EDUCATION for TOMORROW FOR THE DEFENCE OF STATE EDUCATION
TRIBUTES TO BOB CROW AND TONY BENN
TEACHER UNION CONFERENCES
TROOPS TO TEACHERS FLOP
ACADEMIES AND FREE SCHOOLS
ISSUE 118 1
EDUCATION for TOMORROW
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EDUCATION for TOMORROW is produced by people involved with education of like mind most of the time and certainly on all vital matters of education and politics. It does not claim to represent the views of any one political party of the working class. Nonetheless its aim is at all times to speak in the interests of all working people. Fully involved in the struggle for peace and socialism it aims to publicise workers’ achievements and to counter misinformation about past and existing struggles to build socialism. It is to promote the aims of the organised labour movement in Britain; with common schooling for ALL our children (i.e. a good local state school for every child - truly comprehensive and democratically accountable) together with everything necessary to make this possible, in terms of provision of buildings and equipment, and staff properly trained and properly paid. We therefore support the campaign for one union for all education workers as a step towards achieving this goal. Our columns are open to all who share these aims - even though they may at times disagree with particular articles and want to say so, and why!
Contents Editorial - 3 An historic unity conference - 4 Bob Crow -4 Teacher conference season - 5 Troops to teachers flop - 7 Tony Benn - 7 Digital dementia- 8
Reviews - 10
Website: www.educationfortomorrow.org.uk Published and printed by the EDUCATION for TOMORROW Collective
Anti Academies Alliance news - 12
Cover photo: Bob Crow at the Burston Strike School Rally 2012
International - 14
Resistance works! Michael Gove has problems - and they’re getting worse. Leading Tories have told him to stop alienating teachers, the Lib-Dems have decided to ‘fight Gove’ in order to win back lost voters and the new ‘non-political’ Edapt, ‘the teachers’ union alternative’, complain that whenever Michael Gove praises them they lose members. His recommendations to the School Teachers’ Review Body (STRB) were yet another undisguised attack on teachers’ pay and conditions. The report rejected his recommendation. The STRB opted to retain the 1,265 hours, the 190 days of a school year, planning and preparation time, a protected lunch break and many other basic conditions. Mary Bousted, General Secretary of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL), commented that the ATL was relieved that the STRB had resisted pressure from Michael Gove to increase teachers’ formal working hours and that it had also decided to protect the existing limits on what teachers were expected to do in their own time. Christine Blower, National Union of Teachers (NUT) General Secretary, said: ‘The STRB has delivered Michael Gove a huge blow by rebuffing his recommendations . . . In a further blow to Gove, the STRB has recommended retaining teacher and Learning Responsibility payments, Special Educational Needs allowances, and rejected his proposals to remove the current safeguarding provisions which protect teachers. It is a testament to the campaigning of teachers . . . that the Secretary of State has found it impossible to ignore the STRB recommendations’. There’s yet more trouble looming for the Education Secretary. In January, Mr Justice Collins ruled in the High Court that Warren Comprehensive in Barking and Dagenham could not be converted into an academy without consultation, commenting: ‘the present Secretary of State thinks academies are the cat’s whiskers - we know of course some of them are not.’ Fraud, financial irregularities, and false claims about the successes of academies and free schools are coming to light with increasing regularity. Recent newspaper headlines have included: ‘Revealed: Taxpayer funded academies paying millions to private firms’ and ‘Staff on zero
hours contracts at Stem 6 Free School, Finsbury’. Parents, teachers and others now have a growing body of evidence of what is at stake and can learn from the experience of other campaigners in fighting the Government’s privatising agenda. Resistance is also essential because the Government is seeking other ways to attack education workers’ pay, conditions and union representation. As was reported in EfT 117, the Department for Education (DfE) has launched an attack on facility time for union reps. It has now published a 17 page document, Advice on trade union facility time, aimed at school leaders, governing bodies, employers and employees in maintained schools and academies. While it was forced to recognise the legal rights of union representatives to paid time-off from teaching, it attempts to interfere by determining what union activities they can take part in. Until the DfE raised the matter this was not an issue. Paid time-off accounts for less than 0.1 per cent of most schools’ pay bills. Teachers need union protection as never before. The DfE’s teacher workload diary survey shows an astonishing increase in the hours that teachers are working. The average primary teacher is now working nearly 60 hours per week, an increase of 9 hours per week since 2010. The average secondary classroom teacher is working nearly 56 hours a week, nearly 6 hours a week more than in 2010. An NUT/YouGov survey of the teaching profession, published in January 2014, showed that two-thirds of teachers said that more than a fifth of their workload does not directly benefit children’s learning. While workers in education are putting in what amounts to an increasing amount of unpaid overtime, recent Trade Union Congress analysis shows that the number of people in Britain doing unpaid overtime has reached a record high and real wages have been falling consistently since 2010, the longest period for 50 years according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS). Real wage growth averaged 2.9 per cent in the 1970s and 1980s, 1.5 per cent in the 1990s, 1.2 per cent in 2000s, but has fallen to minus 2.2 per cent since the first quarter of 2010, the ONS figures showed. It’s time to resist these attacks on us all.
An historic unity conference There could be one positive outcome from the otherwise catastrophic reign of Michael Gove as Education Secretary - professional unity amongst teachers. The professional unity conference held in central London at the beginning of March was a hugely significant development that indicates that at last teachers are waking up to the terrible damage that their disunity has underpinned. Hosted by the NUT, who seemed to have underestimated the interest that the event would generate, it was attended by activists from all the main teaching unions, including some members of the NASUWT, even though the union had decided not to participate officially. NUT General Secretary Christine Blower told the meeting: ‘We’re facing a government that’s intent on destroying the education service and indeed attacking and, if it can, destroying trade unions . . . This is really the time we should be moving forward on a single and unified message to defend education. That’s bound to mean we would have more influence than we can when we’re separate because what we do at the moment is expend our resources on competitive recruitment.’ The head teacher unions NAHT and ASCL both sent messages of support. Dilwyn Roberts-Young Deputy General Secretary of UCAC, the Welsh teacher union, spoke of the conference as being, ‘part of a movement for unity’. Mary Bousted, General Secretary of the ATL, who was abroad, sent a video message, pointing out that the teacher unions divided had been ‘unable to maintain working conditions in the face of the coalition government’s destruction of state education’, that no longer were the separate unions able to maintain separate reps in individual schools, as they were all too often being run as ‘separate kingdoms’, that what was needed was a new union, not a situation where one union was taken over by another, and she finished by saying that ‘we’d better get started’. Ritva Semi, from the Finnish teachers union the OAJ, told the conference of the formation of their union 40 years ago, which now organises 95 per cent of Finnish teachers. ‘We haven’t had to strike since 1984’ she said,’the employers know how strong we are. The OAJ is always there when education is being developed or education legislation being discussed.’ The contributions from the platform speakers was followed by some searching questions from the floor. Academic and UCU activist, Howard Stevenson opened the afternoon session, reminding the conference of the history of teacher trade
unionism, that ‘fragmentation is part of the enemy tactic’, and warning of the way new technology was being manipulated to remove the influence of qualified teachers. He stressed the need for workplace organisation, and maintaining the professional voice of teachers. The discussion groups that followed allowed participants to bring their own experience to bear in considering the benefits of professional unity, the actions that help build unity, and the problems that might be encountered on the way. Group participants were thoughtful, enthusiastic, prepared to tackle difficult issues,, and above all, showing a commitment to state education. One key action point from each group was reported to the final plenary session. What was clear was that the majority of delegates wanted this conference to be followed by regional conferences, again open to other unions, and then a much larger one to bring everything together next year - again in London. There was a real sense that things were at last moving towards actual action on real unity and the formation of a new education union. This was an historic, watershed conference. Obstacles have to be overcome but with good will, hard work and common sense a new union will be born.
Bob Crow 1961 - 2014 Education for Tomorrow grieves the untimely loss of Rail, Maritime and Transport union (RMT) General Secretary, Bob Crow. He was a principled, tough and uncompromising fighter for transport workers, and for working people everywhere. Much loved by his members, he led from the front and ensured that their pay, pensions and working conditions were protected. He gained respect from travellers for his demands that their safety was paramount. . He was unafraid to promote unfashionable but essential ideas like socialism and opposition to the austerity policies and privatisation that stem from the European Union. RMT is a model for an industrial trade union. Under Bob’s leadership the RMT was able to exploit the privatisation and fragmentation of transport services to protect members and public alike. Those of us working in education should learn from their success. The best way to commemorate the life of Bob Crow is to emulate unions like the RMT and work harder to build a single education union. 4
It’s that time of year again This Easter, the teacher unions will meet to review the past year and plan the year ahead. A year ago in this journal it was argued that, to fight the neoliberal onslaught on education, we needed to begin to develop a union of a new type. We called for the building of a single teachers union, rooted in every school and classroom in England and Wales with strong networks of support throughout local communities. Since Easter 2013, there has been progress on all these fronts.
(substantially) the same staff that have gone from outstanding to failing certainly at the very least should give pause for thought. One motion seeks to confirm the Association's unwavering commitment to the ethical principle and social benefits of a more equal society. It further seeks to condemn excessive pay, in some instances in excess of £200,000 per annum, received by self-styled national school leaders and executive headteachers. Another calls on the Government, which seems to throw out new policies nearly every day on the basis of no evidence, to 'not introduce new education policies that have no reliable, valid and statistically significant evidence base'. Others raise the impact on children and their parents and carers falling victim to exorbitant high interest loans and the privatisation for profit of state education. All excellent motions and an excellent agenda. But I have no doubt the same could be said of other teacher union conferences also. And why wouldn’t they be because the motions reflect the concerns of their profession which overwhelmingly are the same for all teachers. The primary task for the teacher unions now is to stop this needless division of having different and competing unions and put into practice that age old trade unions adage that unity is strength. The ATL looks to explore just such a possibility. It fully supported and participated in the NUT's Professional unity conference on March 1st. In its strategic review a strategic objective is to join with other education organisations to create a new education union. Unfortunately, the NASUWT has not as yet as an organisation reached this conclusion, though opinion polls show it is the wish of the majority of its members. The task for ATL and NUT members is to take this forward, to start a process that will not stop, will serve the profession and reverberate
The Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL) Last year ATL conference kicked off with an unprecedented motion of no confidence in the Secretary of State for Education. This was a fitting response to the unprecedented action he has taken in the dismantling of state education, the destruction of teachers' pay and conditions and seeking to hamstring and destroy the teacher unions. Michael Gove's bullying and rabid free market ideology and actions have not just turned him into a laughing stock and object of derision, but even led to him falling out with Michael Wilshaw and Ofsted and the STRB rejecting almost all of his pet proposals. In addition to the STRB recognising that to implement all of his suggestions would undoubtedly have led to uniting the teacher unions in fury and, more importantly, action and the massive disruption of the education system, but they also recognised that last year they had allowed themselves to be railroaded and bullied by Gove. For this they were roundly criticised and not just from the teacher unions. Their response this year directly confronts and criticises the biased DfE submission, helping to ensure that they wouldn't open themselves up to this justified criticism again. This year the ATL conference has motions highlighting the key issues for the profession. It starts with Ofsted, dealing with, amongst other things, the lack of any system of ensuring the reliability of Ofsted teams' judgements and the firm belief that they are following a political agenda of deliberately failing more schools to force them to become academies. As ATL General Secretary Mary Bousted has said, it would be extremely easy to send in another Ofsted team, ensuring they don’t know the results of the first, and see if they reach the same judgement before making a final decision. The number of schools with the same head and
across the whole education sector. Alliances are good but they are tactical. What is needed now is strategy. Uniting our forces, our separate organisations. Tactics should never be allowed to get in the way of strategic priority. I expect developments. If so they will be the most important advance in my teaching lifetime. Not a panacea to cure all ills, but look at Finland. Their single union has 95 per cent membership of the education sector. They have had few strikes and none since the 1980's. They have threatened them but the Government has backed down knowing their strength. No wonder they have the best education system in the world.
resources aimed at recruiting, supporting and retaining representatives, including a dedicated website, email groups and conferences for representatives. It also calls on the Union to establish national targets for recruitment of representatives and to develop a specific national plan to achieve these targets. This is a real opportunity for the NUT to confirm the course it has set over recent years and build the workplace strength on which our future relies. In terms of developing networks of community support, the NUT has recently launched a strong union-community campaign â€“ Stand Up for Education â€“ which identifies five key areas to bring together teachers, parents and the wider community. This campaign represents a real step-change for British education unions and reflects a recognition of the importance of mobilising wider support. It will be crucial that we develop this campaign in the coming months and years, both to increase the political pressure around the General Election, and to build sustainable alliances that can continue beyond May 2015 to change the discourse around education and shift the parameters within which policy is made. It represents the beginnings of a real alternative to the neoliberal Global Education Reform Movement and its impact on our education system. Finally, possibly the most exciting development of this year is the Professional Unity conference held on 1st March 2014. At that conference, a real willingness was presented from members of all teaching unions and the leaderships of the vast majority to work together to build a single union for all teachers. This work should be built on during the teacher union conferences to show the huge groundswell of support for one union for all teachers. In particular, the recommendation from the conference that regional conferences are organised over the next year to take the message out across England and Wales, should be acted on without delay. We face huge battles in education over the next few years due to the determination of the ruling class to dismantle and replace state education but the tools we need to win these battles are in our hands. We need to seize the moment.
Hank Roberts ( ATL national Immediate Past President )
The National Union of Teachers (NUT) The NUT's organising programme has developed in scale and sophistication, with Division Support Officers now deployed in every region, helping local associations to develop their strength at workplace level. We are not only securing real successes in terms of membership and Rep recruitment but it is shifting the balance of power at local level. This process is not uncontroversial and there is still a trend that would like to see the current system simply perpetuated by the extension of additional resources from the centre. However, the reality is that there is a real shift in the locus of control in education from local authority level to school level. Decisions on pay, conditions, curriculum are now taken at school level within strict parameters and a dominant discourse set by national government. In this situation, we cannot simply continue with business as usual. Without diminishing the role of local associations, we urgently need to build the strength of our school groups and to develop local Rep networks across clusters of schools to empower them. In this scenario, the local association has a key role in recruiting, training and co-ordinating these activists, in addition to, and alongside, its role as the democratic unit of the Union, where all members in a local area can participate. This year's conference will debate a motion which calls on the executive to provide further
(Oxfordshire secretary of the NUT and National Executive member)
Troops to Teachers ‘A costly flop’ Just 132 squaddies recruited to scheme Michael Gove's scheme to train ex-squaddies as teachers was labelled an ‘expensive flop’ yesterday after it was revealed the Tory Education Secretary mustered just 132 recruits. Figures obtained under the Freedom of Information Act reveal 322 former soldiers applied for teacher training between March 2011 and April 2013. Despite just 132 being accepted, Mr Gove has now thrown £10 million in public funds at a new two-year ‘Troops to Teachers’ scheme. If the latest scheme enlists the same low numbers, the maximum cost of getting each new recruit ready for the classroom could be a stunning £75,000. A Department for Education (DfE) spokeswoman insisted yesterday that the £10 million is the maximum available for the programme over the next two years. But National Union of Teachers North of England Regional Secretary Mike McDonald is among campaigners to have raised concerns over Mr Gove's latest ‘vanity project.’ He told the Morning Star: ‘He's very austere when it comes to things like teachers' pay, pensions and conditions but when it comes to his pet projects such as this, free schools and academies it seems money is no object. It's just one waste after another. ‘I'm not against the training of troops to be teachers but to spend this amount of money on it and for it to yield such a poor result is quite appalling, particularly with all the cuts affecting public services.’ And Mr McDonald said schools across England were crying out for extra cash. ‘When you think in terms of teacher shortages that we have in some parts of the country, this doesn't seem to be doing very much to fill that gap,’ he said. ‘It's an extremely expensive flop. I'd rather see class sizes come down as I think most teachers and parents would.’ The DfE spokeswoman said: ‘Troops to Teachers will make it easier for those who have contributed so much to our country to continue their brilliant work - this time in the classroom.’ The recruitment figures were revealed by the Department for Education in response to a freedom of information request made by campaigner Simon Gosden.
Tony Benn 1925 - 2014 Tony Benn who died peacefully at home at the age of 88 surrounded by his loving family, had been in frail health for several years, but coming so soon after the loss of Bob Crow it is particularly painful. Right up to his death he was President of the Stop the War Coalition, a tireless campaigner for trade union rights and public ownership and to free Britain from the shackles of the EU. He served as a Labour MP for 50 years, and famously retired from the House of Commons in 2001 ‘to devote more time to politics.’ As a Cabinet minister in Labour governments from 1964 to 1979, he learnt how ruthless the capitalist class is in seeking to maintain its position, aided and abetted by top civil servants. His published diaries - especially his last - A Blaze of Autumn Sunshine - reveal that, as a committed socialist within the Labour Party, he felt himself increasingly isolated. Whenever workers were in struggle he was there to support and advise them.
Luke James, Morning Star, 25/1/14
Digital Dementia We all know about dementia – poor memory and concentration skills, often coupled with an inability to even remember or process the simplest things such as finding the right word to use. Some of us have elderly relatives who display these characteristics and some of us (I dare to suggest) are quite likely to be already displaying some symptoms. And the symptoms are also related to those found in people who have had head injuries or psychiatric illness.
paths – whereas in adulthood the paths become fixed. The way that neuron paths are formed is determined by the way the brain is used. And this depends upon the kind of stimuli that find their way to the brain. Spitzer’s view is that the developing brain must receive the full range of stimuli that comes from interacting with the real world, as opposed to the virtual world: ‘If you just point with a mouse to something, rather than touching it and handling it, you will not use in learning about that object, But children, teenagers and young approximately, one-third of your brain that is adults? controlling motor behaviour. That is, your hands The term ‘digital dementia’ was coined in South and your plans to do something. So this one-third Korea, where a study found evidence of symptoms of the brain is basically not used of dementia in young people by learning, and if it is not used who were addicted to, or even by learning to get discriminative T h e b r a i n n e e d s just spent a lot of time on, digital to absorb representations within this onedevices such as smart phones. 'downtime' third of the brain, you cannot The problem of Internet a n d p r o c e s s then use this one-third of your addiction among adults and experiences. The digital brain when you think about this children was recognised in the thing.’ country back in the 1990s. And world works against this Spitzer also draws attention to now, according to the Ministry of as it tends to fill every the effects of rapid switching Science, ICT and Future moment. between topics when surfing the Planning, more than 67 per cent Internet, or between images of South Koreans have smart when playing video games. This damages longphones, up from 21.4 per cent in 2011. term recall of any one specific subject – polls of The Korean study followed on from an Americans show that, on average, Internet users American study by University of California, Los stay on any one webpage for just one minute. Angeles, published in June 2013, which found that This aspect of the situation is dealt with in 14 per cent of young people between the ages of 18 detail in Nicholas Carr’s book The Shallows. This and 39 complained of poor memory. That study fascinating and important book argues (very blamed lifestyle factors: stress from hectic lifestyles convincingly) that every form of information preventing concentration and retention of technology, right from the beginnings of writing, information, and time using computers preventing carries an intellectual ethic – a set of assumptions people focussing and memorising information. about the nature of knowledge and intelligence. In the case of children the dangers are far This is merely a statement of fact as far as Carr is greater, because children’s brains are very flexible, concerned – he is certainly no hater of technology, in a process of rapidly changing formation as no latter-day Luddite; he just wants us to neurones connect and reconnect according to what acknowledge the truth of the matter, and be aware is happening in the child’s life experiences. of the consequences of our actions. The German neuroscientist Dr Manfred There is another aspect. The brain needs Spitzer, who published a book entitled ‘Digital 'downtime' to absorb and process experiences. The Dementia’ in 2012, warns that the deficits in brain digital world works against this as it tends to fill development of children caused by excessive use of every moment. People use mobile phones etc. to fill digital devices are irreversible. This is because in every moment (‘micro-moments’) so that they are children and early adolescence the brain is ‘plastic’ never 'bored'. Games manufacturers have moved – it is constantly forming and re-forming neuron 8
on to fill even these tiny gaps by inventing games that you only play for a few minutes at a time. Where is the 'downtime', where the time to absorb and reflect? It is not there. Going back to the issue of lack of direct experience, we can see how important this consideration is for the future of our children. Play, for the young child, is actually a process of learning. This fundamental idea seems to be accepted by just about everyone except politicians. Through interactions with objects and with each other children learn the beginnings of problem solving, right from ‘that’s sharp, it hurt me’ to ‘it’s my turn’ and ‘I’m your friend’ (or not). Yet our society is creating an environment which is denying children these experiences. The question then arises as to what are the biggest reasons why parents (and teachers) are unwilling or unable to give children these essential experiences? The National Trust ran its Natural Childhood Enquiry from 30 March to 25 May 2012. It sought the views of parents, teachers, academics and others, asking them to also spread the range of participants through their own networks. The enquiry asked four questions, the first of which was "What do you think are the most important barriers to children spending more time outdoors?" Among the barriers identified in the report, two are of particular interest to those who wish children to have exploratory direct experiences:-
• 'Unreasonable culture'
outdoors.' Well, what a surprise there is in that last sentence (he says with heavy irony). It is not hard to see the extent to which commercialism (i.e. capitalism) lies behind not just this, but increasingly everything to do with children. Nor should we be surprised that our health and safety culture has become excessive. Of course we want our children to be healthy and safe. But Health and Safety has many sides, not least the fact that this too has become an industry with huge potential for commercial gain. Come to that, everything about young children seems to be turning into 'how much can we make out of it'…….. I think I'd better stop writing at this point for the sake of my blood pressure.
There was resounding consensus that riskaverse attitudes to health and safety are significantly inhibiting children’s access to natural spaces. There was a sense that authority attitudes and regulations aimed at keeping children safe from harm have been taken to an unreasonable extreme.'
• 'The rise of indoor entertainment' 'Numerous respondents likewise told us that the abundance of indoor entertainment technologies available today has led children into a more sedentary, sheltered childhood. It was thought that many parents may be reinforcing this trend as the home is perceived as a safer, more convenient, location for entertainment, where children can be easily supervised andprotected from potential physical dangers. Half of our expert interviewees explicitly mentioned commercialisation and indoor technologies as a significant barrier to the
Reviews Education Beyond the Coalition reclaiming the agenda Edited by Martin Allen and Patrick Ainley Radicaled 2013
Education Beyond the Coalition is a compilation of eight essays, in separate chapters, by eight different authors and is about the current content and delivery of state education in England. Indeed, it is about very recently imposed and ongoing policies of, ostensibly, the current Tory/Lib.Dem Coalition government, but it emphasises that the developments that schools, teachers and students are being subjected to are totally flowing from Tory ideology. Yes, these essays are, rightly, an analysis and very necessary critique of Tory educational provision in England now. However, one contributor to this collection (and other contributors, implicitly -) correctly traces the current educational provision from the 1988 Education Act. The project, although less discernible in 1988, that has led to the very discernible regressive and divided education provision available to working class people now, indeed began then, and has been continued relentlessly, irrespective of which shade of government was presiding, from the beginning of the 1980s to now. In fairness, and this is acknowledged in this book, New Labour when in power, did institute Sure Start and the Educational Maintenance Allowance, both of which gave some increased opportunity for, especially poorer, working class people, (-both subsequently axed by the Tory/Lib.Dem alliance in England, of course). However, and this is important to emphasise, the underlying thrust and direction of New Labour educational policies and implementations were a continuation of the preceding government's policies of dividing and privatising, with the
eventual aim of a reversal to a two-tiered educational system, In short, they were continuing to lay the basis for the implementation of current Tory policy and (never admitted) aims. The continuation of this drive has been to meet the needs and demands of advanced, ruthless, global capitalism which doesn't need a generally highly educated workforce, but only some educated people, and in some disciplines more than others at different times. Capitalism only ever paid lip-service to the idea of delivering education for the working class’ own development. Working class education has now been commodified to cater to ruling capital needs, as correctly illustrated by several contributors in this collection of essays, and, as one contributor to this book points out, state educational provision is increasingly being used for social control (-via, with others, agencies such as OFSTED). All of the writers reject the system and ideology in current practice. They address the effects of these in different areas of education including: primary, English teaching, 'standards' and the labour market, FE now and after the coalition, expectations and realities of HE, LEA roles and democracy, pedagogy and assessment. All of these authors outline the recent history of their own area of interest, analyse practises and responses that have developed within those areas, highlighting positive responses, and, most importantly, make proposals for change. These essays together can easily be seen as a collective ideology and response, by concerned, experienced and dedicated people. All of the authors are practising academics in institutions of
education specialising in different fields, and several have had lengthy experience as 'foot soldiers' in education too! The propaganda 'buzz' words behind which, often anti-educational, policies have been sold to the uninitiated public by cynical media manipulation, are alluded to in the first chapter. This might at first seem trivial, but in this chapter the author takes one of Michael Gove's 'buzz' words -’rigour’- to do a sound analysis of how Gove chooses to interpret this word and apply it in practice in order to implement his government's reactionary policies. 'Falling/rising' standards are frequent excuses used for introducing new policies too, and the invocation of either has been used as a battering ram to strike fear and insecurity into teachers and parents. Other divisive policies have been introduced under the guise of addressing increased 'choice', both under this, and under Blair's regime, in which, also, 'modernisation' was another 'buzz' word, the guise for the introduction of academies with sponsors and reactionary educational practices. Remember dodgy, used-car salesmen sponsors, and 'creationism', being introduced into academies? The final chapter presents ideas for change. This, like all of the contributions, is well researched and presents a basis from which to advance towards a more progressive education system that operates more nearly in the interests of the working class. Whether the reader agrees with all that this, or the other authors, propose, he, and they, provide interesting and well-considered views about how to approach a way forward. All of these authors advocate comprehensive schooling for all, and a similar universal delivery is advocated for postsixteen in an integrated FE and HE sector. There is realistic recognition within these contributions of where comprehensive education had actually reached against the pressures in our divided system, which was without complete commitment and ideology well before it was systematically broken up, but, nevertheless, all the contributors see universal comprehensive education as the only way forward. These contributors deal with very current issues like, for example, Gove's constant excuse for more divisive and narrowing policies complaining about 'falling standards' whilst simultaneously advocating the use of nonqualified teachers; like, for example, an approach to the idea of 'child-centred' education in the context of opposition to Gove's vision which sees children, exclusively, as empty boxes which only need
shovelfuls of prescribed knowledge, and to the vision of educationists who understand the child development elements of learning and the need for human creative growth. One contributor emphasises how she thinks child-centred education can be seen in this light and not be confused with 'individualism'. There are, included also, many ideas that we may all have been angered by, like, this, and the last, government's allowing employers’ demands to be prioritised and to dictate educational policy to the exclusion of educationists, parents, LEAs etc.; like employers bemoaning the poor standards of school-leavers here as an excuse to take their industries and jobs to other countries where labour is much cheaper and profits greater never mind that many of their new employees have even less education! Like, another contradiction coexisting with the last, that over one million (-and that number is rising) young university graduates are having to accept employment in which the demands are well below their educational attainment levels. Like attempts to further divide teachers and curb the effectiveness of their representative organisations by introducing the application of differentiated, narrow, target-related and subjective assessment criteria for teachers' pay. All of the contributors in this book, in their various ways, advocate much more democratic and societal involvement in educational policy and provision, especially an increase in the re-involvement of democratically elected LEAs, with restored real powers. These - some of which may appear to be trivial points - are not the main substance of these eight essays; they are all integral to much larger analyses and theses of where we are now, and how to proceed progressively. This book is well-argued, up to the minute, pertinent, and, very easy reading. You may not agree with everything in it or think it 'goes far enough', or you may have other ideas for progress, but it is a useful book; collectively it presents unified thinking, approach and aims, aided by insights into educational areas other than one's own.
Education for the People the struggle for democratic education The CPB’s latest pamphlet on education
The last Communist Party of Britain pamphlet concerning education was published as Blair began his attack upon state education with the cry of his empty slogan ‘Education, education, education’ ringing in ears that were soon to be boxed by his policies. This is a timely update as the Con-Dem government continue where New Labour left off. It reasserts the rights to education laid down in the earlier publication by establishing ‘A Charter for Democratic Education’ that it is hoped might provide the basis for local campaigns that can unite parents, students, education professionals and the wider community. This charter demands that education be seen as being the democratic right of everyone, that by its very nature it is a democratic tool that facilitate’s personal and social development and that because of this it should be democratically run and accountable. As one would expect there is excellent analysis which places education in the much wider class conflict in which it is set. The emphasis placed on the word ‘democratic’ arises from this class awareness. So often schools are looked at in isolation from the communities they serve and this of course is short-sighted in the extreme. This myopic vision prevents seeing how the ruling class has used education (or the lack of it) to further its own ends and to tighten its grip on the whole of society. The pamphlet emphasises the need to understand the role of education within capitalist society and highlights the fact that it is only ever seen as being important in such a system in order to maintain social order and to provide skills for the smooth running of the economic machine. That it should be life-long and have anything to do with the growth of personal and social consciousness is of course to be ignored because it is so threatening to the very survival of such a system that exists for the satisfaction of only a minority. The pamphlet emphasises the emancipatory nature of education, something that of course was not lost upon revolutionaries like Lenin and Che
Guevara, and rightly reminds us that for Marxists education is a vital part of the struggle for human freedom; that real education is only possible within a truly Socialist society. Our present system is the expression of the interests of a narrow social strata. Consequently schools cannot be changed and the idiocy of Gove removed without a seismic change in society. If there is any weakness in this publication it lies in the fact that it takes us only so far in the right direction, but hesitates to call for the revolution that is necessary and for which so many of us long. It calls for the need to establish a “coalition of interests” to further the demands of the Left, but the prospect of winning a system of real education for the people through parliament and the Labour Party seems to be a very wild flight of fancy.
Ian Prior The MU and EIS announce joint membership agreement Members of the Musicians’ Union and the Educational Institute of Scotland are set to benefit from being represented and supported by both organisations, who will be working together on campaigns and the delivery of services to improve conditions for musicians and music teachers across Scotland. Larry Flanagan, EIS General Secretary said, ‘The EIS is delighted to enter into this partnership with the Musicians’ Union. Instrumental music teachers have a vital role to play in providing quality instrumental music education in our schools . . . and safeguard the working conditions of music professionals across Scotland.’ John Smith, MU General Secretary said, ‘Working together, we will strive to ensure that music education in Scotland remains an option that is open to all and not only to those who can afford it.’ Is this an arrangement that might suit music teachers elsewhere in Britain?
News from the Anti Academies Alliance Judicial review
Michael Gove will not appeal Lord Justice Collins’ decision to allow a judicial review of the decision to forcibly convert Warren Comprehensive School in the borough of Barking & Dagenham . We say bring on the judicial review. The more forced academisation is brought out into the disinfectant of sunlight the better - far better than the secretive, murky world of the academy brokers.
The DfE’s report into Barnfield Federation identified significant financial irregularities ‘underpinned by substantial concerns on overall governance and accountability across the Federation.’ The report said that when Sir Peter Birkett, founder of the Federation, resigned, he was given two lump sums of money, an additional month’s holiday pay and an Audi Q5 – which was not part of his contractual entitlement. Meanwhile investigations continue at Kings Science Academy in Bradford where Ofsted has said it needs to secure new ‘additional leadership’, improve the breadth of GCSEs it offers and recruit more experienced teachers.
Public money, private pockets Margaret Hodge, Chair of the Public Accounts Committee, seemed incredulous hearing evidence from DfE officials in Parliament recently. Hodge asked how School Partnership Trust Academies (SPTA) were allowed to make payments over two years for legal services to Wrigleys Solicitors, where the trust director Christopher Billington is a partner. An increasingly exasperated Hodge asked the DfE ‘Why don't you just say trustees can't use families or companies where they have a financial interest? It is just wrong.’ A DfE spokesperson said it would be reviewing the oversight of ‘related party transactions’.
Pasty tax break Lord Nash, who hasn’t yet sent his own Futures academy chain a warning letter, wrote to Nottingham University Samworth Academy warning them that they are at risk of a takeover. Private Eye magazine (No. 1361) points out that the academy’s co-sponsors are the Samworth Family – the Ginsters pasty millionaires who have donated over half a million pounds to the Conservative party. Ofsted has judged all three Samworth academies as requiring improvement or inadequate. Has the AAA found common ground with Michael Gove on the subject of Lord Nash? Facing angry supporters of the planned Harperbury free school, blocked because Nash’s department failed to secure a site, Hertsmere’s Tory MP James Clappison told them ‘Michael Gove said Lord Nash was a junior minister with no experience in education’. Thanks to www.politicalscrapbook.net Political Scrapbook for that story.
Free school farce According to the New Schools Network – (the ‘charity’ funded with government money to promote the Secretary of State’s ideological privatisation agenda) free schools are driven by demand from local communities. If so, how come it’s taken Katharine Birbalsingh three attempts in three different boroughs to open her Michaela Free School? Which of the three local communities demanded a free school? All of them or perhaps none of them? And what of the free school proposed by the Institute of Education, the world’s leading teacher training college? That one never made it to the planning stage because Gove rejected the application as not ‘robust’. Meanwhile Phoenix School, the military academy which was approved for Oldham, has had to be pulled at the eleventh hour because it has failed to recruit sufficient exservice personnel to staff it. Oldham council now has to make alternative arrangements for the children due to start this September.
E-Act react E-Act, successor to the scandal-hit EduTrust charity, has announced which schools it will hand back to the DfE to be gifted to other chains www.e-act.org.uk/ updated-statement-from-e-act-27-february-2014/ . Uncertainty hangs over the future of these ten schools and all we can be sure of is that staff, parents and the local community will not be involved or consulted. The decision lies only with the Secretary of State and, if previous practice is followed, the 13
reasons why he chooses a sponsor won’t be disclosed even under the Freedom of Information Act. Many commentators have suggested that schools be returned to their local authorities. This is impossible under current legislation but at least one council, Chester & Cheshire West, has said it will provide school improvement support to Winsford Academy in the medium term, until another suitable sponsor is found for the school’.
of its list of objectives. FASNA are running a series of seminars throughout the autumn all about how to start academies — each one bearing the damning description: ‘The DfE is sponsoring this event, there is no charge’. With eight of these scheduled across Engand, there is a fair sum of taxpayers’ money being channelled by Gove into a body agitating for political changes of questionable relevance or benefit to the education of children. Recently, Michael Gove used FASNA as a platform to give a speech in which school governors – who give their time for free to help run schools — were attacked as: ‘Local worthies who see being a governor as a badge of status not a job of work.’ With Free Schools contracted out to a charity run by his former adviser, an ideological bent seems to be a prerequisite for involvement with DfE.
First for-profit school admits it is providing sub-standard education The parent company of England’s first for-profit free school has admitted it is providing a sub-standard education to its students. Internationella Engelska Skolan (IES), the Swedish provider which runs the Suffolk free school IES Breckland, has told TES it has been forced to stage its own inspection of the state-funded independent, which found it is ‘not representative of our schools’. The company said it was spurred into making the decision following the departure of its principal, Sherry Zand, who left the school in November last year, amid general concerns over the quality of teaching. During the internal review, Ofsted’s own inspectors paid a visit and while their report is yet to be published, IES is not expecting it to be favourable. It is another blow to education secretary Michael Gove’s free school policy, which has already seen two schools being forced to close due to concerns around standards, and another being investigated by police over allegations of fraud.
Hacked DfE web page: ‘Michael Gove decides to teach all children himself A mischievous hacker has defaced the Department for Education website — with a news article ‘revealing’ that the education secretary plans to teach the nation’s children on his own: ‘EDUCATION MINISTER Michael Gove today unveiled new plans to single-handedly teach every child in the UK. “Gather around kids!” he said, while ushering every single British child into one cavernous classroom. “According to reports, one small girl in the class began to cry. “Aw, do you miss your Mummy?” asked Gove, gently. “Well, Mummy has fundamentally failed to provide for your education so forget about her.”’ The cross-site scripting vulnerability was found by coder Terence Eden on a section of the site which had been outsourced to private provider, Texuna! ‘Texuna don’t have any secure way for people to report flaws to them and, when notified, struggled to find someone who could take responsibility.’ According to the TES, the department and Texuna took A MONTH to fix the security flaw and take down the article — even after they were informed of the hack. In fairness, that’s still quicker than their freedom of information (FOI) response time. http://politicalscrapbook.net
Gove gives DfE cash to ideological ‘small government’ schools body
The Department for Education is spending taxpayers’ money funding conferences given by an organisation campaigning for ‘smaller government’, it has emerged. The Freedom and Autonomy for Schools National Association (FASNA) puts the clearly political aim of shrinking the state at the top
International news standardised tests. The union fears that these tests, known as ISATs, which are due to be withdrawn anyway, will just make way for even more testdriven education next year. Moreover they say that the main result of the tests is the loss of weeks of proper teaching time, as teachers are pressurised into test preparation. For giant education corporation Pearson, however, which is being paid over $18 million this year for the ISATs, the tests mean yet more dollars to add to its already large profits. CTU supported the Seattle test boycott last year and it sees its support for parents boycotting the tests in Chicago as a continuation of that policy.
USA New York mayor pull plug on charter school plans The newly elected mayor of New York City, Bill de Blasio, has announced plans to block three charter schools from using facilities inside existing district schools. The proposals had been signed off by previous mayor Michael Bloomberg, but his successor pledged to reverse the decision in another show of his dislike of the charter school programme. Mr de Blasio was a severe critic of the independent, publicly funded schools during his election campaign, but this is the first time that he has pulled the plug on approved charters. The schools had already hired principals and were in the process of attracting students for potential enrolment.
Take a lawyer's advice - visit the occupied territories
Movement against corporate education reform in USA
I have just returned from a three-day tour of the West Bank and east Jerusalem, organised by the pro-Israel, pro-peace organisation, Yachad. The participants were all passionate Zionists and, were it not for some grey hairs and wrinkles, we could have been a youth group. In fact, we were all senior lawyers or individuals with a particular interest in the rule of law. The purpose: to understand the legal context to the occupation. The centrepiece, a unique visit to the Israeli Defence Force military courts that maintain law and order (for Palestinians only) in the West Bank, unique in that we were the first organised group of British Jews to visit the courts. In the course of the tour we met a very broad spectrum of people from representatives of Israeli NGOs, a senior employee of the Yesha Council, which represents settlers, and a senior adviser to Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman. My conclusions? First, there is no substitute for finding out what is really happening on the ground by visiting and asking difficult questions. I had made numerous assumptions from both Jewish and non-Jewish media, which were simply wrong. Secondly, those who consider that stories of systemic breaches of human rights under the occupation are an anti-Israel myth are deluding
Much of the corporate 'reform' which is infecting education systems all over the globe has its ideological origin in the United States. Also from the US comes a large amount of funding to promote it, particularly from foundations like that of billionaire Bill Gates. However a mass movement is building in the US to counter such reform, boycotting testing, opposing school closures and charterisation and opposing the socalled common core curriculum. Teachers in Portland, Oregon are taking strike action against the imposition of a new contract which would see class sizes increase in a district where classes of over 30 are common, particularly in secondary schools.The teachers have had much support from local communities and in particular their students. Many of them walked out of school, in solidarity with their teachers, in December and last month students and other community members shut down a school board meeting as they struggled to make their voices heard. Â Meanwhile in Chicago, the teachers union there (CTU) has come out in support of parents who intend to withdraw their children from
themselves. We spent a morning at the military courts observing young Palestinian boys, aged 13-17, being processed, and speaking to their mothers. It is clear that children are invariably arrested in night raids by the army at gunpoint, cuffed and blindfolded and held, often for hours, in that condition, denied access to food, water and toilet facilities, interrogated without being advised of their rights, without a lawyer and without their parents. Military Court Watch, an Israeli NGO, has carried out a detailed forensic review and they found over 50 per cent of children were arrested in night raids and 83 per cent of children blindfolded. All of the children we saw in court were in leg shackles. There was a shocking passivity of the Palestinians we observed at court. Parents and detained children smiled and joked with each other and we did not see a single case of anger. That’s not to say parents did not care that their children were being imprisoned. But conviction rates are 99.7 per cent. The passivity bespeaks a people who have become resigned to their reality. They recognise there is no longer any point in fighting for basic rights. I felt that the court system was clearly a figleaf for a system of arbitrary justice where the guilt of the child is beside the point. The courts are part of a system that effectively keeps Palestinian society in a state of constant fear and uncertainty. So why do the authorities bother with the expense of maintaining the pretence of justice? The answer is that without scrutiny it is possible to pretend that the system is fair. So, defendants are legally represented and proper rules of evidence apply. Scrape away the veneer, and the charade is exposed with convictions routinely obtained based upon forced confessions and defendants facing remand without bail pending trial for periods in excess of sentences when pleading guilty. No sane defendant would plead not guilty in this Catch 22 situation. I would argue that diaspora Jews who are true friends of Israel have a duty to visit the territories to understand the problem, and then to lobby friends in Israel to strive for a just end to this situation. If we do nothing, can we complain if we awake one day and Israel has sleepwalked into the status of a pariah country?
David Middleburgh, Chronicle, 16/1/14
Cuba UNESCO recognizes Cuba’s educational accomplishments Herman van Hooff, director of UNESCO’s regional cultural office, reported February 5 that Cuba’s accomplishments in implementing the United Nations ‘Education for All’ (EFA) objectives are recognized worldwide. The six objectives include expansion of early childhood care and education; provision of universal free and compulsory primary education; opportunities for young people and adults to learn life skills; the development of adult literacy, gender parity and quality education. The ‘Education for All’ effort guided by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization is directed toward meeting universal educational needs. Progress toward meeting the objectives was described in UNESCO’s 11th report on teaching and learning 2013-2014, recently shared in Havana. Van Hooff assured Granma that he is pleased with Cuba’s accomplishments and mentioned several of the country’s outstanding achievements such as the early childhood education program Educa a tu hijo, quality primary education and Cuba’s renowned adult literacy campaign. The report also highlighted the fact that, among all countries in Latin America and the Caribbean, Cuba dedicates the highest percentage of its Gross Domestic Product to education - 13 per cent. Despite progress made in several countries, the report concludes that the basic EFA goals will not be achieved and that the issue of education must be a central priority on the UN’s post-2015 development agenda.
Linet Perera Negrin, Granma, 6/2/14
Education for Tomorrow is a regular journal, produced by an editorial collective bringing together socialists, communists and progressive ed...
Published on Apr 1, 2014
Education for Tomorrow is a regular journal, produced by an editorial collective bringing together socialists, communists and progressive ed...