Monday, 12 July 2010

Lobby and Rally on BSF Cuts and Academies

An urgent lobby of Parliament has been called on July 19th over the cuts in the Building Schools for the Future programme which will affect Alperton, Copland, Cardinal Hinsley and Queens Park schools in Brent. It may also impact on the scheduled rebuild of the Crest Academies (formerly John Kelly Boys and Girls schools).

The BSF cuts are intimately linked with the academies programme because many local authorities were forced to convert schools to academy status to secure BSF funding. A cursory glance at the Michael Gove's notoriously unreliable list shows that there is a bias towards maintaining funding for academies and stopping it for community schools. In many areas only academy projects remain.  LIST HERE (Item 2) (As a good Green I am sending Gove some used envelopes so that he can use the backs of them to work out some more policies).

The Anti-Academies Alliance will be joining the lobby on the 19th July . There will be a Rally at Methodist Central Hall, opposite Parliament at 1pm followed by lobbying. The AAA's focus is on the Academies Bill which gets its second reading that day.  They state:

This Bill seeks to develop a 'revolution' in education policy by which academies become 'the norm'. As it stands, the Bill denies parents (or staff and the local community) the right to any consultation over the decision to seek academy status. It paves the way for an unprecedented deregulation and privatisation of schools. It will create the conditions for the undermining of Local Authority support for schools in vital areas such as SEN, admissions and behaviour. It will prevent the rational planning of school places in the future allowing dis-economies of scale to develop. The new 'free' schools it will encourage with mean other schools have to close.

On July 8th, Lord Hill of Oareford , appointed Academies Minister, wrote to schools considering becoming academies, on a number of issues including the Freedom of Information Act, Special Educational Needs, Consultation and Transfer of Land.. LETTER HERE The letter says that Academies will now be covered by the Freedom of Information Act on a par with maintained schools and that Part 4 of the Education Act 1996, covering Special Educational Needs will now apply to Academies. The section on consultation is weak requiring governing bodies of converting schools to only 'consult those person whom they think appropriate' before entering into funding arrangements with the Secretary of State. Further guidance is promised to be published on the DES website.

An Early Day Motion (EDM 135 02.06.10) has been tabled amending the Academies Bill to ensure proper consultation. You can e-mail your MP to sign it HERE. I suggest you amend the model letter on the site before sending it on.


Meanwhile it will be interesting to see Sarah Teather's response on BSF. She told the Wembley Observer (July 8th) that 'Brent schools had been led up the garden path'...'Brent children who desperately need new classrooms have had their hopes raised and dashed, only because Labour wanted parents' votes. The lasting legacy of the previous Labour administration is a string of extravagant election promises and not enough cash to pay for them'.

Six years ago when she argued in the House of Commons for Brent to be included in the BSF programme she didn't appear to think the programme was 'extravagant':

'The executive summary of the Government's consultation document, "Building Schools for the Future", stated: "School buildings are important to pupils' education." The research showed a clear link between capital investment and school standards. In practical terms, the budgetary pressure has prevented the council from taking action to replace the portakabins in the John Kelly secondary schools.

'Brent has a poor stock of school buildings; the lack of available cash for maintenance means that many have a large backlog of minor repairs that may well be more expensive to fix now than if they had been dealt with sooner. Brent is desperate to be part of the second wave of "Building Schools for the Future", which is due to be announced in the autumn. At the moment, some schools are forgoing expenditure in the hope—indeed the expectation—that BSF funding will be made available soon.'

Sarah Teather described the Tories' 'free schools' policy as a 'shambles' during the General Election campaign. I wonder if she agrees with Simon Hughes', Liberal Democrat deputy leader, speaking about free schools on the BBC Politics Show, 'It would be nonsense to take money that could be used for improving existing schools to create new schools'.

Anti-Academies Alliance Website HERE

No comments: