Is the Tories’ forced academisation programme the final straw in their assault on public education?
Thousands of enthusiastic teachers answered the call from the NUT and ATL, and rallied in front of Westminster Cathedral this Wednesday 23 March to protest against the government’s proposal of forcing every school to turn into an academy. They marched along the length of Victoria Street chanting “Hey Morgan, leave our kids alone”; “Whose school? OUR SCHOOL!!” “Hey ho, Nicky Morgan’s got to go!” There were People’s Assembly placards with Osborne’s face and underneath the words “Osborne must go!” Schools from across London were present with their banners: Camden, Lambeth, Islington, Haringey, Highgate, Waltham Forest among many others.
The march snaked along Victoria Street and into Great Smith Street where it stopped in front of the Department for Education to make sure Nicky Morgan heard the teachers’ voice. “Shame on you Nicky Morgan.” “Nicky Morgan on your bike. What we need is a teachers’ strike.” It continued onto Emmanuel Centre were the crowd packed the hall for the rally.
The rally kicked off with Aislinn Macklin-Doherty, a representative of the BMA greeted the crowd by saying that the BMA was there to reach out a hand to all teachers. The crowd replied by shouting “teachers and doctors unite as one.” She went on to say that it was important to link up all the struggles. “You have Nicky Morgan; we have Jeremy Hunt.” It is the same rhetoric. Jeremy Hunt walks around with an “I love NHS” badge. He says he cares about the NHS but at the same time he imposes the most crippling contract that will make it impossible for doctors and health workers to care for patients. Nicky Morgan says she cares about education and children, but imposes a forced and speedy academisation of schools. It is the privatisation of our public services.
According to Macklin-Doherty “we need to start to unite our struggles. This is about standing up to the type of services we want. I’ll stand up with teachers if the government forces you to go on strike. Fifty thousand junior doctors will stand up with you.” The crowd exploded chanting “teachers and doctors unite and strike.”
Lucy Powell was introduced as the next secretary for education. According to her the Tory plan of forced academies is costly and risky, something which nobody wants or needs. There is no evidence that academies improve schools. On the contrary, there is plenty of evidence that they don’t work. Powell stressed the importance of building an alliance of teachers, parents, students and unions to save our schools. The Tories talk about listening to parents and teachers, but their plans take parents and teachers out of the equation.
Sam Fairbairn representing the People’s Assembly, congratulated the NUT and ATL for pulling the demo together so quickly, and for the success of the strike action last week. He noted that the fact that the government had recently gone for the junior doctors, junior nurses, teachers and people with disabilities all at the same time showed us that the Tories had bitten off more than they could chew.
The crisis that this government is going through with Ian Duncan Smith resigning shows us that we can get rid of this government before 2020.
“We’ve now got growing strike action in the work place. We’ve got teachers taking strike action. We’ve got junior doctors taking strike action. The tube workers taking strike action. We now have Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell in leadership. We’ve got a major crisis in the Tory government. But we also have a growing movement on the streets. All those things combined are recipe for disaster for this government. What we now need to do is unite all these struggles together. Unite everyone together. That’s why the People’s Assembly is calling for a national demonstration on 16 of April.”
Owen Jones asked what kind of government is this that systematically undermines the morale of teachers. Forced academisation is an attack on democracy. It imposes a programme against the will of teachers, setting schools against each other instead of getting them to cooperate and work together. This government is waging war on all that is dear to us: the NHS, state education, workers’ rights… “Let’s link up and unite all our struggles.”
Kevin Courtney, deputy general secretary of the NUT, ended the rally saying “this is the broadest range of speakers NUT has ever managed to bring together.” Both Courtney and Mary Bousted, general secretary of the ATL agreed that academisation is a risky experiment with English schools which the public don’t want. The public is with the teachers.
The question is what is the government doing about what really matters for teachers and parents. Inadequate schools that are forced to turn into academies are twelve times more likely to remain inadequate. There was not one word in the Tory manifesto about forcing schools into academies. It is an attack on democracy. The government is systematically driving the public and teachers out of decision making and replacing with unelected business leaders. Academisation is the end of state education like the attack on the NHS is the end of public healthcare.
Orlando was born in Brazil and was involved in the successful struggle for democracy in the late 1970s and 80s in that country. He teaches GCSE and A level Economics and Business Studies. He is a member of the NUT, Counterfire and Stop the War.
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