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Setback for Gove over forced academy plans

by Sadie Robinson

Schools minister Michael Gove has retreated on plans to force a north London primary school to become a privatised academy.

The climbdown followed a mass campaign led by parents and teachers.

Gove wanted to force academy status on Downhills primary school in Haringey, north London.

The Department for Education had instructed the school’s governors to agree to become an academy this month—or face being removed.

But Gove last week withdrew the timetable for the forced academy.

Ofsted will now inspect Downhills. Governors had demanded that Gove allow a planned Ofsted inspection to go ahead, rather than imposing academy status.

This is an embarrassing climbdown for the government and it shows what grassroots campaigning can achieve. But it is not the end of the battle.

Gove is still intent on imposing forced academies on three other schools in the borough. And he will still attempt to privatise Downhills in the future—and try and use Ofsted’s verdict to do it.

Privatised

Phil Brett is an NUT union rep at Downhills.

He told Socialist Worker, “Despite the insults that Gove has hurled at parents and teaching staff, the impressive campaign has shown that people do not want a privatised education system.”

Cem Emin, a Unison union rep at the school, said the campaign had shown “the real partnership we have with parents, carers and the local community”.

The retreat at Downhills has boosted campaigners. Dave Gilchrist is a teacher at Noel Park primary school, one of the three others also threatened with forced academy status.

He told Socialist Worker, “This is a move in the right direction and it shows our ability to fight.

“It has encouraged other governors and shown that academy status isn’t inevitable.”

Parents, teachers and other activists are determined to keep fighting the academy threat. The stakes are high.

Andrew Paton also teaches at Noel Park.

He told Socialist Worker, “This campaign isn’t just about our four schools.

“If the forced academies go through it will impact on all schools in Haringey.

“We are worried about whether a sponsor would want to make profit. How would they make that profit? What would they cut?”

Sharks

Lots of people are worried that the schools could be turned into profit-making enterprises.

Clive Boutle is chair of Haringey Campaign Against Academies.

He told Socialist Worker, “The government is intent on privatising education. They’re encouraging sharks to circle schools looking for ways to make profit.”

Parents and teachers in Haringey haven’t fallen for Gove’s claims that academies will give students a better education.

As Andrew said, “More qualified staff are more expensive. “If an academy wanted to make money, would it take on unqualified staff?”

Others fear that an academy could lead to cuts in specialist support services and that the curriculum could become narrower.

The Tories’ friends in the media launched a vicious attack on Downhills NUT rep Julie Davies (see page 2) after Gove backed down.

But campaigners in Haringey remain determined to resist academies.

Activists plan to march in the borough on Saturday

28 January—and have appealed for people to join them.

As Phil said, “We have Gove rattled.We have to make the march as big as we can.”

Demonstrate against academies in Haringey—Saturday 28 January, 12 noon. Assemble at Keston Road, N17, next to Downhills school. For more information go to www.hcaa.org.uk


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News
Tue 24 Jan 2012, 18:08 GMT
Issue No. 2287
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