Generation Green – the most exciting new student society at Derby Uni

Generation Green logoGeneration Green is a fresh new voice in the student community, promoting the values of the National Green Party of England and Wales to create a fairer, healthier, and sustainable democratic society.

Generation Green encourages its members to get active in the student community, in the city of Derby and in their respective home towns, because Generation Green believes that politics should be the result of people’s will, and should work for all people – not just for corporations or the wealthy.

Generation Green’s aims are:
• Supporting the local Green Party
• Encouraging student participation in the elections nationally
• Raising awareness of local environmental issues
• Translating party policies in a student friendly way
• Encouraging recycling within the sphere of the university and local community.

Prior to 2014 there was no real green presence in the city of Derby, Generation Green wish to change that. They say:

“We don’t ask our members to be full members of the Green Party of England and Wales (though we encourage it). We do not ask that you come out protesting every other weekend, though we seek to facilitate that if need be. We only ask that you agree with the Green Party’s ‘Core Values’ and its stance on the Environment, the Economy, Education, Welfare, and progressive Social policies. If that sounds like you then please like our Facebook page”:

Education and The Green Party

If you look at you will see that nationally The Green Party leads overall, but that its biggest single policy lead comes in Education. In my own constituency of Erewash Greens lie second overall but again lead in Education and, again, that is the biggest lead of any party on any policy. Sadly, the educational landscape of this country has moved radically since the 2010 election and with very little consultation. With our policies clearly so popular with thinking people, it looks as if this Government is completely out of touch with reality.

There are enormous issues about further and higher education, about access, about fee levels, about the ways in which apprenticeships, vocational education and academic paths are structured and are respected. That would be the basis for a set of further articles. But let’s start with the youngest end and look at schools and teacher issues.

At the moment the government is ‘consulting’ over changes which would increase the child to adult ratios for pre-school children. They maintain that this will allow cuts in the costs of childcare and private nurseries although how this would be enforced is a mystery. They ignore all the research evidence which shows clearly that children need a rich language environment at this crucial stage with meaningful dialogue with adults being an integral part of this. By altering the ratio they are inevitably denying children the quality of conversation they need, and this is apart from any issues of safety that arise from the changes. The government speaks loudly about its desire to enable children in social deprivation to have equivalent chances and yet fail to underpin one of the clearest ways that this can be facilitated.

But trumpeting one thing and then rejecting compelling evidence is a bit of a theme with this government!

Yes No Banner

Clearly we should never abandon our commitment to community-based education for all children in a localised school.  We support local and democratically accountable education authorities and comprehensive secondaries.  It concerns us that over half of English secondary schools are now academies and that all local authorities have lost a substantial number of staff.  Academy chains are very vigorously promoted and the biggest of these are essentially new local authorities with all the infrastructure schools need to run efficiently but none of the accountability through the local election system. Privatisation is only a click away and ‘for profit’ schools would be a very real part of that. The chains do not often have the richness of the previous Local Authority system of advisors, school improvement partners, and learning support consultants. Development is seen simply in terms of standards raising (ie test and exam grades) alone.  Academies are claimed by virtue of the name itself to enhance standards and are held up as a panacea, but we believe their real purpose is privatisation and profit. We have seen the ruthlessness of the government’s determination to pursue that path in the case of the Sinfin Community School in Derby, where the governors were sacked for refusing to turn the school into an academy.  Yet also here in Derbyshire in a single town, Ilkeston, two linked academies are currently in special measures and the chain which runs them has two other schools elsewhere with the same status. But does this draw a comment from the borough’s Conservative MP? No. As a party we would ensure that academies  would have the same status as all schools with no extra funding, no rights to ‘select’ in any form, no rights to hire unqualified teachers or set different salary rates and with a requirement to offer the same agreed curriculum  as other schools.

This leads us onto the next area where opinion and evidence are ignored, with what can only be called rudeness and arrogance. See Michael Gove’s and Michael Wilshaw’s comments about a letter signed by 100 eminent academics and check out the twitter feed @toryeducation for good examples of this. The proposed new national curriculum has drawn waves of protest from within the education sector, and Greens share the concern expressed.  We have to consider the learning needs of all children, not just those who can follow a purely academic approach and succeed like Michael Gove! Rote learning only works for a small minority who learn in that way and the role of engagement, access, motivation and experience all need to be at the forefront of the underpinning of any curriculum.

A sector which is not greatly in the public eye, but which is crucial to the development of schools is teacher education. Again this has been subject to total upheaval in the last three years. Schools are now encouraged to bid for teacher training places with only a proviso that they link with an HE institution for validation. They can organise the training in any way they wish and the marketplace is held up as the main driver for this. It is not that school-centred provision is wrong (I manage such a course myself) but schools are experts at teaching children while teacher education is a science in its own right and needs a strong university presence along with excellent school partnerships to ensure we have thinking reflective teachers for the future. Trainee teachers now also have to borrow £9000 for a one-year course and government support is given on the basis of degree class and shortage of candidates for certain subjects. The rhetoric is that someone with a first class degree will be a better teacher than someone with a lower second class degree and so the first candidate (on a primary teaching course) will receive a bursary to cover the fee while the second candidate will receive nothing. This is simplistic! We need as a party to rationalise how places are allocated and the degree of collaboration needed to ensure success with both sides playing to their strengths. And of course we need to look at funding for all post-18 education.

Against this background of rapid change, Greens must now focus attention on the needs of real children and young people, and not the fantasy population this government imagines.  We have popular policies but this is no time to be complacent, we must mount evidence led opposition to this Government’s policies while ensuring that our own policies address the realities in our society.

Philip Hood

You might be interested in checking out the following site:

Gove Versus Reality looks at the policies pursued by Michael Gove for his radical and draconian transformation of the English education system challenging his assumptions and the evidence he advances to support his approach.

Sinfin Community School – Derby

Derbyshire Green Party supports the governing body and leadership team of Sinfin Community School in opposing the government’s requirement for the school to become a forced academy in the light of its OFSTED inspection reports from 2012. The most recent monitoring inspection visit from October 12th 2012 reports progress being made in a number of areas including the school’s highest ever attainment in the GCSE results in the Summer of 2012. While the report does note where further progress is required and focuses on the speed of that development, it nevertheless mentions a number of ongoing improvements, which suggest that the school’s staff is working hard to address the issues raised. Why then in November 2012 did the government replace the governing body and order the conversion into a forced academy?

Academies are exempt from the national curriculum, the regulations concerning the quality of food provided for students, the teachers pay scale and even the requirement to hire qualified teachers. All of these are the essential elements of an accountable and equitable education system serving both a defined national need and that of a local area. It would appear that community involvement in education is now unimportant in government policy, which is that every school in the country will be an academy by 2015. In other words there will not be a national education policy for the curriculum our children learn or the rates at which our teachers are paid or the fact that teachers need to have qualifications. It is unsurprising that the Department for Education is cutting hundreds of jobs at the moment, because it will be private companies in the form of academy chains who will be running our school system, not the democratically controlled Ministry of Education or Local Education Authority. We are a short step away from schools being completely privatised and eventually from schools being run for profit. This was never revealed in the Conservative election manifesto or in the published Coalition agreement. This policy has been forced through with out the proper engagement of the stakeholders in our education system.

A school like Sinfin Community School needs to support its students using deep knowledge of its local context. It does not need a formula solution using business people whose first priorities will be the for profit business model rather than teaching and learning. Ten miles away in Ilkeston a school which was previously designated as satisfactory is now inadequate in three of the four inspection categories including leadership and management. This has occurred after a year as an academy with the Ormiston Trust. As an extra affront to the local community the parents of children at the other Ormiston academy in Cotmanhay are facing a merger into this currently failing school. This proposal has come about because of falling rolls (a temporary issue) and despite an assurance when the chain took over both schools that they would remain separate.

There is no such thing as one size fits all in education and academies are certainly not that solution. The Green Party urge all with an interest in the education of our young people to vigorously oppose this stealth privatisation of our education system.

[Philip Hood, Ilkeston]

Cuts To Our Democracy

The 7% cut being made to Derbyshire services is not just a blow to public services, it’s a strike made directly at those with the least amount of power to fight back. The £1.4 million cut to the local Library service is a shock to the system, and many feel that it is merely the tip of the iceberg. Once the quality of services begins to dwindle, the customers and investment will inevitably follow. Many people rely on the services provided by the Council and their Libraries to do things most of us take for granted. Not everyone in Derby can afford internet access, so the Library has it for free. Not everyone can afford books, clubs or ‘how to lessons’, so they are provided for free. Taking away these services is taking away the voice of those who struggle most in society.

In the light of these cuts the Lib Dem pledge to save the libraries starts to look a bit hollow – once you examine how they plan to cut jobs and automate the service, rather than retaining knowledgeable staff. Many local residents in the city rely on the facilities of the local Library, especially young people, parents of young children, older residents and disabled people. This policy has the same ConDem trade mark as the Education Bill, a plan to reform schools into Academies. Speaking about this Bill, Green Party leader Caroline Lucas MP said

“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.”

The National Union of Teachers has described the bill as an “attack on the very existence of democratic accountability, free state comprehensive education.” Only a hand-full of Derbyshire schools have applied for Academy status so far, but the real worry is this change in mindset. Once we start to accept that privatisation is a part of our culture then we are giving away our rights to democratic representation.

The access to education is not something to be reserved for ‘more privileged’ children, and the same goes for the right to access basic services like our Libraries. Derbyshire will to loose out on £39.9 million in the coming budget; £23.6 million is going from child and adult services. It looks like we are entering into a time where Democracy is reserved for the rich and able, and Academic elitism is set to ruin the dream for countless young people.

Tom Reading

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.