Alasdair Smith

Get Gove

Issue section: 
Issue: 

Michael Gove, the education secretary, has launched a new wave of academies expansion - forced academies. After the last election Gove rushed the Academies Act through parliament. Last November, almost unnoticed in the wider crisis, he extended his powers to directly intervene in local schools and convert them into academies. The justification is that these are "underperforming" schools.

Gove claims he is a champion of "social justice," and that academies are about helping the neediest. Nothing could be further from the truth. By 2015 Gove will have overseen a 15 percent cut in school budgets in real terms. Programmes such as one to one tuition, behaviour improvement and ethnic minority support programmes are being sacrificed, while Gove now has more centralised power than any previous secretary of state.

Paying for the privilege

Issue section: 

Shaun Doherty outlined the developments in the government's academies privatisation plans (Frontlines, Socialist Review, November 2008). More has since come to light.

Edison, a US education business, is to manage three new academies and charge each £1.2 million over three years for the privilege. Edison work as a consultant to 60 schools in England and are closely linked to the Republican Party. This June they had four schools seized back from them by Philadelphia Schools District, having failed to deliver. In 2002 their shares plummeted. To stay solvent they sold off their books, computers and lab equipment.

Somers Town

Issue section: 

Director: Shane Meadows; Release date: out now

There is something flawed about Shane Meadows' new film, Somers Town. It is a shame because he is one of the most exciting British film directors. This is England, Dead Man's Shoes and the three films known as his Midlands Trilogy portray a side of British society that rarely reaches our screens. In general his films are down to earth but uplifting, funny but brutal accounts of the lives of ordinary working class people.

Welcome to the Fraud Academy

Issue section: 
Issue: 

As mainstream politicians line up behind business driven schools, author Francis Beckett and teacher Alasdair Smith check the small print and discuss how to stop the schemes.

The frustration of writing a book about city academies is that scandals happen so fast. The whole scheme is so inherently grubby that, in the two months between finishing my book The Great City Academy Fraud and its publication last month, a dozen scandals happened to prove my point.

This is England

Issue section: 
Issue: 

Director Shane Meadows

This is England is the story of a small town skinhead gang in 1983 set against the backdrop of the Falklands War.

Shane Meadows, the director, was a school drop-out from Uttoxeter in the Midlands. He himself joined a skinhead gang and later flirted with the National Front (NF) as they in turn flirted with the "Oi" bands of the early 1980s. As with his previous films, This is England focuses on the nature of violence and bullying in society.

Really Existing Big Brother

Issue section: 

Review of 'Stasiland', Anna Funder, Granta £7.99

Channel 4's turgid, voyeuristic reality TV programme stole its name from George Orwell's classic novel Nineteen Eighty-Four. 'Big Brother' was a metaphor for an all-seeing totalitarian state. The Stasi - the East German secret police - was Big Brother, for real.

It employed over 90,000 secret agents, a higher ratio per head of population than the Third Reich's Gestapo. Official figures suggest one in 50 people were Stasi informants, although some claim one in six of the population were unofficial informants.

Capital Gains

Issue section: 
Issue: 

The Walrus was right to point out that the bosses are worried about the issue of London weighting (May SR).

The Economist' recently reported that NERA--an economics consultancy--had published a survey suggesting that London teachers should be claiming an allowance of more than £9,000. NERA arrived at this figure by comparing the regional pay differentials in the private sector. The government use the pay differentials in the public sector, which NERA rejects because it argues they do not accurately reflect the extra cost of hiring people in and around London.

Subscribe to RSS - Alasdair Smith