Monday, 21 March 2016

We need a broad coalition to defend our community schools from this latest attack

This was all supposed to be about parent power and choice, wasn’t it? The government has clearly decided that this particular story has run its course. Perhaps there was too much debate about academies’ records, too much resistance from schools, parents, local authorities, a slowing rate of change. So, the government has decided to change the game and take matters into its own hands.

Last week, the government announced that it will be bringing forward legislation to ensure that all maintained schools will now become academies, either as part of multi-academy trusts or, exceptionally, as stand-alone schools, regardless of what anyone else thinks. The requirement for schools to even have parent governors will be removed, meaning that parents will have no formal voice in their schools any more. Schools will be run by trusts on a business model that removes them further from their communities. We as parents, resident in our communities, will have less say than ever in the lives of our schools.

If the government has abandoned its rhetoric of choice, it also seems to have ditched the tiresome burden of evidence-based policy-making. There is simply no evidence that academies in themselves improve performance.
[1] In fact sponsored chain academies in particular tend to perform less well than maintained schools. The number of voices saying this has only been growing in the last few years. Regardless of this, Nicky Morgan has decided that our schools will be academies, one way or another.

It seems likely instead that some sections of the government have grown tired of waiting and want to speed up the process of creating a market of competing trusts and chains with a dose of what used to be called ‘shock therapy’. The endgame for some in the government, as we have known for some years, is the creation of schools owned by shareholder-owned companies and run for profit, as has happened in Florida, Michigan and other areas of the US. Stories about empowering parents and improving schools got the Conservatives this far but not far enough and not fast enough. So, it’s decided to resort to simply dictating to parents, teachers, schools and communities.

What you can do now:

Our Community, Our Schools was set up to defend and promote our community schools and the progressive vision of education that sits behind them. The government’s latest move is a devastating attack on our schools and the idea that they should be embedded in and answerable to communities and the public. The government’s move has prompted widespread outrage and has the potential to mobilise a very wide coalition in protest. But if we are to frighten the government and give full expression to this potential, parents must be actively involved and at the centre of campaigning. We must ensure that we are reaching deep into our communities, raising awareness and involving more people than ever.

OCOS is planning how we can play our part in building a broad campaign now, but in the immediate term, here are some things we can do:
There are two petitions circulating which you can sign. Both have more than 100,000 signatures but we need to make them as big as possible to get attention to the depth and breadth of feeling on this issue. Please sign and share both:
If you can make it, attend the emergency protest called by the NUT in central London, assembling at 6.30pm at Westminster Cathedral:


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