Sunday 20 June 2010

Organise against Academies and Free Schools

THE JUNE MEETING OF THE NUT NATIONAL EXECUTIVE met after just one month of the new Government. Yet with the Academies Bill already unleashed - and both the Budget and Gove’s announcement on ‘Free Schools’ following after - it was clear we have to urgently organise a bold campaign to defend teachers’ pay, conditions and pensions - and state comprehensive education.

In her General Secretary's report to the Executive, Christine Blower described the Academies Bill as potentially “the death-knell of Local Authorities”.

If a stampede of Academies and Free Schools is allowed to develop, elected local councils that can plan provision to meet needs right across a locality will be replaced by a chaotic system of competing schools accountable only to Whitehall and education businesses. They want to set up chains of schools to make a profit out of education - hoping to attract students that can produce the highest results for the cheapest input. Cash-starved Local Authorities and remaining community schools would be left to support pupils and communities with the greatest needs.

The main way for schools to reduce costs is to cut the staffing budget - by asking teachers to do more work for less pay. Gove's letter inviting 'outstanding' schools to become Academies says they would be given the "ability to set your own pay and conditions for staff" and the "ability to change the length of terms and school days". That’s why the NUT’s latest poster answering the ‘Academy Fairy Tales’ warns that “teachers face the threat of greater workload ... Saturday sessions and greater difficulties in pay progression”.

The NUT has moved fast to alert members to these threats, particularly in the ‘outstanding’ schools that Michael Gove wanted ‘fast-tracked’ into Academy status as early as September.

The Executive heard that, fortunately, it now seems doubtful that the Academies Bill will get through Parliament before the summer holidays. That’s one more reason for Heads and governors to hold off from rushing into the unknown and pursuing Academy status. However, that’s not a reason for us to sit back. We have to make the most of any delay to step up our campaign.

All school staff are at risk. That’s why the NUT has helped organise joint materials in the names of the three main teaching unions - ATL, NUT & NASUWT - as well as the three main support staff unions - GMB, UNITE and UNISON. These include materials for parents to explain why they should oppose Academy status.

Here are some of the things that teachers can do:
* Call a joint union meeting in your school Sign letters to governors against Academies. Ask for an indicative ballot for strike action.
* Contact parents who oppose Academies Do you know parents who will help campaign?
* Keep the NUT informed of news and rumours We need to find out where we need to target our campaigning - so keep the NUT informed.
* Organise local meetings and campaigns Wandsworth - faced with the added danger of ‘free schools’ - is one area that has already held a big local meeting to set up a campaign group. I am happy to speak in your area too.

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