Tuesday 5 March 2013

The story behind Harris's academy aspirations

George Monbiot has given national prominence to the forced academy issue LINK which has attracted many comments on the Guardian website.

This comment sums up the issues very well:
Our local secondary schools were taken over by Harris, essentially forcibly. It's no coincidence that Harris is a donor to the Tory Party, and the Tory party are now repaying him. There's no clear information on how much money is now being channelled through Harris for these schools, but if you take an average secondary school budget of £3m-£4m depending upon numbers, you can start to see what big business this is. Harris is fast approaching £100m of taxpayers' cash.

Of course, much of this goes to the schools. But Harris also has set up two profit-making companies which he can instruct his schools to use for provision such as buildings and maintenance. I'm sure that there are also "preferred suppliers" for other services. In addition, Harris provide some services centrally - of course they would claim not to make a profit, but in 2011, the average cost of each member of the Harris Federation staff was over £80,000. His chief executive, and pet Gove advisor, Daniel Moynihan, paid himself a quarter of a million pounds. This came from school budgets. That's the salary of 3 headteachers, or nearly 10 new teachers.

This is just one academy chain. Dig into the others and you will find some equally odious developments.
We need to recognise what this is. Under the guise of Gove and Wilshaw's blatant lies about "falling standards", "dumbing down" and "failing schools", and aided and abetted by a mendacious Tory press happy to repeat obvious nonsense about academy status granting "freedom from LEA control" in areas in which the LEA never had any control, we are witnessing the outright privatisation of our education system.

Our schools are being handed on a plate to rapacious businessmen under the guise of school improvement, yet the real agenda is to marketise the system, remove schools from any local accountability, and allow businesses to reap huge profits from siphoning off money which we paid in taxes for our children's education. Gove and the Tories know this would never obtain public approval, so the lie is pushed again and again that this is a benign process to raise standards, but the events at Roke, at Downhills, at Kelsey Park and Cator Park, to name but a few, give the lie to this. This is a sell-off.

Labour have cowered on this issue because it was them who started this nonsense about academy status being the universal panacea, to cover up what they were really doing, which was rebranding difficult "sink" schools to try and change the intake. That policy worked up to a point as long as the intake changed. But it was always a nonsense to suggest that there was any connection between academy status and results - plenty of academic studies have now demonstrated this link is simply bogus. They are now facing the result of their own propaganda, and to stop this sell-off, they will need to face up to their own lies and mistakes, and admit that this is never what academies were about. Can you hear Twigg saying that ? No, I didn't think so.

Michael Rosen has also commented on the forced academies issue in his latest 'Dear Mr Gove' letter LINK

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