Tuesday 24 August 2010

Help Tidemill Parents Oppose Academy Plans

The Government’s plans to encourage ‘outstanding’ schools to take a fast-track to ‘Academy’ status are a threat to the future of comprehensive Local Authority schooling. They could introduce a fragmented two-tier education system where ‘successful’ schools opt-out of the Local Authority, taking money with them as they go, leaving cash-starved Councils with the schools - and pupils - that need most help.

Fortunately, may schools have held back from rushing into becoming Academies in September – but not all. In Lewisham, it is TIDEMILL SCHOOL IN DEPTFORD that is rushing onwards – yes, that’s the same school that hit the headlines when it was revealed that its Headteacher, Mark Elms, was paid around £ ¼ million *(see updated comments below) in 2009/10 (does the school really need to grab even more money if it can afford to pay a primary head that much?).

Under pressure, the Government has conceded that parents should be consulted over plans to become an Academy – but Tidemill’s timetable shows how limited that ‘consultation’ can be. As last term drew to a close, Tidemill children were handed a letter for parents on July 19th saying that the governors were consulting for two months (i.e. over the summer holidays) before governors make a decision early in September!


Tidemill parents made sure leaflets opposing the plan were given out at the school gates before the end of term. An inaugural meeting of “Tidemill Parents Against Academies” was held over the summer and, with the support of the NUT and Anti-Academies Alliance, leafleting has already taken place in Deptford with a lot of support from local residents and parents. Local councillors are now beginning to ask questions – but time is tight to put enough pressure on the governors to hold back.




3. A PETITION demanding full consultation before any decision has also been produced and can be signed at http://sayingno.org/cms/ or http://www.gopetition.com/petition/38021.html

Contact the campaign for further info on: admin@sayingno.org or 020 8692 8939

* How much was Mark Elms paid?
I am grateful for a comment posted from a local resident (see below) who has signed the parent petition but is concerned that the facts about Mark Elms' pay need to be correct.
At the time his pay hit the headlines in July, I didn't make many public comments about the issue - precisely because the facts were unclear. However, now that the school is the one school in Lewisham to have rushed ahead with plans to become an Academy, it is inevitable that people are linking the two issues - and my comment has clearly been picked up this time!
The issues over the Head's pay are separate to those over the Academy - but these questions will be raised by parents and teachers. After all, in the conversations that I have had with governors in other London schools considering becoming an Academy, the only real argument that has been raised is that they might get more funding (at the expense of other schools and the Local Authority budget of course). So my original question remains, "does the school really need to grab even more money if it can afford to pay a primary head that much?"
Have I erred in quoting a figure of £1/4 million? I took the figure from the only definitive source that I have had access to - Lewisham Council's printed accounts - which state that Mark Elms' pay for 2009/10 was:
Total excluding Pension Contributions 231,400
Employer's Pension Contributions 45,123
Total including Pension Contributions 276,523
I know that other figures quoted in the press have give different details, such as:
• Basic pay - £82,714.37
• City Challenge - £102,955.00 over two years, £50,957 of which was back-dated pay for 2008/09
• Out-of-hours work - £10,000
• Arrears - £9,317
The quoted "out-of-hours" payment has angered local teachers who do lots of unpaid overtime every year too. The decision to pay the City Challenge money also needs explanation as, in my understanding, when a head is "providing services to another school", the money should go from one school bank account to the other school's bank account as a payment to the school for those services. If the figures are correct, I am unclear why the governing body decided to then make those payments to Mark Elms rather than use the funds to, for example, employ other staff and resources to cover for his absence.
I am happy to update the information to be as accurate as possible - if anyone can provide definitive answers!

Monday 23 August 2010

Help trade unionists respond to the floods in Pakistan

Teachers and school students will have been shocked by the reports from Pakistan about the devastation caused by the floods - made worse by the lacklustre reponse from the government.

Trade unionists wishing to show solidarity with Pakistani workers and poor, can respond to the appeal from the Progressive Workers Federation (PWF) and Trade Union Rights Campaign Pakistan (TURCP):

"We urge all our brothers, sisters and comrades in the international trade union movement to show their solidarity and support for the people affected by the devastating flood in our country, especially trade union members, workers and peasants.
We urgently need resources to provide relief to our affected brothers and sisters. Amongst the millions hit by the flooding more than 200 members of the TURCP (Trade Union Rights Campaign - Pakistan) and Progressive Workers Federation and their families have been affected. Their houses, crops and everything else have been wiped out. They need food, clean drinking water, medicines, tents and other daily utilities. We are trying to provide whatever is possible for us to provide to these families. But we urgently need your help, solidarity and support for these people. We request that all trade unions, union branches and workers and members of the trade unions support our campaign. Every penny you donate will be accounted for and reach the affected people".

Please make your donations to the UK branch of TURCP, who will be dealing with all the international donations.
For more information please contact: turc.pakistan@gmail.com;
Please make cheques payable to: TURCP. Please send to: TURCP, PO Box 57449, London E5 5AE.
For donations:
Bank Name: Lloyds TSB
Branch Name: Leytonstone, London E11
Account number: 00574699
Sortcode : 30 95 03
BIG: Loydgb21500
IBAN: GB70 LOYD 3095 0300 5746 99

Trade Union Rights Campaign Pakistan
Room 3g
P FEA building
1 Abbot Road
Luximi chowk

Join the Lobby of the TUC on Sept 12th

I hope teachers reading this post have had a good break - but here's an event that I hope you can support at the beginning of term.

It is obvious to all serious trade unionists that we need to urgently build national action against this Government's attacks. However, the TUC tops are still dragging their feet about even calling a national demonstration this year. That's why the National Shop Stewards Network, with the backing of the PCS and other unions, have called a Lobby of the TUC in Manchester. The Lobby will gather at 12:00 noon, Sunday 12th September at the Manchester Central Convention Complex.

The NSSN are appealing for maximum unity in defence of the public sector and the Lobby will support the PCS' call for a national demonstration on October 23rd, an approach supported by CWU and NUT, and further endorsed by general secretaries of FBU, BFAWU, NAPO, NUJ, POA, RMT, and URTU. However, the General Council has so far not gone for this initiative. Instead it has proposed a week of activities around the Comprehensive Spending Review including a lobby of parliament on 20th October. Whilst the NSSN will do everything to help make these events successful and lively, they are just not enough! A national demonstration is needed as a build-up to joint national strike action.

Support for the lobby is growing, with coaches being booked from across the country with the backing of Union branches and Trades Councils. With NUT branches not having met over the summer, it will be harder to get backing through NUT Associations beforehand, but I hope we can encourage teachers to attend. Coaches are being organised through a number of unions that NUT members may be able to join. Local details can be found through the NSSN by contacting Kevin.Parslow@unitetheunion.org

Martin PD