Sunday 26 January 2014

Let Gove and Wilshaw spit blood - we'll organise for an alternative

Following on from the successful West London Education Question Time last week, I attended the Anti Academies Alliance AGM, and left optimistic that at last the agenda supported by both Michael Gove and Michael Wilshaw (their squabble is more about power and ego than policy) is being challenged on a broad front.

The AAA recognised the connection between the neoliberal privatisation and austerity agendas by agreeing to affiliate to the People's Assembly. They agreed to participate in developing the education policies and actions of the PA and to support their local and national activities that accord with those of the AAA and the National Campaign for Education.

The importance of democracy and accountability highlighted by the struggles around  academisation was the subject of a motion on Parental Ballots which was agreed by the AGM.

The notion read:
The AAA notes
  • that many of the schools converting to academy status - voluntarily or forced - are doing so without proper consultation of parents
  • the recent decision of Barking and Dagenham Local Authority to organise ballots of parents in schools facing academy conversion
The AAA believes
  • that parents should have the final say on the status of their children's schools
AAA calls
  • on all governing bodies in any school consulting on academy status - whether by choice or by direction - to hold a ballot of parents
  • on all Local Authorities to organise parental ballots for all schools converting to academy status
I hope that Brent Council will take note of Barking and Dagenham's policy and adopt it. But B&D have gone further winning an historic injunction, alongside governors,  in the High Court preventing the imposition of an Interim Executive Board and an Academy Order on Warren School.(1) After Warren went into special measures a year ago a partnership was established with Rober5t Clack School and Warrens's results have risen by 16%.

The Director of Children's Services at B&D had said:
I believe the Secretary of State's proposal will disrupt the progress made, and could negatively impact on children's education.
The ruling by Mr Justice Collins is itself very interesting as he not only questions the decision itself, saying. 'It appears to me this decision should never have been made' but also questions the legislation which allows such decisions to take place in the face of local demoracy and th best interests of the children concerned.

The Judge said:
This is an extraordinary piece of legislation (Academies Act 2010). The Secretary of State has wide powers to make am IEB (Interim Executive Board) and AO (Academy Order) and thereafter consult. On the face of it that is crazy. How can he be impartial by consulting thereafter?
He went on:
(It) seems from reports the present Secretary of State thinks academies are the cat's whiskers - we know of course some of them are not.
Cllr John White, cabinet minister for  children's services, and Michael Pavey's equivalent in Barking said:
This (injunction) is a victory for both common sense and the education of our children. Our position remains that the improvements at the school, and the arrangements we have in place, are having a very positive impact on outcomes for children, and as such, imposing an academy will be disruptive to children's education.
This follows on from the Snaresbrook Primary school's victory against forced academisation where an effective parental campaign was backed by the senior management team of the school, the governing body and the local authority.

Even in Hammersmith and Fulham flagship Tory borough, the decision to close top performing  Sulivan Primary School to make way for a free school, has stubled with the Scrutiny Committee's decision to call in the decision.

There seems to be the potential for a cross-party and non-party campaign to at least slow down Gove's juggernaut.  This is only a small step though because the three main parties are still wedded to neoliberal ideas of education emphasising marketisation and the producing of children who are 'fit for work' or even in the case of some academies and free schools, 'fit for military service'.

We must both win small victories to slow down Gove's reforms but also build and win support for alternative ideas about what education is for, how it is organised, and how decisions are made.

Having been elected to the National Steering Committee of the Anti Academies Alliance on Saturday I hope to make a contribution to this strategy.

(1) Acknowledgements to paper circulated at AAA AGM

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Michael Pavey knows what happened at Barking and Dagenham and he will know what Justice Collins' words were on the matter. He will also be aware that the outcome there bears directly on current situations he is responsible for. His reply and his comments on these matters are taking longer than they should and we can only assume he is weighing his words carefully. However, if there is any further delay than a few days he should be made to explain his silence and provide a date by which he will have issued a response. At the open meeting on the forced academisation of Copland before Christmas, Mr Pavey was at pains to excuse his lack of resistance to Conservative policies on the grounds that he had to act within the law and the law allowed him no other course of action. Mr Pavey knows now that the game has changed. and this change is not going to go away.
A response is required, Michael. The law is no longer a constraint ON you but has become an opportunity FOR you.
Let's see you match your claimed beliefs with the actions which might belatedly make them credible.