Wednesday 7 January 2015

Millions Wasted on Schools that Never Opened

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Big Name Speakers at Conference

South East Region TUC is hosting a conference with the Anti Academies Alliance on Saturday 7 February at Congress House, London. The theme is equity, equality and education: securing the future of a better state education for all. Confirmed speakers include ATL leader Mary Bousted, Kevin Coutney of the NUT, Natalie Bennett, leader of the Green Party, Professor Gus John, Bill Esterson MP, Zoe Williams of the Guardian and Jonathan Simons who leads on education for the right wing think tank Policy Exchange. All welcome, but please register by email sertuc@tuc.org.uk or by phone 020 7467 1220.

 

Free Schools – millions wasted on schools that never opened

The Daily Mirror estimates that up to £4m may have been spent on free school projects that never opened. That’s on top of the millions spent on empty places in the schools that did open. The latest and 21st free school project to be cancelled or withdrawn cost £82,440 when plans to build the Advance Free School on playing fields in Thornton Heath, south London, fell through.

In the Independent, Matthew Taylor, Chair of the Social Integration Commission, argued that free schools and faith schools are leading to increasing social segregation.

Labour calculates that more than 400,000 children are now being taught by unqualified teachers in academies and free schools. Chris Husbands, director of the Institute of Education, told the Guardian that the decision to remove the requirement for teachers to gain qualified teacher status ‘flies in the face of evidence nationally and internationally’.

Free schools will be just one of the subjects under discussion at Education Question Time in Durham on Friday 16 January. Tickets are free but please book in advance .

 

Arise Sir Theodore

The New Year brought good news to Sir Theodore Agnew, Chairman of the Inspiration Trust, who was knighted in the New Years Honours. But we’ve heard nothing from the second Ofsted enquiry, headed by lawyer Julian Gizzi, into whether the Trust received prior warning of previous Ofsted inspections. The enquiry report was due before Christmas. However news is emerging about other academies in the Norfolk chain with Hethersett Academy judged by Ofsted to require improvement  and Cromer Academy challenged over its governance and management by the former chair of governors.

The New Year also brought news that back in 1986 Oliver Letwin, then a young policy adviser, criticised Margaret Thatcher’s government for not pursuing school privatisation and allowing education to remain as a ‘nationalised industry’. How fitting that the government in which Letwin now sits as a Cabinet Office Minister has finally brought the free market to our schools.

 

January Transfer Window Opens

Research and FOI requests by the Local Schools Network shows that 23 academies and free schools ‘changed hands’ between September 2013 and October 2014 . It looks likely that another transfer will take place this month. The troubled Kings Science Academy – where the Headteacher was arrested for fraud  and a company owned by Tory treasurer Alan Lewis pocketed £6m in rent – looks set to be picked up by the Dixons chain. Meanwhile parents and staff in Moseley, Birmingham are waiting to hear from the Department for Education about the future of Moor Green Primary Academy whose ‘sponsor’ HTI closed late last year.

 

Ten out of Ten for Support Staff

Congratulations to support staff and their union UNISON at the TEN academy chain in Norwich who have won an important pensions fight.   The Norfolk county branch has successfully prevented the chain from setting up an arm’s length company structure which would have denied all new support staff access to the Local Government Pension Scheme (LGPS). UNISON’s Jon Richards said the union would ‘challenge any attempts by employers to introduce new structures that claim to be about improving efficiency, but are in reality an attempt to cut costs by reducing the pay and conditions of support staff’.

 

Academy Controversy

Principal James Fox has left Portslade Aldridge Community Academy following an investigation which found mis-registration of GCSE students at the Sussex school. Fox hit the headlines when he arrived at the academy and when he left his previous post in Wiltshire.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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