Academy / Free schools

Union free school no more

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The strike at STEM6 Academy in north London against zero hours contracts and for union recognition shows that if you get organised and fight hard you can win.

Early in October 2013 a message arrived at the Islington NUT office from a teacher at the newly opened STEM6 Academy telling us that she had never been a union rep before and asking for our support in negotiating teachers' terms and conditions.

The three months which followed saw her lead an often bitter fight which, although taking place in a small workplace, has won a big victory with major implications for other free schools, as well as important lessons for workers facing nasty anti-union employers.

Academies fail the grade

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The government's plans to privatise education are mired in financial scandal and under pressure from campaigns by teaching staff, parents and local authorities.

Michael Gove has put the Academies and free schools at the heart of his education strategy. A programme started under the last Labour government, and opposed by all trade unions and by many parents and communities, has expanded so that now half of all secondary schools are Academies and primaries are converting at a worrying pace.

But Gove has met much more resistance to the project than he expected from parents and increasingly from local authorities, heads, teachers, support staff and school governors.

The Tory education nightmare

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Tory education secretary Michael Gove has set out to destroy progressive education. But he is meeting increasing resistance, and even falling out with some of his friends.

On 3 February this year Michael Gove gave a speech about his vision for education at the London Academy of Excellence. Gove painted himself and his project as a historic crusade against "failing schools".

Gove and his government have been reforming education at breakneck speed. From the break up of the state system in the form of Free Schools and Academies to the overhaul of the curriculum, Gove has left no aspect untouched.

Growing up in Goveland: how politicians are wrecking schools

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The leaking of Michael Gove's plans to return to O-levels in place of GCSEs reignited a row about "falling standards" in British schools. Here Terry Wrigley argues it is not enough for the left to simply dismiss such claims - instead we must argue that the root of the problem lies in the marketisation of education

Right wing politicians like nothing better than a good disaster. Disasters give them an excuse to intervene and make matters worse. If there wasn't a financial crisis, Cameron's gang would have to invent one. Now education secretary Michael Gove is using supposed "falling standards" to destroy comprehensive education and condemn most working class pupils to a second rate education. By abolishing GCSEs and restoring the old "O-level", he is trying to return to the days when only a minority of 16 year olds took a school-leaving exam.

What has the local education authority ever done for us?

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As the Tories accelerate the drive for schools to become Academies,
Terry Wrigley looks at why local education authorities are being sidelined

There has been widespread opposition to the government's reform of how the NHS is governed, and an understanding that the new structures would accelerate privatisation. Most people reject the idea of healthcare being run as a business. Despite active local campaigns and union opposition, why has popular opposition to the privatisation of schools as academies been more muted?

Get Gove

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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.

By Gove: education and the Murdoch Empire

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On 3 October, at a fringe meeting at the Conservative Party conference, education secretary Michael Gove went out of his way to sing the praises of Rupert Murdoch. Gove admitted that he remained "a great admirer of Rupert Murdoch, he's a force of nature, a phenomenon, he's a great man". For a senior minister to still admit to being one of Murdoch's creatures is quite remarkable, but there was a good reason for Gove standing by his man: Murdoch has a central role in Tory plans for British education.

During their first fourteen months in office, Cabinet ministers met senior News International executives 130 times. Over a quarter of these meetings involved David Cameron himself. While in no way wishing to be fair to Cameron, it has to be admitted that his government was merely continuing a long established tradition of British governments kow-towing to Murdoch. This tradition began to take shape under Harold Wilson in the late 1970s, was consolidated under Thatcher, was deepened and extended under Blair and Brown and was set to become even more extravagant under Cameron.

Education at the Crossroads

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The coalition government has launched a colossal attack on all aspects of our education system. Terry Wrigley argues that this is an acceleration of previous governments' policies to drive the market into the heart of learning and will deepen a class hierarchy of institutions and students.


A police officer amid the aftermath of students' "Day X3" protest in December. Photo: Geoff Dexter

Edubusiness unchained

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Since the passing of the Academies Act in July 2010 a new wave of privatisation has been unleashed on our schools. Conversion of outstanding schools to academies or the creation of new "free" schools is allowing edubusiness to expand rapidly.

Ark, EACT and the Harris Academy chain have announced business plans to double the number of academies they control. They are also using the new opportunities to create free schools.

It is a strategy that fits hand in glove with cuts to education budgets and the Tories' idea of a "smaller state". In education minister Michael Gove's world the future is for more and more schools to be privatised so that by the end of the parliament academies are "the norm".

Shame Academy

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The new government has launched a "radical reform" plan to expand the academies programme and introduce "free" schools. This threatens the future of state education by entrenching social segregation. It will also be disastrous for the pay and conditions of school staff and will destroy accountability and democracy in the education system.

Michael Gove, the new secretary of state for education, has written to head teachers in schools judged by Ofsted to be "outstanding" asking if they would like to become academies. The government has removed legal requirements for schools to consult staff and parents about the decision to turn a school into an academy. This is now decided at just one meeting of a school's governing body.

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