Wednesday, 10 January 2018

No academy on Fearnville Fields

This is the letter I wrote to the Yorkshire Evening Post a few weeks back:

I understand that there has been a proposal to build a new academy (a private state school in which the state provides the money and private individuals become overpaid CEOs) on Fearnville Fields. I am very pleased to hear that the proposal has been turned down. Well done to the campaigners.

Green spaces such as these [where I spent many a happy year as a sub-teenager trying to kill myself walking across the pipeline!] are not just recreational but also help in fighting flooding.

But equally important is not to support the building of any more academies/ free schools. I have been actively campaigning against academisation for over a decade now. Academisation is just privatisation of education, and has nothing to do with raising academic standards, or any standards actually. 

And the evidence is now in; it is not just that the concept is immoral, but the practice is corrupt and incompetent. It is ruining whole generations of school children's lives, and as such is threatening our society's future. 

And given that the evidence is very much in, and the new Labour government will be renationalising our public services, I am very surprised that a Labour Council is even contemplating allowing any more of these institutions to be created. There are other more imaginative ways of solving the school places crisis, such as extending a current school but actually on a quite separate site.

Victoria Jaquiss FRSA
Education campaigner, teacher

They didn't print it as far as I know, so here it is in my blog.

Sunday, 23 April 2017

Schools being put in hands of privateers

My letter printed in full by Yorkshire Evening Post:

If Teresa May thinks she has called her election in time, then based only on the situation in education, she is surely wrong. Parents have now seen what teachers have known through dreadful experience for some time now. Ignorant political interference from successive governments has reduced what should be the happiest days of our children's lives into ones of trauma.

How many parents see their kids' favourite teachers suddenly leave? Qualified, dedicated teachers are leaving the profession and their charges in droves. These are teachers burnt out before they get properly started, and those burnt out when they have years more to give. 

Parents see their own children, tested to oblivion, hysterical at the age of ten, at the very thoughts of SATs. These are Yr 6 tests which only there to judge how well schools are doing. 

Parents are being criminalised for taking their own children on holiday. Whose children are they? The state's? This country is penalising parents for wanting to spend more time with their own children and give them experiences that they couldn't afford or which aren't available during the normal holiday period.

Parents know that funding cuts are losing us the TAs and are increasing class sizes.

Parents know that their school has cancelled GCSE Music even if they didn't realise that Arts subjects are already being lost to the curriculum.

And above all parents know that schools are being put in the hands of the privateers, and taken out of the hands of experienced educationalists. And, if they didn't already know, they will soon, that they don't even need to be consulted anymore.

In the UK the privateers are the academisers. If it was up to teachers and parents no schools would become 'academies'. Sadly a combination of a succession of ignorant secretaries of state and, all too often, their stooges, governing bodies, have allowed businesses to expand their money-making plans into the field of education. (And I write as an ex-school governor of 20 years 'experience)

Academisation is not just putting control of education into the hands of the privateers. It is a land grab. The public, tax-payers' school buildings and the land that they stand on are just given away to the new owners. 

It will take one generation to see off all that the Education Act of 1944 and Tony Crossland's Comprehensive Statute of 1965 put in place. If we don't stop this government's disastrous uninformed "educational" policies, this generation of 10 yr olds will be the illiterate, uncreative, disillusioned and suicidal adults of the 2030s. 

And it is with some sadness that On going to the NUT Conference in Cardiff I find out that yet another Leeds high school is going for the old "jump before you're pushed" argument. I hope that the parents of this school get together to tell its governors to just say no to academisation. That old notion that jumping before being pushed gives you some sort of a choice has long been discredited. The instability that all other schools have gone through, and are still going through should be warning enough. 

Victoria Jaquiss 
Leeds Education campaigner, teacher, 
parent, grandparent, ex-school governor

Wednesday, 13 July 2016

The Great Education Struggle - Don't Be a Jumper

My letter in YEP on Tuesday [Our Education Struggle]. Not printed are the bits in italics.

Nicky Morgan, for no good reason is the government education secretary, using her position to carry out the wishes of the people who prop her up, not knowingly saying anything that demonstrates educational knowledge, makes sweeping statements and then says "The evidence speaks for itself".

She declared (and you never saw Michael Gove's lips move) that all schools are to become academies
. Well, the jury is firmly back in: that academisation depresses educational standards and causes great instability. Because a number of educationally successful Tory councils objected to the pointless shake up of their status quo, Ms Morgan has retreated from this position.

Nonetheless a number of headteachers and school governors (whose position should be only as critical friends and not as policy makers, by the way)  have taken it upon themselves to do Ms Morgan's dirty work for her, jumping before being pushed in the desperate hope that they will secure a better type of academisation.
But the government has neither time nor capacity to micro manage each of these self-inflicted privatisations. Academisation is immoral and destabilising to the school, to the local area - however the jumpers try to make it not so. Once the school is out of the system, and they leave local authority support [not control!], and they are seen as fair game for the privateers.
We, teachers, headteachers, governors, parents, students shouldn’t do the government’s dirty work for them, but fight every non-educational initiative all the way. Gove and Morgan will soon be history. When our grandchildren ask “What did you do in the Great Education Struggle [for a decent education, rich with the Arts and freedoms of choice]?” let’s say “We did not roll over!”
Every school that leaves the local authority’s family means one less music teacher, one less educational psychologist, one less bereavement counsellor, one less SEN advisor, and all the rest that we take so casually for granted.

Victoria Jaquiss
Education campaigner, teacher, ex-governor

Monday, 13 June 2016

Academisation is a misnomer. It offers nothing

A teacher friend just asked me what were my first three objections to academisation. Here are the first five, off the top of my head:
Objection 1 is philosophical and political. Education should be a public service, publicly accountable. Schools and headteachers who go into “academisation" often go in thinking they will minimise the damage, to jump before they are pushed [doing the government's dirty work for them] and then find it goes pear-shaped. No longer protected by the council , heads get sacked, and then the vultures arrive. Dedicated teachers who are prepared to take on the challenge that is headship find that their career ends at the point that they should have arrived.

Objection Number 2. 10%  of a school’s designated funding that usually comes out a school’s notional allocation, goes to the council which then runs its supportive education services. So when a school has a student with a hearing impairment, for example, specialist teachers are employed and available; when a school would like to try out a samba band for a year, tuition and instrument hire is available, and there is a specialist; when there is a crisis there is response [eg in the very sad case of Anne Maguire’s murder, trained bereavement counsellors were on hand]. If all schools in one city are academies, then these services can’t survive.

Objection Number 3. Recent history show us that time and time again, privately run schools  [misleadingly called academies] leads to corruption, not only to corruption but the lowering of standards. Staff morale dips, staff turnover increases, children lose that regular “I taught your sister” thing. Behaviour gets worse.; attainment dips, Desperate to save their school from ignomy, desperate to protect their pay, teachers who would never have willingly taught the barmier parts of the national curriculum, now find that being a "maverick" is a career threatening activity.

Objection Number 4. For the staff,  we now lose the “Burgundy book”. Teachers don’t have to be qualified, don’t have to be paid properly, and all those rights that teachers fought for over the years.

Objection Number 5. Academies don’t need to cooperate with other schools in the area. They may be stand alone; they may belong to a chain whose headquarters are in some distant town. Whatever, they now can set their holidays whenever they like, so parents can find that their children off school at different times [holiday planning, worktime planning?]. Schools compete for their intake. Isn't co-operation a better way?
Academisation is a misnomer; it has nothing to offer. And if teachers can't stand up for themselves and for their pupils and parents, then who can?

Monday, 21 March 2016

Academies. No such thing as a good one

My reply to Debra Kidd's article on academies.

I agree with a lot of this, but have two observations: 1. Good academies are not good, in my opinion, because they are academies and 2. Converter academies did not generally convert out of choice but because they were leaned upon by an oleaginous little twerp [i.e. a broker]. See my blog recounting the story of one local Leeds governor's experience of such a person:

and here is a link to Debra's article:

Saturday, 5 March 2016

Academies Should Choose their own Students. No.

In response to the bizarre suggestion that schools, or rather academies, can "manage their own admissions policy", i.e. choose the kids they want to get the grades that make them look good, here are a few livefyre responses:

I suppose that as the bribe money given to academies runs out the only tool left to academies to get faux 'improved' results is a corrupt admissions system.

Trobe's comments about the Office of the Schools Adjudicator looking at admissions criteria implies OSA looks at them all.  It doesn't.  It only acts if there is a complaint.  And these complaints would fall if the proposal to confine them only to those with an 'interest' (ie parents) rather than any member of the public who believes the law is being broken.
It would be better if all publicly-funded schools were covered by the same area-wide criteria which would cover even faith ethos schools.  This would ensure fairness and stop schools which are their own admission authorities from having admission criteria which doesn't comply with the Schools Admission Code.

One of the first things that happens when one of the Academy chains takes over a new school is that it cleans out those pupils who are not going to contribute to the claim that results have improved.  In areas where nearly all the secondary schools are academies, this can lead to huge stresses on the existing community schools.

In the "good old days" I remember that my school worked with other schools and sometimes swapped students to give a fresh start.  I very clearly remember one boy returning after a swap.  As an outsider at the new school he realised he had a choice: join the rogues or settle down.  He settled down and kept in touch for years, reporting back on his successes.

I know that not all managed moves worked as well as that but unless schools do work in cooperation it cannot ever work.

From the very beginning David Young Academy manipulated its admissions and also excluded more children than all,other Leeds schools put together, thus skewing the admissions for all other inner-city schools who were already taking more than their fair share of challenging children and their families. With League tables already oppressing us, this condemned schools, already in tricky circumstances, to a further inner- outer brain drain. My friend was on the exclusions appeals panel, and she despaired.
But in the end DY Academy has been found out and is now in Special Measures itself. a sort of Robespierre for our time. It all would be amusing if it were not for 1. The kids and 2. The terrible effects it has on education providers who are made to feel they are failing when they are not!

Friday, 11 December 2015

DYA looses its grip. Is that Brilliant, Chris?

I originally wrote this in response to the news that GCSE  results at the David Young Academy, Leeds had dramatically dropped, and that observers declared behaviour a massive issue. Then I went to see Bloc Party in Manchester [cos without live music you can't breather, let alone think] , which somewhat halted my literary flow [cos sometimes with live music you just enjoy yourself] and didn't get it finished at the time. Now it's old news, and actually it's just repeating old news.

Well, the DYA was born out of the very much unwelcome closure and merger of two high schools nowhere near Seacroft - all boys Braimwood in Roundhay and mixed C of E Agnes Stewart in Burmantoffs. The Foxwood/East Leeds building was still standing on its firm foundations over the fields and in sight, but obviously what this area needed was a fortress of non-architecture, a lot of lime green paint and a escalator at the front entrance. And obviously construction companies need to earn a living!

From the off,  DYA then operated its “fair banding” policy, not a policy that was available to the schools it closed down. This involved selecting a mix of able and less able kids. And in one year DYA excluded more children than all other Leeds schools put together. A friend, on Appeals Panel at the time, despaired.
The excluded children were then farmed off to the historically unpopular inner-city schools who were regularly disparaged in the media by the late unlamented Education Leeds and its CEO [just as M Wilshaw is currently damning the whole of Bradford] who was enthusiastically facilitating the merger. He used the word, Brilliant a lot, and was only interested in how things looked, not how things were.
My interest in this of course was that I taught the kids of Seacroft and Gipton for a happy and challenging 16 years and would have stayed had not Foxwood School not been sacrificed on the altar of results to be closed and merged itself.

I knew and loved those rejected families. I taught those four boys who killed themselves the year after Foxwood closed. I went to David W's funeral, with his dad there in handcuffs, not so discreetly next to the policeman. All this new paint and data and all this publicly shaming students and schools and teachers for no end good at all.

What children need are well-respected and remunerated staff who are happy to spend their careers mostly in one place. When you are greeted with You taught my mum, you have saved a lot of time having to prove yourself . Trust and respect straight off, and from the staff’s side too.

What education needs is to be publicly owned and publicly run, and their buildings, staff and other assets not given away to entrepreneurs and private companies who are only in it for the business, the money and the power, and in some cases because they have an overwhelming belief in themselves. Who may or may not have experience and background in education.