up, then what actually happens is we start to fracture the teaching profession. We don't want a situation where some teachers are getting huge amounts of money at the expense of teachers in other areas and this does not just fracture the teacher profession, but it fractures education".


But even it does require new terms and conditions for teachers it's all in a good cause says James Tooley.

"There's not enough investment in schools, teachers do not have high enough status, and children get a raw deal because there in environments where mediocraty not excellence reigns. And because of those conditions, you want the incentive structure of a private company to come and help transform that, in partnership with the public authorities."[note within partnership with the public authoritiies - well, that has changed, it is by passing the local democracy because the people have an annoying habit of voting Labour - or whatever]

Sykes

So the intetion is to help children like Alex and Rubin when they are heading for secondary school. At the moment there is only one local Comprehensive that their mother Sarah would dare send them to. It is oversubsribed, they live way outside the catchment area, but Sarah is still not convinced that AZs, that involving private companies are a solution.

Sarah

"If you look at other parts of the public sector where private companies have got involved in running it, whether its running the trains or hospital cleaning services, the private companies seem mainly involved in maximizing their own profit, rather than improving the standards of service. It would be very difficult hold them accountable"

And she has another point, how widely, she wonders, has all this been discussed ?

"I think the reaction of most parents is that most parents won't know that this is happening and, you know, that's the point, is that before such a major step is taken, there should be public debate, and there should be discussion about what the implications are"
[ well some things do not change secrecy of funding for Free Schools; the cloak and dagger methods of ARK quoting recent parents, opposing Academy in their area

And perhaps, one teachers union member suggested to me, the whole notion of EAZs is misguided. They will target schools in areas of profound social and economic deprivation, what you really need to do she said is is tackle the deprivation, not create these zones as a crucible for an experiment with semi-privatised school management.

Hugh Sykes


Radio 4 5pm News 25/05/98

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