Defend Waltham Forest State Schools’ petition received a major boost yesterday when it was circulated at a packed public meeting called by Walthan Forest Anti-Academies campaign to raise the profile of the attack on local authority schools in the borough and in particular the plans to turn Connaught School into an Academy.
Alasdair Smith, Chair of the Anti-Academies Alliance, which has led national and local campaigning against academy schools alongside the teaching unions, opened the meeting with a passionate attack on the myth that academy status brings improvement to schools. He pointed to the government’s agenda to decisively break up the local authority state school system by coercing individual schools into taking up academy status, stating that this was effective privatisation in the field of education. Alasdair urged the Walthamstow and Leyton communities to rally behind the NUT teachers at Connaught taking strike action this week against the plans to turn
Connaught into an Academy.
Tom Taylor, a parent of children at
Connaught and a governor at the school, told the meeting how the school’s leaders had misled parents, teachers and other governors, citing supposed Local Authority support for their plans, before pushing them through without any consultation or real democratic process. Tom urged the need to use the full range of tactics including legal and procedural challenges, democratic mass pressure from the community and strike action to win battles in each school under threat from the academy programme.
Jonathan White from Defend Waltham Forest State Schools explained the connection between the academies programme and the government’s promotion of Free Schools, reiterating Alasdair Smith’s point that both were about the break up and privatisation of state schools, noting that this was being done by the government in the interests of powerful education businesses who want to enter the UK schools ‘market’. He urged that the proposed
was being promoted by people who were effectively manipulating real fears about pressure on school places but who were not themselves looking at the reality in the borough or the best ways of tackling the local need. He went on to outline the reasons why parents in Walthamstow had come together to form the campaign, ranging from opposition to Free Schools as a bad solution to the demographic issues in the borough, to concerns about the religious orientation of the sponsoring company, Oasis Community Learning and fears about the damage to the community’s schools that would follow. Jonathan finished by thanking the meeting for the opportunity to put the campaign’s case, urging support for the Free School Connaught teachers and asking everyone to sign the petition.