Category Archives: Education

Greens Condemn Academies Policy

Derbyshire Green Party is encouraging parents to find out if their children’s school faces the switch to academy status. Peter Allen, the candidate for High Peak in the last election, said,

“We know that 13 schools in Derbyshire have so far expressed an interest, we fear that many more will be pushed to do so for fear of losing funding.”

Caroline Lucas, Party leader and Brighton MP, described the Bill as an attack on both local democracy and comprehensive education.

“Today, with this bill’s passage, is a bad day for democracy and for education. This was legislation that was rushed through Parliament, without proper consultation. We should be improving the quality of every local school for all children, rather than accelerating Labour’s programme of academies to deepen divisions between schools.”

She tried unsuccessfully to amend the Bill in Parliament to ensure that parents and the local community retained a strong voice on governing bodies.

The Act will come in to force next week, with both schools and Parliament in their summer recess. By the time they return, all schools will have the right to opt out of Local Authority control and accept funding from private sponsors. These sponsors, who need have no experience in education, will dominate the governing body of the school, establish staff and pupil recruitment policy, and be able to influence the school curriculum. Peter Allen said that this Act heralded the effective privatization of education.

“The ConDem Government is slavishly following an American model that does not deliver higher standards than the present UK system.  I urge parents to find out if their children’s schools are affected and to question the school Governors carefully about this policy. I fear that it is a smokescreen for deep cuts in educational funding.”

The following schools in Derbyshire have expressed an interest in
becoming Academies:

Arboretum Primary, Derby
Markeaton Primary School, Derby
West Park School, Derby
Woodlands School, Derby
Alfreton Park Community Special School
Chapel-en-le-Frith High School
Duffield Meadows Primary School
Harpur Hill Primary, Buxton
John Port School
Mill Hill School
Queen Elizabeth’s Grammar School
St Mary’s Catholic High School
The Park Schools Federation Infant and Nursery School

The following schools in Derbyshire are classed by OFSTED as outstanding and are entitled to become Academies, though we don’t know if they have
expressed an interest:

Chellaston Foundation School, Derby
Wren Park Primary School, Derby
Bradley C of E Primary School
The Long Eaton School
Kirk Hallam Community Technology & Sports College
The Ecclesbourne School
Croft Infant School

Opposing Academies

The ConDem Government is inviting all schools in England to apply for Academy status. At the same time it has announced a 25% cut in the education budget. This places Head Teachers and their Governing bodies in an invidious position: either to accept swinging cuts in the annual budget, which will inevitably lead to loss of staff and threaten overall performance, or accept private sponsorship with a subsequent reduction in control over their schools.

Building upon the last Conservative government’s Grant Maintained schools, Academies are an ideologically-driven policy initiated by New Labour, once again slavishly copying what happens in America.  Academies are designed to take education provision out of the hands of democratically-elected local councils and hand it to private corporate bodies that need have no experience of running schools. Local Education Authority (LEA) budgets will be cut, to the detriment of those schools which remain within the LEA.

The smokescreen for this privatisation exercise is that Academies will raise standards. That is simply not true. If it were, standards of attainment in the USA would be above those of the UK and other European countries. They are not. Data collected by the Programme for International Student Assessment show consistently that standards of English and Maths are higher in the UK than in the US. Studies by the University of York And by the LSE have shown that, when Academies are compared with state schools, there is no difference in attainment. Where Academies do improve locally it is because of creaming-off the more able students; in other words, where they act like Grammar schools. Using Labour’s ill-considered academy policy, the ConDems are going to turn back the clock forty years and recreate a divisive two-tier educational system: Academies, [Grammar/Independent] schools for the top 10% and children of the affluent and a rump of poorly funded state schools for the rest.

The outcome? A more divided, less equal society.

The Green Party opposes the establishment of Academies. We want schools to have more independence over their budgets and curriculum and to be free of the political meddling of central government. We want teachers to have more power to evaluate the needs of their students, to be able to concentrate on delivering their curriculum rather than chasing paper and hitting externally set targets. We want schools to be able to work within their local community in cooperation with parents and representatives of that community so that they can provide for the educational needs of all within the community, including adults. We do not want to see external sponsors peddling their own commercial or faith-driven agenda, using their economic power to ride over the educational interests of the school and wider community.

To date, thirteen schools in Derbyshire have expressed an interest in applying for Academy status. They are already successful schools. They will gain little by way of educational attainment. Their motivation is fear of budget cuts. This regressive policy must be opposed.

Summary of the Bill

The Bill would enable more schools in England to become Academies. The Government expects a significant number of academies to open in September 2010, and for the number to grow each year. Academies would be funded at a comparable level to maintained schools but would also get their share of central funding that local authorities used to spend on their behalf. Schools that apply to become academies would be allowed to keep any surplus balances that they hold. There would be no expansion of selection but grammar schools and other schools which select or partially select pupils would be able to continue to do so.

Key areas

  • enables all maintained schools to apply to become academies, with schools rated ‘outstanding’ by Ofsted being pre-approved
  • allows maintained primary and special schools to apply to become academies in their own right
  • gives the Secretary of State the power to issue an academy order requiring the local authority to cease to maintain the school
  • removes the requirement to consult the local authority before opening an academy
  • requires the consent of any existing foundation (mainly churches) before a school applies to become an academy (and prohibits the religious character changing during the conversion to academy)
  • deems academy trusts to be exempt charities.

How The Greens Would Help Students

Students of the University of Derby submitted these questions to candidates in the Derby and High Peak constituencies:

1.  As the economy is moving towards recovery, how would the economic policies of your party help those looking for graduate employment?

The Green New Deal, which we have adopted, envisages the creation of one million green jobs, including investment in renewable energy technology, public transport and social housing. All of these initiatives will provide opportunities for graduates with technical and people/project management skills. We will seek to promote leadership opportunities for women in particular, requiring 40% of board members of larger companies to be female within 5 years. (For more information see http://www.neweconomics.org/projects/green-new-deal)

2.  The average student debt is approximately £27,000 upon graduating.  How would you reduce the cost of higher education without lowering standards?

The Green Party manifesto has a carefully costed pledge to abolish tuition fees. The cost of higher education is to be funded out of general taxation, maintaining current spending and standards:

Norwich Green Councillors Call For The Abolition Of University Tuition Fees
Norwich City Council on 2nd March, resolved to support the Union of UEA Students’ Higher Education funding campaign and write to the Government opposing an increase in tuition fees.  Green Party Councillors asked the Council to call for fees to be abolished altogether, but this proposal was voted down by Labour and Conservative councilors, who supported retaining the current fees of up to £3,000 per year for students.  Green Councillor Adrian Ramsay, who will be making a submission to the Browne Inquiry in to Tuition Fees on behalf of the Green Party, commented: “I am pleased to be joining the student demonstration against tuition fees. If I replace Charles Clarke as MP I will fight for tuition fees to be replaced by a fairer funding system involving a return to grants for students so that talented young people can go to university regardless of their background.”

3.  Building upon this; how would you maintain the quality of public services, in particular universities, in an atmosphere of public funding cuts?

We do not intend to cut public spending as a whole although we would reduce spending in certain areas, (defence, road building, expanding prisons for example), and save £2.5 billion by not introducing ID cards. We believe that we should pay for public services with a taxation system that promotes fairness and rewards behaviour that’s good for society and good for the environment. This will mean raising taxation for high earners, many of whom will be graduates, who thus will be repaying the cost of their education.

4.  As local councils provide much of the services that students use, how much responsibility would you like to see local councils have?

The Green Party manifesto calls for the revival of local government, with the introduction of proportional representation to encourage a grassroots democracy in smaller community and district councils. Such authorities should have enhanced powers over those areas of policy best settled at the local level including housing, education and the promotion of wellbeing by supporting cultural and sporting activity. Eventually this reinvigorated local democracy would have new tax raising powers delegated from central government.

5.  Given a finite pot of money in the Treasury, which would be your priority – returning those to work who could or supporting those who could not work?

This is a false and cruel dichotomy. All who are able to work must have the option to do so. Unemployment should not be used as either an economic or a political instrument. It represents a waste of our most valuable resource, human talent and aspiration. To squander this resource is gross mismanagement. Any person is at risk of suffering unemployment, may be through redundancy, injury, illness or because family circumstances. People in this situation should not be stigmatised. In many cases, they continue to make contributions to society. The humane and civilised society, to which we aspire, would continue to count all people as its members and beneficiaries, regardless of employment status.

6.  What are your views on how to combat Climate Change?

The failure of the Copenhagen Conference makes it more obvious than ever that finding a global solution to climate change must involve global justice. Rich countries need to reduce their emissions drastically, we think by 90% from 1990 levels by 2030, starting now! Our manifesto refers to the new three Rs: Remove, Reduce, Replace. Remove demand where possible, reduce demand through for example, energy efficiency measures, and recycling and replace fossil fuels with renewable energy. The lead must come from government, both through direct investment and through enacting the necessary legislation and tax regimes for a sustainable low carbon economy.

For more information and policy detail go to http://www.greenparty.org.uk/