Free school Headteacher reneges on agreement
Teachers at the STEM 6 Islington Free School thought they had won an important victory. Directors at the Free School agreed to recognise the NUT and other TUC affiliates for collective bargaining and will enter into meaningful negotiations about terms and conditions at the school. http://www.islingtongazette.co.uk/news/crime-courts/strike_at_finsbury_academy_called_off_1_3258919
Less than a week after telling the NUT: ‘We are not prepared to recognise you whether or not industrial action is taken’, the Principal had backed down writing: ‘Just to confirm that we are willing to recognise the NUT and enter meaningful negotiations’. Members at the school suspended the strike to allow further discussions on draconian contracts which include a lay-off or zero hours clause.
However Headteacher John O’Shea has cancelled the meeting with NUT representatives.
Teachers have decided they have no option but to strike as originally planned.
Islington NUT Deputy Secretary Ken Muller said,
“The sooner John O’Shea and the STEM 6 governors honour their promises, respect their teachers and sign a standard TUC drafted union recognition agreement the sooner we can enter in to constructive negotiations about staff terms and conditions of employment and the sooner the school can focus on what it is meant to be doing: providing students with the high quality of education to which they are entitled.”
Unfortunately, because they have not been able to do this, teachers at STEM 6 will be striking Wednesday and Thursday and picketing from 7.30 am onwards.
For further information, call Ken Muller on 07950075088 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Victory in the courts
Warren School was facing forced academisation but the High Court has ruled that consultations on a possible alternative will have to take place first. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-london-25752296 This is the first time that the courts have applied a judicial brake to an academy order. The judge, Mr Justice Collins, said it seemed the present secretary of state ‘thinks academies are the cat’s whiskers – but we know some of them are not’. Councillor White of Barking & Dagenham said: ‘the improvements at the school, and the arrangements we have put in place are having a very positive impact on outcomes for children, and as such, imposing an academy will be disruptive to the children’s education’.
We’ve got Gove on the ropes
Gove’s popularity is on the wane in Parliament, in the Tory party and in the polls. In a desperate attempt to court middle England, Gove has called for the re-introduction of old-fashioned punishments – micromanaging from Whitehall the very schools that he claims to have set free! A parliamentary debate probed the Kings Science Academy – the Bradford Free School where nobody can be quite sure whether Vice Chair of the Tories Alan Lewis was the chair of governors or not, but we can be sure that his company is receiving millions from the taxpayer for what he calls a ‘peppercorn rent’. Back in the 1980s Lewis said ‘I invest in tangible things… Can I touch it and will it make money is what I ask myself.’ http://www.independent.co.uk/news/business/profile-the-recession-player-alan-lewis-believes-in-god-making-money-and-the-disciplines-of-karate-gail-counsell-finds-a-rare-mix-of-passions-in-a-man-embarking-on-a-new-phase-of-his-career-1549798.html Gove has never been less popular with teachers but now even his own party is questioning his effect on the polls. Parents on the whole don’t like his narrow curriculum with high stakes testing. Parents want properly qualified teachers http://www.teachers.org.uk/node/13032 and a broad curriculum for their children; they like schools that are the hearts of their communities. The privateers pronounce that parents don’t care about structures but evidence all across the country suggests otherwise. Parents see that they lose their democratic voice when their children’s schools are handed to chains. They know that only Gove can open or close their children’s school http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/education-25369094 and they don’t like the fact that academies are removing children from their rolls before they take their GCSEs http://www.theguardian.com/education/2014/jan/21/gcse-pupils-disappearing-from-school-rolls
Ofsted in chains
Now Gove is at war with Ofsted. In just one week he has appointed a new director, Sir Robin Bosher from the Harris chain; he’s held a very public spat with the Chief Inspector Sir Michael Wilshaw (close links to the Ark chain), and now sacked the chair of the Ofsted board – Baroness Sally Morgan, Labour peer and adviser to Ark. Even Gove’s DfE colleague David Laws, the LibDem schools minister, has accused him of politicising education!
On 23 January over 250 teachers, governors and parents packed into St Paul’s church in Hammersmith for Education Question Time. Questions, submitted on the night or by Twitter included: What is the value of Ofsted; Why are there so many faith schools; What single thing would panel recommend to improve education? The panel – author Michael Rosen, Christine Blower, general secretary of the NUT and Julian Bell, the leader of Ealing council – was chaired by TV presenter Adrian Chiles. A speaker from the Save our Sulivan campaign ended the meeting talking about the disgraceful decision of the council in Hammersmith to close the primary and hand it to a religious Free School. He made a plea for everyone to get involved in local campaigns.
This was the first event working towards a national campaign to fight for an education of ‘equity, equality and quality’. The next will be in South London on 27 February chaired by Daily Mirror journalist Fiona Phillips. Panellists will include Professor Gus John, David Wolfe QC and Lib Peck, leader of Lambeth Council. Submit your questions on Twitter using the hashtag #EdQTime and book your free ticket here http://www.nce2014.org.uk/campaigning . Look out for future events coming up in other regions.
Sixty people from Sussex to Cumbria, from Lincolnshire to Lancashire joined in a lively debate at the Anti Academies Alliance 2014 AGM. Guest speakers included Martin Johnson from the ATL who has been working with journalist Warwick Mansell to expose the creeping privatisation of English schools. Martin revealed that in the USA 500,000 children are being educated ‘virtually’; they are out of school and ‘taught’ by computer packages. He concluded that children’s right to a broad and balanced curriculum is under threat and, if the trend to privatisation is not halted, English schools will be impoverished. Christine Blower explained that the NUT had worked with the Compass Enquiry to influence Labour’s education manifesto. The key idea was the re-democratisation of education. Christine had been pleased to see that Hammersmith & Fulham council had called in the Sulivan decision. Rob Kelsall was speaking in a personal capacity and he commended the NAHT stance against forced academies http://www.naht.org.uk/welcome/news-and-media/campaigns/forced-academies-campaign . Parent campaigners from Snaresbrook campaign explained how their well organised group lobbied politicians and media until Gove had to back down. The annual meeting, which also heard from Owen Everett of Forces Watch http://www.forceswatch.net , passed two motions. Firstly the AAA will call on all local authorities to follow the lead of Islington and Barking & Dagenham to ballot parents whenever an academy conversion is proposed and secondly the AAA will affiliate to the People’s Assembly http://www.thepeoplesassembly.org.uk . The next steering committee will focus on the theme ‘towards a national campaign for education’. Details will follow; all will be welcome!
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