It privatisation inevitable- and for primaries?

Rosemary Mann's picture
I am a parent of a reception child in a state school which is rated as outstanding in most aspects and very renowned locally. The Head has decided to take up a post within an expanding private chain, mostly secondary schools but with a primary on the way elsewhere, to build up their primary education concerns.
I would be a fool if I did not see a pattern emerge here and am worried, as a few others are, that he might have an eye on his school for the chain. At the end of the day there is reduced funding available for primaries who opt to stay in the state sector and locally there are two blossoming private chains who are promoting primary academies. It might not take much for several schools to give up the fight and opt to take the money.

As a parent I feel extremely depressed at the future of education in the UK. I have three very young children and do not know what is ahead for them. I am also saddened by what I see as no real opposition in government, but almost rubber stamping. The London Labour party issued campaigning leaflets for Ken Livingstone for Mayor in this years elections.Campaigners stood outside local schools and gave them out to parents. The leaflets said they were specifically for 'parents'. I was so incredibly shocked however to see that there was absolutely no mention of education in the leaflet, comprising two pages of A4.

If campaigns like this refuse to even register education on its ' family' agenda, , then what effective opposition is there to whole scale privatisation. The recent Guardian article almost also made me want to give up the ghost on this whole fight.

Why does Labour not want to address this issue?
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Janet Downs's picture
Mon, 30/01/2012 - 11:32

Rosalyn - I share your deep concern about what is happening to the English education system. Both Labour and Conservative have used education for propaganda purposes - bleating on about raising "standards" while increasing the focus on high stake testing and putting forward pet theories about education without even realising what education is actually for.

There have been successes - the London Challenge, the emphasis on STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) which was recently praised in the pan-European Eurydice report (completely ignored by by the government and the media); the policy of putting reading specialists in schools (now abandoned); golden handshakes for newly-qualified teachers to teach in challenging schools (also now abandoned) and the success of English pupils in the Trends in Maths and Science Survey 2007 when English pupils came out top in Europe (rarely mentioned by Government or media because it actaully shows English pupils doing well).

But this Government is pushing forward at ever-greater momentum the policies which began under Labour: academy conversion, private providers taking complete control of a school and promoting the mantra of "user choice" (which international research found was not necessarily linked to better outcomes because many high-performing countries don't allow user choice).

That's why Labour's opposition is so weak - they sowed the seeds.

Sarah Dodds's picture
Mon, 30/01/2012 - 18:26

As a Labour councillor I admit to holding up my hands in total dismay. If the Labour party do not exist to oppose this, just what is it that we are here for....?

Richard Hatcher's picture
Mon, 30/01/2012 - 20:23

I don't think the main reason for Labour's abject lack of opposition is because they're hamstrung by having initiated academies. After all, they can plausibly argue that the Coalition's academy policy is very different - a project to break up and semi-privatise the entire school system, not a misguided attempt to raise attainment in some socially deprived schools. The real reasons are two-fold: that Labour has no intention of supporting any active campaigns on anything, and certainly not academies; and the Blairite wing are comfortable with the Coalition's academy policy (see the Purple Book). Stephen Twigg's position on forced academies is made clear in the following questions and answers: against the policy, but not in favour of campaigns against them.

King’s Heath Labour Party arranged an open meeting with Stephen Twigg the shadow secretary of state for education on 28 January 2012. I asked a question on forced Academies.

I’m Richard Hatcher from the Birmingham campaign against academies. We are faced in Birmingham with 27 or so primary schools which are currently under huge pressure to be forced to become academies and in most cases they are strongly opposed to it. Earlier this week there was a strike by all the staff at Montgomery primary school, not far from here in Sparkbrook, and a meeting of over a hundred parents who are also strongly opposed to the school becoming an Academy. Will you support them in their campaign and others around the country who don't want to become an Academy? Your chapter in the Purple Book is entitled ‘Letting the people decide: redistributing power and renewing democracy’. Does that start right now?

Let me start off with this forced Academy issue because I'm very much concerned about forced Academies. I’ll come to the broader issue of academies later, where we may not agree. I've been particularly in touch with the situation in Haringey which has attracted a lot of attention in north London and I’ve also had some conversations with people in Leeds and Newcastle -- this is clearly a big issue across the country. Now I draw a big contrast in the way that Michael Gove is going about it and what we did in a project that I was responsible for called the London Challenge. Many of you will probably know Tim Brighouse from his time here in Birmingham, a fantastic educationalist, and after he retired from Birmingham we persuaded him to come out of retirement to work with me when I was a minister in setting up the London Challenge. We saw that there were secondary schools in parts of London that were struggling -- I don't use the word failure - struggling in difficult circumstances. We wanted to support them to improve, not by forcing them to go down a particular route. Now some of them did become Academies and there was a debate around that, but we did that in partnership with governors, parents and local communities. If you read the speech that Michael Gove gave a couple of weeks ago at one of the secondary Academies in London about Haringey, he spoke as though the Labour council in Haringey had no interest in schools that were underperforming. I've spoken to the leader of Haringey council and I've spoken to David Lammy the MP Tottenham and nothing could be further from the truth. And this is part of the difficulty, that some of the schools that the Department is referring to are underperforming. I do worry about schools where half the children are leaving without getting their expected levels in English and maths, but what I would be doing if I were Michael Gove is working with the schools, working with the local authorities, to get solutions that are workable for those schools, and I worry to be honest in terms of Academies, when we come to the question of Academy freedoms, whether the best thing for a school that is struggling is to have more freedom, often what it actually needs is more support and challenge.

But will you support their campaigns, that's the question?

I'm not going to do is to fall into the trap that Michael Gove wants me to fall into, which is to appear to be defending every single school that is underperforming. I have said, and I'm happy to repeat it, is that I don't think that forced academies is the way is the way to bring about improvement.

So you won't explicitly say that you support campaigns against them?

I'm not writing a blank cheque for every campaign because it depends on particular circumstances and I need to look at the particular circumstances of the school here.

So you're in favour of some forced Academies?

I'm not in favour of forced Academies but I'm in favour of some Academies and you're clearly not, you're against all Academies.

My question was specifically about forced Academies.

You started by saying you were from the campaign against Academies, and I'm not against all Academies because some of them have done a brilliant job, I visited one in Liverpool yesterday that is doing extraordinary things and I know there are other Academies that have done so as well. So I don't take an ideological position against Academies, it would be ridiculous to me to do so because I was involved in setting some of the first ones up. What I do say is that Academies should be developed in partnership between the national and the local. That's what we did and that is absolutely not what forced Academisation is, which is why we don't agree with it, but I'm not going to write a blank cheque….

Rosemary Mann's picture
Tue, 31/01/2012 - 11:08

Well . Is he going to write any sort of cheque? If Labour don't agree with forced academies what they are going to do about it? Apart from the nothing that they seem to be doing now.

As a parent I dont like the concept of academies at least at primary level because I dont want the concerns and interests of private businesses dictating the education of my children. I perhaps am therefore ideologically opposed to it but am not apologising. I just dont trust that sort of arrangement.

I have experienced private nurseries and pre schools and whilst I have no specific complaints about the ones I have experienced or the adherence to the EYFS I feel I have no real voice or real say. It is generally all about accepting its their way or the highway. Having a 'contract' between parents and the school is not the issue. I have known some who just boot out the kids of parents who raise concerns or complaints about their standards or things that happen. I live in an area where there are lots of private schools with good reputations however I still know people who have experienced the rough edge of what can become a very closed shop just because their kids have specific educational needs or experience some challenges. Throughout there are pressures to cut costs. Some private schools around here don't have trained teachers to the usual standard as this is not a requirement.

I suspect that the theories about our school being approached by chains might yet materialise. Most LA schools in this area have performed very well and our borough has a great reputation for academic excellence without I have to say of having to be an academy so effectively we are ripe for the picking. However being a ''supermarket' parent is not something I look forward to.

Alasdair Smith's picture
Tue, 31/01/2012 - 12:54

First, privatisation is not inevitable. It can, and is being resisted (see )

But second, don't be too harsh on Ken Livingstone. Education is probably not in the leaflet as the Mayor of London has very little role in education. We do however urgently need a sensible discussion about how support London's schools before the free market destabilises the whole thing!

Rosemary Mann's picture
Wed, 01/02/2012 - 09:24

Hi, I think it can be resisted on a case by case basis but I think overall people are feeling that the tide is already turning and theres no point. What is needed is some sensible opposition and alternatives from more middle ground. People just see the AAA as too left wing and reactionary. Also people's energy, especially, that of parents, is limited enough with juggling jobs, childcare, and education, to take on the system.

The leaflet issued was also endorsed by the local party and the GLA representatives and again, given that it was specifically aimed at the school gate, should have a least started to address education at least in part. I am also finding my local councillors lacking in interest in this issue I have to say. Anyway, we live in hope!

Marigold Doyle's picture
Fri, 03/02/2012 - 13:39

Hi Roslyn, my children's primary school is under threat of being forced to become an academy against the wishes of the governors, staff, parents and local community. Despite it being over 'floor target' for the last couple of years and on a clear upward trajectory.

I'm also in despair - this is so much worse than anything even Thatcher came up with.

Alasdair Smith's picture
Sat, 04/02/2012 - 15:27

Hi Marigold i don't think we should despair. Parents at Downhills have shown it can be resisted. There is no guarantee of success but it is better to fight. The Anti Academies Alliance is keen to help fight forced academies. Why not get in touch?

Rosemary Mann's picture
Sat, 04/02/2012 - 16:51

Since parents were advised of the Heads resignation a few weeks ago nothing further has been heard on the subject. Perhaps its unrealistic to expect anyone to tell us anything at all within that timescale? I dont know how things normally work in this case. My husband and I have written twice now to the Chair of Governors by e-mail asking them to advise of the process for appointing a new head and querying some of the outline cover arrangements briefly referred to in the one piece of communication that we have had. We havent even had an acknowledgement of receipt? Again, perhaps this is unrealistic of us to expect something so soon. I have no doubt that they are giving the future a lot of thought its just I dont know when parents are usually informed as to the new appointments. I may be a little paranoid but I dont want to find parents presented with a fait accompli in respect of academy transfer or takeover.
If anyone has any advice on this it would be appreciated. It may the end work out well and we remain in the state system. Its just that noises made previously by the senior leadership team leave me in no doubt where they stand on the subject; they relish the prospect of more independence of decision making. However that should not be the only consideration.

Fiona Millar's picture
Sat, 04/02/2012 - 17:34

Has the head teacher left the school?

Rosemary Mann's picture
Sat, 04/02/2012 - 19:09

No, he is still there until the end of term. Perhaps I should approach him thinking about it!

Fiona Millar's picture
Sat, 04/02/2012 - 21:09

I think that would be a good idea. The governors are probably meeting to discuss the process for recruiting a successor so may not necessarily have much to say at the moment. Maybe ask the parent governors too?

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