Academies, the ‘middle tier’ and social justice: what should be done?

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Police investigate academy trust

Police have confirmed they are looking at the conduct of a multi-academy trust accused of asset stripping its schools before collapsing.

Wakefield City Academies Trust announced days into the new term in September that it would divest itself of its 21 schools because WCAT could not undertake the “rapid improvement” they needed. The Department for Education is in the process of arranging for new trusts to take over management of the schools.

https://www.theguardian.com/education/2017/dec/06/wakefield-city-academies-trust-west-yorkshire-police

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Tribute to Ken Purchase MP

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The Anti Academies Alliance is deeply saddened to hear of the death of Ken Purchase. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-birmingham-37213144 

Our condolences go to his wife Brenda and the rest of his family. Our movement has lost a principled and courageous fighter for justice and equality.

We first met Ken Purchase MP in 2006. He offered to help the emerging anti-academies campaign after becoming increasingly concerned at the ‘direction of travel’ the Blair government was taking in education. In particular, he felt that Andrew Adonis (now Lord Adonis) and Blair had not been honest about their plan. Conversion to academy status had initially been sold to the PLP on the basis of just few schools, but this became 200 and later 400 as the programme expanded because it was claimed to be so successful.

When we first met Ken he listened carefully and asked incisive questions. We suggested the government was not being honest and that there was not ‘level playing field’ when comparing academies and community schools. Ken thought it was worth investigating their claims of success. So with his, and his wife Brenda’s help, the Anti Academies Alliance set up a Committee of Enquiry in parliament in 2007. It was hugely successful with evidence from experts, trade unions, parents and teachers all contributing to a final report that exposed the claims for success being peddled by the government. Ken was unstinting in his support for the AAA. He became our patron and would speak regularly at AAA events, even after he retired from Parliament. His optimism, energy and commitment were an inspiration. This was particularly true during the Blair years when only a handful of Labour MPs would put their head above the parapet and criticise their own government.

Ken would regularly use EDMs – Early Day Motions – to help test the mood in Parliament on the question of academies. Most of the time it felt like we could only be certain that Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell would sign! So Ken would get on the phone to other MPs to try boost the numbers. It was a labour of Sisyphus. But it never weakened his resolve.

Ken had a wonderful charm and self-confidence. He knew he was right on academies and always tried to explain the key issues patiently and factually. He regularly called our office before he spoke at a meeting just ensure he had the latest facts and arguments which he would put these calmly and patiently to colleagues, although privatively he was angered that true Labour values in education had been betrayed.

Ken was a central figure in building the alliance. Indeed without him it would have been difficult to gain the widespread credibility that AAA achieved. Ken used to joke that ‘we had won the argument but lost the war’. The AAA was not able to stem the tide of academy conversion – primarily because there were no democratic means to do so. But wherever our arguments were put against the supporters of the academy programme we destroyed them. Had every school facing conversion had a vote of parents and teachers, and perhaps students, there would be only a handful of academies today.

Ken helped keep alive the idea of a comprehensive, progressive and democratic education for all students. The AAA will be continuing the fight for these ideas. Working in old and new alliances, such Parents Defending Education and Let our Kids Be Kids, we hope to go on and defeat the Tories’ neo-liberal marketisation of education. We also hope that Jeremy Corbyn’s idea of National Education Service can begin to put new ideas into action and help re- create an education system that would make Ken proud again.

Alasdair Smith

National Secretary of AAA

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Pledge for Education

Pledge for Education

Pledge for Education

Sign up to the Parents Defending Education pledge.

Michael Rosen says:

Please join me and sign the pledge

“Stand up for our children! No more exam factories. Let’s make 2016 the last year of useless tests. Our schools should be places for children to be excited by curiosity and learning. Instead, learning is getting shrunk down to yes/no answers to fit what the tests require. Teaching to the test should have no place in a 21st century education system. I pledge to stand together with other parents and staff to take whatever appropriate action is necessary to stop SATS and other useless tests in 2017.”

 Please complete in as much detail as possible. This will help us to organise more effectively. Hopefully we will be able to link you up with others in your area/school so that you can work together.
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Queen’s Speech – all to fight for, NO to Academies!

aaa Announcements in Queen’s speech

• Moving towards a system where all schools are academies, and all schools are funded fairly.

• Converting schools to academies in the worst performing local authorities and those that can no longer viably support their remaining schools, so that a new system led by good and outstanding schools can take their place.

• Setting the foundation for a system in which all schools are academies, putting our great school leaders in charge of running and improving schools to improve results.

• Moving towards a system where every school is an academy through powers to convert schools to academies in under-performing and unviable local authorities.

• Making the process of becoming an academy swifter and smoother for schools and local authorities.

• Setting out a new role for local authorities, by shifting responsibility for school improvement from the LA to great heads and others in the school system.

It is important that anti academy campaigners step up the fight, Nicky Morgans attempted  to impose forced academies on all schools has exposed the governments plans to millions of people. A large number of parents have become active in opposing these plans. Morgan was forced to swerve as she recognised the huge opposition that stood in her way. The new proposals are intended to accomplish the same but in a more piecemeal way. We have forced them to change plans once we can force them to drop these proposals. Academies are no solution to school improvement. The NUT ballot on the effects of academisation on teachers and schools is to be welcomed. Parents can support by by organising protests and meetings. Say no to forced academies!

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