In a great example of professional unity in action, I was invited to speak tonight at a meeting hosted jointly by the NAHT, NASUWT, NUT and ATL to organise against the threat of forced academisation of all of the remaining maintained schools across the London Borough of Bromley.
The Tory-dominated Council wants to persuade and/or bully all of its schools into becoming Academies by 2015. In response, teaching unions are organising to oppose this threat, expose the real agenda behind the proposal and support schools to withstand the pressures being put on them to be absorbed into Multi-Academy Trusts.
Rob Kelsall of the NAHT explained their opposition to forced academisation. He described the 'relentless bullying' that some Heads faced from DfE brokers and how they were working to equip Heads and Governors with the knowledge and confidence to resist it (See for example: http://www.naht.org.uk/welcome/news-and-media/magazines/leadership-focus/leadership-focus-63-march-2014/).
I explained how, as a Bromley teacher 25 years ago, I had been a member of Bromley NUT campaigning against schools taking on 'Grant-Maintained Status'. As we warned then, it was one of the first steps along the path to what we see now - an attempt to completely dismantle Local Authority schooling. Parents and Governors were promised that this marketisation of schools would 'raise standards'. In fact, all the evidence shows that academies have not achieved better results than maintained schools - but have accelerated increasing polarisation within and between schools. They have also helped Government to cut Local Authority support for schools, especially in an underfunded borough like Bromley.
Rob explained that whenever the Governing Body that he was a member of discussed academy status, they consistently concluded that conversion was not in the interest of the school and its students. I explained that it was the same argument that I had been making - alongside GMB and ATL colleagues - at a meeting the previous evening in Lewisham (see http://electmartin1.blogspot.co.uk/2014/06/academies-why-governors-should-say-no.html).
Dominic Byrne, also from the NUT Executive, also explained to the meeting about the ongoing campaign to defend Warren Comprehensive School from forced academisation. The campaign had been strongly backed by local parents and unions - and by the local Council who were maintaining their legal battle against Gove's plans.
The threat of academisation can - and must - be resisted or we will see locally accountable schools, working for the benefit of local communities, entirely replaced by chains of academies, run primarily for the benefit of their sponsoring edu-businesses.
Unfortunately, as is being seen in Birmingham, Ofsted is being increasingly used as a political tool to push schools into 'categories' that make them vulnerable to that threat. Unions must work together to expose this blatant attempt to force through the privatisation of education - as they were tonight in Bromley.
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