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Why do we oppose Academies?
This statement was sent as a letter to The
Guardian newspaper in 2006 from the late Steve Sinnott, General Secretary
of the National Union of Teachers, author and journalist Melissa Benn,
Professor Steven Ball, author and journalist Francis Beckett, Ken Muller,
Islington Campaign Against Academies, Geoff Holmes, County Secretary NASUWT
Northumberland, Tracey Moreton, parent at Northcliffe school in
The 400 academies proposed by the prime minister in December
2006 - at an average cost of £35m each - will lead to a transfer of more
than £14bn worth of publicly owned resources into the hands of private
sponsors. Local authorities currently face an invidious choice. If they include
an academy in their bid for funding under the Building Schools for the Future
programme, it will be built with no charge to the authority but at a £35m
cost to the taxpayer. It will also trigger much-needed funding for other
schools in the authority through BSF. So a new school comes "free" to a local
authority if it is an academy, but at a huge cost if it is not. Headteachers
and local authorities have made clear that they do not want academies, but they
are being pres- sured and bribed into accepting them. Why? Tony Blair and
Andrew Adonis constantly claim that academies work, using parental demand for
places as evidence. But there are no control samples in the academies
experiment, and any GCSE science student would see through this claim. There is
no genuinely fair test. We therefore wish to put the following proposal. The
government would like to see improving schools, such as Islington Green school
in London and Hirst High School in Ashington, Northumberland, closed down and
replaced with academies. A fair test would be to give each of those schools the
£35m - the cost of an academy - and compare their success with those of
existing academies. Then it would be possible to evaluate fairly what leads to
school improvement. Is it the involvement of private sponsors and academy
status that really raises pupil achieve- ment and makes schools popular with
parents? Or would a massive injection of state funds have the same effect? We
challenge the government to take up this proposal
For essential up to date information on Academies, go to
|A major reason for there being a crisis
in school places is the failure for Lambeth Council to have any long term plans
to use their resources over a longer period of time- sites have been sold to
please auditors, rather than kept to please the community.
Since the mid-eighties, the following schools have closed
and their sites taken out of LEA use for schools:
Kennington Boys (part), Priory Park, Beaufoy, Henry
Thornton, Orchard Centre, Santley, Caldecot, Haselrigge, Vauxhall Girls, Lawn
Lane, Tulse Hill, Dick Shepperd, Ashby Mill and Effra Primary have been sold to
developers. (This list does not cover all school closures)
There are also sites - possibly the old Lilian Baylis -
that will be sold as there are no long term plans, but the present plans for
Fenstanton take the biscuit.
Academies in Lambeth
Lambeth Academy was the first Academy to open in Lambeth as
a new build in 2004. It is run by the United Learning Trust.(ULT)
ULT is based in Northampton. To be fair, they do have a
background in education, and do recognise the unions. We are aware of serious
concerns in other ULT academies and of disputes that the union have with ULT.
ULT have recently offered a pay increase ever so slightly
higher than the government has elsewhere, but given the hours that teachers
work in academies, it is cannot be said to be significantly higher
In Lambeth, we do have a fairly good relation with the
Academy and we have on site union reps.
Although we would describe our relationship with Lambeth
Academy as 'normal', we insist that education should be organised by those
accountable to communities, not shareholders and remote bodies.
ARK - who's behind them?
Evelyn Grace school opened in September 2008, admitting Year
7 pupils on a temporary site in Breixton.
The sponsor for this Academy is Absolute Return for Kids -
(ARK). You are given the impression that there are philanthropic entrepreneurs
out there who are just waiting to help the deprived inner city children. This
claim is dubious. Experience has shown that these sponsors nominally have to
provide £2 million (often they dont even do that) then they are in
control of a multi-million pound site, managing a colossal budget.
ARK is a US based charity they all seem to be
who want to get into education in this country. They have no previous
experience of education in Britain. ARK we find have among their millionaire
trustees one Jennifer Moses. Jennifer Moses was till recently a senior director
of the investment bank Goldman Sachs, which was recently fined $110 million by
the US Securites and Exchange Commission for being involved in the worst
financial scandal for a generation.
It was also the bank which allowed Robert Maxwell to fleece
the Mirror pension fund and whose senior vice-president was recently imprisoned
for three years for fraud. Moses herself and her husband, Ron Beller, were
reported earlier this year to have been robbed of over a million pounds by
their secretary Joyti DeLaurey without even noticing. Hardly surprising when
you consider her husbands recent annual wine bill came to £18,000!
Are these really the kind of people we want running our childrens
More alarming is the fact that the banks behind ARK are all
linked to Hedge Fund speculation - financiers who had built up huge
financiang of the world's banking system. Had the reserves thesl empires based
purely on speculation - that is leechie outfits have built up been
invested, we would not have seen the financial mess worldwide that we
now are experiencing.
Which begs the question: if these people contribute to
the disaster we are suffering in the world's private banking system, why do we
want them involved in state funded projects?
Are academies really popular?
Given that the government trumpeted their accademies as if
they were the salvation of western civilisation as we knew it, it's hardly
surprising that in the early days they seemed popular. ewspecially if they had
brand neew buildings, opposed to the ramshackle alternatives of local authority
However, parents may be fooled once, twice, but not for
ever. Contrary to the myths spun by ministers and certain council leaders, the
truth is somewhat different. Whereas local authority schools in September 2008
were oversubscribed - in some case well over, it was not the case with Lambeth
Academy and Evelyn Grace.
Lambeth Academy did fill up on second preferences, but
Evelyn Grace still hadn't reached 180 at the same stage.
Which just goes to show - just as people arfe finding out
with banking - private doesn't necessarily mean better, often means something