Friday, December 01, 2006

Education for sale

The conversion of public education into commodities for sale continues apace, with PM Tony Blair’s announcement of a major expansion in England of the city academies’ programme. When trust schools that New Labour is creating are included, it is clear that the systematic and break-up of the local authority-run schools system is well advanced. There are now 100 academies and Blair wants 400 by 2010. The academies, which are independent of local councils and part-funded by business, were originally a Tory idea that wasn’t a great success. That is because the Tories wanted business to put £10m into each academy. New Labour revived the idea – but dropped the price to £2m. You can get an academy for even less these days. And there’s a good chance that sponsoring an academy might even lead to a knighthood or a peerage. This is one of the lines of inquiry Scotland Yard are pursuing in the cash-for-honours scandal. Once the private sector donation is in, the government pays £25m in start-up costs. In return, those who put in the cash have a huge say in the governance of the schools. This has facilitated another of the Blairite projects – the increase in the role of religious bodies and groups in the education system. Sir Peter Vardy, a Christian philanthropist, has been accused of permitting the teaching of creationism at his Emmanuel College in Gateshead. There are reports that other schools have disciplined students for not carrying a copy of the Bible in their rucksack.

Trust schools are the other side of the destruction of comprehensive education, which was fought for and established by the Labour Party in the 1950s and 1960s. Blair wants 100 of the new trust schools to be planned by next spring. Trust schools are certain to reinforce a two-tier education system. Under the legislation parents, businesses and voluntary groups can run trust schools. The trusts will take control of their own buildings and land, directly employ their own staff, and will set and manage their own admissions criteria. They will compete with other schools, which face closure if they don’t attract sufficient students. After hearing Blair’s latest announcement, the general secretary of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers, Mary Bousted, said: "The government should stop its obsession with academies before it does any further damage. ATL fails to see how academies and trust schools will address the twin evils of pupil under-achievement and inequality of opportunity. Trusts are a solution in search of a problem. We can't see what academies and trusts can do, that foundation schools cannot." This statement unfortunately misses the point completely. New Labour has facilitated the creation of a market state, whose role is to introduce business methods and investment into public services. The idea that competition drives down costs and increases efficiency, while limiting the role of the trade unions, is a central tenet of corporate-driven globalisation. New Labour sponsors and promotes this big business approach in everything it does. While the new academies’ programme was being announced, it was revealed that the government is going to sell shares in new prisons under a "buy to let" scheme being considered by the Home Office. A property company would build jails and then rent them out to private prison operators. Investors would be offered a steady "rental income" because the jails are certain to be full as a result of the government’s lock-everyone-up approach to crime. If you think this is obscene, no doubt New Labour’s policy advisors are working on even more horrific ideas to place business at the heart of everything that moves.

Paul Feldman, communications editor


Anonymous said...

Will Academies be introducing even more religious-based mumbo jumbo creationism and intelligent design anti-scientific ideas?

Andrew said...

Visit the new Anti Academies Alliance website, .