Wednesday, 30 June 2010

Coalition Academies: The Battle Begins

The demonstration outside Claremont High School on Tuesday

There was a swift and determined response to Claremont High School headteacher's announcement that he wanted Claremont High School to apply for academy status, when demonstrators gathered outside the school yesterday. They gave out leaflets setting out the issues to the 1500 pupils to take home to their parents.

The protesters said that the headteacher, Terry Malloy,  had made the announcement before he had consulted the staff, parents or even the governors. They added that if the school does not consult parents and teachers further action will be taken.
Hank Roberts, Brent ATL and NUT Secretary said, “Democracy is non negotiable”. Shane Johnschwager, Brent NASUWT Secretary said, “The teachers and education unions are totally united on this. As soon as these headteachers attempt to undermine accepted democratic values we have to hit them hard and fast and we make no apology for it”.

The letter to parents included the following points:

  • You as parents have not been fully consulted on this significant change.
  • Your child's teachers have also not been fully and properly consulted.
  • The headteacher has gone to the press before discussing this matter at a full meeting of the Governing Body
  • Of the 8 oustanding schools in Brent onlt two have indicated they have any interest at all in even considering this proposal. The clear majority of Brent's oustanding schools value the role of the Local Authority and do not want academy status.
  • Statutory provisions and professional services currently provided by the Local Authority, such as Special Educational Needs and School Improvement Services, would need to be provided by private firms and paid for by the school. This would come out of any additional funds.
  • Any serious problems encountered by the school would leave them isolated and without council support.

Tuesday, 29 June 2010

Academies Rule OK- Sarah Teather

On Sunday's blog I asked, "How long can (Sarah Teather) go along with undemocratic, cash grabbing academies and the 'shambles' of free schools?"

It didn't take long for her to respond!  In a written answer published yesterday,  as Minister of State for Children and Families, she said:

We will reform the school system so that children with special educational needs and disabilities get the best possible support. We will halt the unnecessary closure of special schools, improve diagnostic assessment for schoolchildren, and remove the bias towards inclusion. We have introduced legislation to make it possible, for the first time, for special schools to become academies. We are committed to offering special schools the additional freedoms that we are giving mainstream schools.

So it seems that she is going all the way with academies that she opposed back in 2007 and with 'free schools' that she dismissed as a 'shambles' during the General Election campaign. Added to that she appears to be suggesting that children with special needs and disabilities should not be integrated into mainstream schools.Umph!

Monday, 28 June 2010

GREEN GONE WRONG How the Economy is Undermining the Environmental Revolution

Heather Rogers is the author of the book with the above title published on June 14th 2010. An event to discuss the ideas in the book is being held on Wednesday 30th June at the ICA, Carlton House Terrace, SW1 5AH

£12 / £11 Concessions / £10 ICA Members

Heather Rogers and Kirsty Wright explore the rapid expansion of environmental production and consumption worldwide and the way in which we are coming to rely on consumerism as the solution to the very problems it has helped to cause. What are the structural forces that led us to this place, and who is paying the price? Do we have the capacity to find solutions that are not mere palliatives, but ways of engaging with how we live and what kind of world we want to live in? And who is challenging the big business-as-usual approach and proposing social change as a solution to climate change?

Kirsty Wright is the climate justice campaigner at the World Development Movement. She has been involved in the worldwide ‘Climate Justice Now!’ network and recently returned from the People’s Conference on Climate Change in Bolivia, which was organised as a radical response to the failure of the UN talks in Copenhagen.

To book, please call the box office on +44 (0)20 7930 3647, or online here:

In association with the World Development Movement

Sunday, 27 June 2010

Claremont headteacher rises to the academy bait

Getting 10% more money (at the expense of other schools and centrally provided services) and more curriculum freedom (which the Green Party argue all schools should have), is the bait provided by the government to entice schools to become academies - and Terry Malloy, headteacher of Claremont High School in Kenton has swallowed it hook, line and sinker. He remarks, 'It enhances your income giving you more money to spend on pupils and that's a good thing.' As someone remarked this is a cash grab that will deprive other schools of income and ruin central services that provide support to all schools.

Malloy was speaking somewhat prematurely as the issue has not yet been discussed by Claremont's governing body. That was another government ploy: they wrote to headteachers rather than governing bodies with the 'academy offer' revealing their disregard for the democratic structures currently in place in schools. Headteachers are in charge of the day to day management of schools, governing bodies are responsible for their strategic direction. Changing status is clearly a strategic matter and governing body as community as well as school representatives should take account of the wider impact on other schools and the community.

Labour having so strongly backed the Trojan horse of academies under Blair and Brown are now backtracking, but lack credibility. Ed Balls, speaking to the Guardian, claims that Labour's academy programme was 'a progressive and comprehensive education policy' and 'What the Tories are proposing is a total perversion of that policy. It will be focused on the schools that are already doing well not those who need extra support. And for all the rhetoric about parent power and decentralisation it will remove the requirement to consult local parents or the local authority and will mean thousands of schools reporting directly to the secretary of state.'

In fact under Labour academy governing bodies appointed governors and the academy sponsor was guaranteed a built in majority. The role of local authorities was only latterly partially restored and academy agreements made subject to agreed admissions criteria. We in Brent know how little consultation there was with local parents and community over the Ark Academy and also remember the council survey (quoted recently by John Christie, Brent's Director of Children and Families against the Coalition policy)that showed the majority of Brent residents wanted schools to be run by the local authority - not by charities, private sponsors or faith groups.Labour had already prepared the ground which the Tories are now  enthusiastically occupying.

Sarah Teather Lib Dem, Brent Central, now Children's Minister, was strongly opposed to Labour's version of academies when she was shadow minister for education, but was demoted when the Lib Dem party leadership changed and their policy softened (just in time for Brent Lib Dems to change their line on the ARK Academy). Now in the Coalition she is having to support an even worse version of the Labour policy she so vigorously criticised. During the General Election campaign she described the Tory free school policy as a 'shambles, unless you give local authorities that power to plan and unless you actually make sure that there is money is available, it's just a gimmick'.

 "Trust in me"

Michael Gove, behind the polite, mild manner and silver tongue,(resembling Kaa in the Jungle Book) is a right-wing Conservative who is implementing potentially devastating, ill-thought out policies at reckless speed. He is Teather's boss - how long can she go along with undemocratic, cash grabbing academies and the 'shambles' of free schools?  The fig leaf of the Lib Dem's pupil premium, on the back burner anyway, will not make up for the cuts and privatising that will wreak havoc in local schools.

The rump regroups

According to a blog on UK Polling by ex-Brent Conservative councillor, later Democratic Conservative; and Independent parliamentary candidate, Atiq Malik, all Brent North Conservative Constituency officers have resigned. New elections will take place at an Extraordinary General Meeting on July 22nd 2010.

Despite a strong showing elsewhere the Conservatives did poorly in Brent North with Barry Gardiner increasing his majority for Labour. There was internal controversy about a very late candidate selection which left Harsh Patel, the Conservative candidate very little time to establish himself. This was coupled with the announcement by Bob Blackman, shortly before the poll that he was not going to stand as a councillor in Preston ward and that he would resign his leadership of the Conservative Group after the election. In the local elections the Tories were left with a rump of only 6 seats, all in the north of the borough, compared with 15 at the previous local elections.

Breathing New Life into an Old Church

Old St Andrew's Church in Kingsbury is probably the oldest building in Brent and our only Grade 1 listed building. Drama Workhouse, a local community group that used to be based at the Dudden Hill Community Centre in Willesden, are the new users of the building. They have secured Heritage Lottery Fund money to survey local residents on how the building can be developed. The vision is to bring the church back to life as a vibrant and dynamic Heritage and Cultural Centre connecting it with the wider community.  Drama Workhouse  want to ensure that activities cater for people of all ages and backgrounds. The survey can be found HERE.
The deadline is July 2nd 2010

Saturday, 26 June 2010

No Tube Services Please - We're Brentonians

The lack of tube services for Brentonians yet again this weekend caused local activist Dan to seek an explanation... 
At last, I've got it: it's part of a Transport for London / Brent Council / Boris Johnson initiative to get people off the tubes and onto their bikes to make the most of the glorious summer weather, and inhale more of that lovely EU limit-busting fine particulate matter that causes exacerbation of respiratory conditions, heart disease and premature death, thus keeping the NHS and funeral directors gainfully employed.

The London Guantánamo Campaign invites you to...

Date: Saturday 26 June 2010   
Time: 2-4pm    
Venue: outside the US Embassy, Grosvenor Square, London W1A 1AE (nearest tube: Bond Street/Marble Arch)

Speakers include:
Yvonne Ridley, Journalist
Baroness Sarah Ludford, Lib Dem MEP for London
Ilyas Townsend, Justice for Aafia Coalition
Joy Hurcombe, Brighton Against Guantanamo
John Clossick, Stop The War Coalition
Liz Davies, Chair, Haldane Society of Socialist Lawyers and others

Tuesday, 22 June 2010

No anti-EDL demonstration in Wembley as attention shifts to Barking

After its meeting tonight Brent and Harrow UAF said they had been overwhelmed by the tremendous support they had received from the entire local community and the 40 Brent Labour councillors in their stand against the English Defence League (EDL).

They said that at present they do not now expect the EDL to come to Wembley on Saturday and will not be holding a demonstration. However, they will be ready for a united demonstration of community solidarity, at any time that the EDL  may venture into the area. The EDL are not welcome here.

Meanwhile the EDL is taking its delusions and distortions over to Barking this weekend where the BNP are standing in a by-election. The UAF will be making opposition to racism and fascism in Barking a priority and will be mobilising against them.

Brent and Harrow UAF hope to organise an event in the Autumn which will celebrate the enormous strengths of our diverse borough and demonstrate that we will not tolerate attempts to divide us.

Check this blog for any further information in the run up to Saturday as the situation remains fluid

A budget for pointless austerity

 Commenting on today’s “budget for pointless austerity,” the UK’s first Green MP Caroline Lucas said:

“In spite of the Chancellor’s protestations, this budget was neither unavoidable nor fair. Instead it was a massively failed opportunity to shift the economy onto a fairer, greener pathway.

“Devastating public spending cuts of the sort announced today are not ‘unavoidable.’  They are not an economic inevitability – they are an ideological choice.

“Nor was this budget fair. A VAT rise, benefits cuts for all, a public sector freeze, and swingeing cuts in most government budgets of 25%, will all of them hit some of the poorest hardest.”

Sunday, 20 June 2010

Cuts: the callous con trick - Caroline Lucas speaks out

New report proposes tax-based alternative to spending cuts – and calls for massive investment in job-creation

Green Party leader Caroline Lucas MP will this week tell the coalition government there is “no good reason for any cuts in public expenditure during the life of this parliament.” 

On Monday 21 June Britain’s first Green MP is to issue a new report – Cuts: the callous con trick  – in which she will make the case that cuts are unnecessary “because the economy could instead be rebalanced using additional tax revenues.”

The report, written jointly with tax expert Richard Murphy and Colin Hines of Finance for the Future, condemns the government “for failing to put to the electorate the option of fair tax instead of cuts,” and accuses ministers of increasing the likelihood of a double-dip recession.

Cuts “are not an economic inevitability but an ideological choice”

Caroline Lucas said today:
“Cuts are not an economic inevitability. They are an ideological choice. Politicians of all parties are now sharpening their axes to slash public spending, forcing those on lower incomes, who depend on public services the most, to pay the highest price for the recent excesses of the bankers.

“There is a choice. We should ask those best able to pay to foot the bill through fairer taxation. That’s the challenge I’m issuing: for that political choice to be made. It must be clearly asserted that we are not all in this together: that some had more responsibility for this crisis than others, and some benefited more from the boom that preceded it. Those who enjoyed the largest benefits must pay up now. For that to happen, fair taxes, not cuts, must become the new big idea to replace today’s callous and uncaring cuts fanaticism.”

Tax avoidance and evasion “truly staggering” – could be as high as £100bn a year

“The UK is currently one of the most unequal societies in Europe. But the financial crisis offers us an opportunity to rebalance the tax system. We could do it, for example, by applying the 50% tax rate to incomes above £100,000, abolishing the upper limit for national insurance contributions, raising capital gains tax to the recipient’s highest income tax rate, and helping lower earners by reintroducing the 10% tax band.  

“Moreover, the huge extent of tax avoidance, tax evasion and unpaid tax in the UK economy is truly staggering.  HM Revenue & Customs themselves admit that tax evasion and avoidance together come to at least £40 billion a year, whilst in November 2009 they also admitted there was £28 billion of unpaid tax owing to them. Shocking as these numbers are, some experts have suggested that tax evasion – that’s deliberately breaking the law to not pay tax – might be as high as £70 billion a year, and tax avoidance – in other words, exploiting loopholes in tax law – might be £25 billion a year. That would take the total target for necessary action to collect tax due and owing to more than £100 billion a year”

Cut tax abuse, not tax-collectors’ jobs

“Whilst these appalling losses to the nation’s coffers are occurring, HM Revenue & Customs are pursuing a programme of job cuts which will ultimately reduce their own staff by 20,000 – close to one quarter of the total. This makes absolutely no sense.  This programme should be reversed, staff re-employed, and local tax offices re-opened in order to tackle tax abuse. It has been calculated that at least £15 billion of extra tax could be collected each year as a result.  That could prevent a massive range of cuts”.

Richard Murphy, tax expert, chartered accountant and co-author of the report said :
“Our report sets out a range of additional options for changing the tax rules for the UK so that more than £40 billion of additional taxes could be raised each year by the end of the life of this parliament.   That, together with the tax collecting efficiency savings already noted, would together deliver more than £60 billion of tax revenues for the UK – so preventing the need for any cuts at all.”

“A government really can spend to save the economy when in a recession. During this one, borrowing has been smaller and unemployment lower than forecast because of the measures taken by the last government to stimulate the economy. This report argues that a Green New Deal involving public and private investment in a massive labour intensive UK wide energy saving programme and a rapid shift to renewables should be the basis for continuing that programme of support for our economy. This would ensure that we come out of the recession better equipped for the future we’re going to face.”

Caroline Lucas concluded:
“Fairer tax not cuts must become the real battleground of this new Parliament. It is the debate the Coalition and Labour alike must embrace. As the full ghastliness and unfairness of the cuts become ever clearer, the public clamour for fairer taxes rather than cuts can only grow.”

The report can be read  HERE