Education

Another education is possible

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English teacher Paul Vernell and maths teacher Chris Carter explain how the Alternative Futures curriculum group at their 11 to 18 mixed comprehensive on the edge of Bristol is putting social justice issues at the forefront of curriculum change

The testing regime in schools is breaking down. Before the summer break SATs papers were lost or badly marked; pupils were absenting themselves from the tests and head teachers were demanding an end to these wasteful and useless exams. One parent from Sunderland, truck driver Stuart McAnaney, has two sons: James, 11, and nine year old Matthew, at St Anne's RC Primary School. He said, "I think it is absolutely disgraceful that this has happened. When James was sitting his SATs he was in a terrible state because he was so stressed. I think they should be scrapped altogether."

UCU strike ballot: Time to pay up

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Some 45,000 Further and Adult Education lecturers in the University College Union (UCU) are being balloted for strike action over pay alongside teachers on 24 April.

Some may say that there is nothing unusual about that when lecturers in this sector have probably taken more one-day strikes over the past 15 years than most workers. However, this time it is different.

We are used to getting insulting pay deals, but like other public sector workers this year we face a pay cut. Lecturers have seen principals' pay rise 50 percent faster than theirs since 2002. Last year we were offered 2.5 percent. On average, principals awarded themselves 4.5 percent on an average salary of £100,000.

City academies: Barriers to learning

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"The management freedom given to academies should be rolled out across the whole state sector," said Richard Tice, chair of Northampton Academy school.

Tice is a member of the United Learning Trust board, the largest academy sponsor, and was commissioned by free market think-tank Reform to make recommendations on how to improve the education system. He suggests that a more "business-like" approach to running schools, with bonuses for managers, would improve the city academy programme.

Schools out!

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The National Union of Teachers (NUT) is preparing to ballot over 200,000 members in England and Wales for strike action against below inflation pay rises.

The ballot starts on 28 February and NUT activists are confident that it will lead to the first national strike by teachers in more than 20 years, on Thursday 24 April.

The decision to ballot was taken after the government announced a recommendation from the School Teachers' Review Body (STRB) that teachers should get an increase of 2.45 percent in their pay in September 2008. This would be the first year of a three-year pay deal, which would see below inflation pay rises until 2010.

Welcome to the Fraud Academy

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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.

Guatemalan Lessons

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Guatemalan teachers have held several strikes this year against attempts by President Oscar Berger to privatise Guatemala's 17,400 state schools.

The teachers also demanded better wages, nutritional meals for school children and increased funding. They ended their most recent three-week strike and road blockade in mid-May when the government pledged to meet their demands.

Joviel Acevedo, president of the National Teaching Association in Guatemala, is a leading figure in the struggle. He describes the Berger government as representing the traditional oligarchy that is responsible for Guatemala's poverty and wants to sell state schooling down the drain.

Education: Choice for the Few

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Jane Coles explodes the myths behind the government's rhetoric about 'diversity' and 'parental choice' in schools.

Back in 1997, when Blair summed up his government's priorities as 'education, education, education', I presume we were meant to take it as a promise, not a threat. However, we need look no further than Blair's own constituency in the north east for confirmation of his intention, where parents in Hurworth-on-Tees are fighting to keep their local comprehensive open.

Another Education is Possible

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A recent conference discusses alternative ways of learning.

Part of the collateral damage from two Blair governments has been the inversion of commonsense terms to mean their opposite. 'Invasion' of another country becomes 'liberation'. 'Choice' in public services means no such thing when it comes to how schools organise themselves. 'Literacy' becomes a deadening chore.

The straitjacket of the National Curriculum has students trying to break free in all sorts of inarticulate ways classified as bad behaviour, as we educators tick-box and number-crunch our way to a more distant retirement.

Education: A Vision for True Innovation

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'Another School Is Possible', or so believes Milwaukee-based teacher Bob Peterson from the Rethinking Schools collective who led both a seminar and workshop at October's European Social Forum on this theme. This has already spawned some promising initiatives.

Hackney NUT president Jane Basset spoke on behalf of the Anti-Sats Alliance to a 250-strong conference in Genoa, Italy, on 27 November. Left educationalists are meeting in Paris on 11 December to consider the feasibility of a European day of action on education in 2005.

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