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Lobby of MPs The Case Against Privatisation 27th June 2006

Back row from left: Judith Pugh, John Pugh, David Smale (Plymouth), Dave Clinch and Susannah Billeter (Devon)


The government’s policies of privatisation and marketisation are widening inequalities and have the potential to produce a fragmented education system. Five hundred schools across the country have PFI schemes attached to them and now local authorities are beginning to find they are poor value for money; the private contractors are failing to meet their obligations. Profits are made from outsourcing reduced education services through “efficiency gains”. This outsourcing to companies, that have little experience of education, has failed to raise standards. Further profits can be made from selling on the PFI contract to other companies within a year or so, completely beyond the control of the school itself and the local authority. Steve Sinnott, our General Secretary said, “All the evidence points to an education service that will have increased education and social segregation if the Education & Inspections Bill becomes law and competition between schools increases.”

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Can we have our torch back please? News that the Tory torch is being replaced with a blue square or a waving hand prompts thoughts of rebranding Do you want the right to search your pupils for knives and other weapons? Will this be a power or a duty?

“What’s that Sooty? Plymouth NUT says Kill the Bill?!!” A naked Sooty gives Education Secretary Alan Johnson MP some good advice

At a meeting in Exeter Christine Blower, the Deputy General Secretary of the NUT and Melian Mansfield, the Chair of the Campaign for State Education (CASE), highlighted the imminent danger to schools in both the primary and the secondary sectors as the Education and Inspections Bill makes its progress through Parliament. Christine Blower attacked the so-called ‘choice agenda’. She said that when Ruth Kelly was the Education Minister her constant reference to the “poor and underprivileged” would have put Mother Teresa to shame! The reality, of course, is that most parents/ guardians send their children to local schools and don’t From left, Christine, Chair Mike Gurney and Melian Mansfield seek ‘choice’, but instead want a well-funded and resourced school. Diversity within schools should be defended, not the segregation of students into faith schools, for example. Christine argued that schools should be at the hub of their community. The Government is creating a two-tier education system based on academic and vocational routes, she said. Tony Blair talks of a ‘world class’ education system and encourages the development of an Academies programme which have not been evaluated and remain untested. Christine cited the recent report by Matthew Taylor and Rebecca Smithers which reveals that Academies show little sign of improving results whilst at the same time excluding an “inordinate number of students.” Academies are being built at extraordinary cost. Christine spoke of the government’s failure to reduce class-size and spending below the recommended Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) levels on education. Schools are places of innovation, she said, unlike Tony Blair’s claim that comprehensives created a system of “deadening uniformity”. It is this government which has continued to impose the deadening uniformity of the national curriculum and the obsession with targeting and testing vigorously pursued by OfSTED. Melian reiterated the importance of maintaining a fully comprehensive and locally accountable education system which is part of the community and free at the point of delivery. If the Bill is passed the very foundation of comprehensives will be shattered by private interests taking over schools. She warned of the pressure which will be exerted on governors to agree to become Trust schools, thereby handing over their powers to unelected and unaccountable Trusts backed by private business sponsors. School meetings will be for parents only and no one else will be able to speak. The decision will be irreversible; there are no complaints procedures. Local Authority schools will have the pupils unable to go to Trust schools, thus a two-tier system will emerge. She added that so-called ‘failing’ or ‘coasting’ schools will have to be turned around within a year or face closure, and reopening as a Trust school. Melian brought to our attention the CASE campaign pledge whereby governors would be asked to pledge that they would not seek to become a Trust school. They would also consult staff, parents and the local community should any attempt be made to pressurise them into handing over their school to unelected, unaccountable Trusts. The pressure must remain on this government from the NUT, CASE, parents’ groups and other organisations to stop this Bill and to ensure that every student can go to a good local school which is properly funded and resourced. Contact CASE at:

The government’s proposed introduction of Trust schools represents further moves towards marketisation and undermines the very principal of comprehensive education. Trust schools will be able to set their own admissions policies and will be independent of the democratic accountability of local authorities. The government’s education policies fly in the face of the evidence. A recent OECD survey revealed that countries with the greatest educational successes had more comprehensive education systems like Canada and Finland as compared with more ‘choice’-driven education systems like Austria and Germany. Further & Higher Education Clockwise The government is increasingly opening Britain’s 388 FE colleges to private profiteers. Next year, colleges from top left: Tony Benn are expected to receive only 90-95% of their 2006 waits to funding. The rest will be put out to tender as part of a speak at programme of ‘contestability’, allowing companies as Methodist well as colleges to bid for it. Companies with dubious reputations are making Central Hall profits out of education. Unions fear that the profitable Westminster, parts of the sector will go to these companies who Steve Sinnott speaking to have close business relationships with government departments, leaving them with the same funding as lobbyists and John & Judith colleges but without the overheads. In the FE White Paper published in March 2006, the Pugh listening government announced plans to allow private to speeches. The NUT companies to take over underperforming FE colleges. This is despite the fact that only 2% of colleges are parliamentary steward is currently judged inadequate by OfSTED, compared Andy Woolley with 20% in 2001. The Tolpuddle Martyrs Festival celebrates the founding of the trade union movement. NUT members and other trade unionists from all over the world will arrive in Dorset on Sunday 16th July. Tony Benn will again be one of the keynote speakers. The affirming march through the village with bands and banners is just one of the highlights. SEE YOU THERE !

Photos by Dave Clinch, David Smale, Andy Woolley and John Illingworth

It’s not April 1st but...a think-tank proposes that class size restrictions in primaries should be relaxed, literacy hours extended to 90 minutes, tests every 8 weeks and classes taught in ability groups (streaming). Remember you read it here first!

An attempt to ration teachers' pay through an individualised performance pay system will be in place by September. New government plans on Performance Management will affect the incremental pay of teachers and will be directly determined by their linemanager! Teachers’ contracts will include a new directive to undergo three hours worth of monitoring and observation per year, on top of anything required by OfSTED or the Local Authority. At the moment the Performance Management maximum is one hour. So it’s a double-whammy because as well as increased workload, staff could lose financially if meetings are missed or even disagreement expressed—in a Kafkaesque world where to simply ask questions is often synonymous with dissent. Hard working teachers condemn such divisive proposals that will destroy teamwork and further polarise schools as staff opt for schools or classes where it is easier to get their pay rise. Research already shows that up to 37% of eligible teachers choose not to fill in their Threshold forms – many due to intimidation and “broad hints” that they could be wasting their time. Effectively, the managerial buck is being forced down on to staff at lower and lower levels whilst the climate of fear is increased. Free market policies in the Education and Inspections Bill are to be enforced with autocratic industrial relations strategies. Make no mistake, this is a bully’s charter that will, at the very least, crank up the levels of work-related stress and sickness absence in schools. You should also know that the DfES has reduced the statutory consultation period for the NUT and the NAHT as the proposals have already been rubberstamped by the same social partners that pushed through the “excellent and well thought out” TLR debacle. The NUT and NAHT together represent most teaching staff in England and Wales, but they were not invited to any talks. Working together they could yet influence how these policies are dealt with in schools. EXPECT MORE ON THIS EARLY NEXT TERM...

Tamarside’s head teacher, Keith Balance, is on the front page of this week’s TES. Concerns are expressed about charging £13 for sick notes from local GPs when students are ill and unable to sit their exams. Keith is quoted as saying, “It’s an absolute disgrace.”

A Message for Reps...are you leaving your school in July? Please ask another NUT member to take over your postal distribution duties! Tell John on 01752 707606 so he can update your address label today!

Nutshells #61 July 06  
Nutshells #61 July 06  

The newsletter of the Plymouth National Union of Teachers