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FAQ: Opposing Academies and “Free” Schools

What are Academies?

The academy schools program began in 2000 under New Labour. They are state sector schools run independent of local authority control and with a private sponsor. Less than two ago, there were less than 300 academies in England, but the Academies Act 2010 sought to expand the number of academies and there are now over 1600. Some  schools that are deemed 'outstanding' by Ofsted have been ‘fast-tracked’. It is thought that many 'outstanding schools may not even need a sponsor, and might be able to opt straight out of local authority control regardless.

A funeral for education

Teachers, parents, and students in Sefton are currently engaged in a struggle to stop a number of schools in the area becoming academies. As part of that fight, they today held a "funeral for education" in Liverpool. Despite the wet weather, a number of people joined the mock funeral procession from St George's Hall to St Luke's Church and handed out leaflets to the public about the issue of academies and why they should be opposed.

Members of Liverpool Solidarity Federation were amongst those present on the march, as were those involved in a similar struggle over Shorefields College in the Dingle - whose picket lines we have previously supported.

#J30 in Liverpool

As around 750,000 public sector workers took strike action, Liverpool Solidarity Federation offered our support to picket lines around Bootle as well as joining a march and rally in the City Centre. We found that strike action was strongly supported, not just by the staff walking out but by the broader constituency of those affected by and fighting the cuts.

Dingle community keeps up the fight for Shorefields

Teachers at Shorefields College in the Dingle have once again taken strike action against the possibility of the school becoming an academy. The latest day of action has seen the fight grow, with support staff in the GMB walking out alongside teachers from the NUT and NASUWT.

The picket line was well supported. Parents, teachers and support staff were joined by several pupils from the school - whilst members of the Merseyside Network Against Fees and Cuts, Liverpool Trades Council and Liverpool Solidarity Federation were amongst those who turned up in support. The Liverpool Socialist Choir also added a bit of noise to the event, providing lively renditions of workers and trade union songs, old and new.

June 30th strikes in Brighton

Teachers have voted overwhelmingly to strike on June 30th. They are expected to be joined by thousands of public sector workers and possibly also university staff. Could we also see wildcat strikes on the day?

On Monday, Brighton Stop the Cuts Coalition are organising a public meeting on 'Striking to Defend Pensions, Jobs and Pay' at 19:30 in the Friends Meeting House, Ship Street. Come along to share plans for the day, and join us in the pub afterwards to plot solidarity and support.

Solidarity with Shorefields College

On Wednesday 11th May, teachers at Shorefields College in the Dingle took strike action in response to plans to turn the college into an academy. Parents and teachers are opposed to the plans, but are not being listened to by the headteacher or board of governors.

The picket line outside the school saw a significant turnout of teachers as well as those such as the Merseyside Network Against Fees and Cuts and members of Liverpool Solidarity Federation who came to demonstrate support. There was a short march locally and a rally after the initial picket line, and reports are that spirits were high and support from people locally was strong.

Kids show direct action works

Just days after the 1999 local election, Cheshire's Halton Borough Council announced the closure of several schools in Runcorn. The fact that no consultation or notice was given serves as a warning to anyone who might imagine ‘open government' exists.

Predictably, the public rose to the challenge with a series of initiatives including leaflets, posters, petitions, letter writing campaigns. More direct forms of action included the ambushing of the mayor's car at local events by banner-waving children and parents and turning up at consultation meetings to confront the handful of councillors with enough brass neck to show up and face them. Eventually, the council was forced to back down in the majority of cases owing to the opposition shown by a determined public, and leave most schools untouched.

Lewisham Occupation

Since 23rd April parents of pupils at Lewisham Bridge Primary School in Lewisham, south east London, and their supporters have been occupying a school roof. They are protesting against Lewisham Council’s plans to demolish the school building and replace it with a school for children aged 3 to16. The proposed new school will be squeezed into a site presently occupied by the primary school, which has less than half of the 835 pupils projected for the “all age” school, so play areas and room sizes would fall below government recommendations.

The new school would only have one primary class per year, instead of the current school’s two. Eleanor Davies, whose six year old son, attends the school, said:

Academy schools programme expanded

A new Education Bill is set to massively extend Labour’s controversial Academies programme.

The Education Secretary Michael Gove has now added Ofsted-graded “outstanding” schools to the hit-list. His plans promise even more Academies; over 150 schools have already applied for Academy status, with hundreds more enquiring for further information or registering an interest. The Academies scheme allows non-state bodies, including religious groups, businesses and voluntary groups to take control of schools in exchange for a nominal amount of funding for new facilities.

Rise of school occupations

To the dismay of head-teachers everywhere, this year has seen a marked rise in parent militancy in response to closures and handovers to private companies.

The agenda of handing community schools to private interests means less accountability, selection procedures, job insecurity, and a focus on grades to the detriment of education and care. Facing closures, academies and foundation schools, people up and down the UK have resisted with grass-roots campaigns and, in several cases, occupation.

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