Sunday, 21 March 2010

Gongs and the Wild Vampires of Capitalism

I see from the Yorkshire Evening Post that the Chief Executive of Education Leeds is looking back at Education Leeds' legacy through some sort of rose-tinted glasses. While I recognise that there are good things about Education Leeds [eg management training, risk assessment people, music service], I don't recognise these so-called achievments as such.

Achievement Not Number 1. "most people didn't want to send their children to local schools, but there had been a cultural change . . . and now they "were banging on the door" [of John Smeaton and Morley]" So what did they do for Morley High School that they couldn't do for City of Leeds School? Instead, careless talk found its way into the papers. I found a YEP headline last year, saying the federation between Primrose and City of Leeds wasn’t working. This wasn’t a professional judgment based on any evidence, just someone thinking aloud. A couple of months later, Primrose’s Ofsted commended the effects that this joint venture was having on the school.

Then there’s the bit about being the 50th Sunday Times “best place to work in the public sector”. Well this was a solicited award. Employees of Education Leeds were sent surveys a few months ago, saying that Education Leeds was applying to be one of the “Best Places to work in the public sector”. So they got 50th of the companies who applied to be in the awards. Big deal. But not an "accolade". Reminds me of the award that Leeds PFI Schools got. Having visited a few of these wobbly building, I was surprised to see that Leeds PFI schools won some building award [in YEP last year], till I saw it was from the UK PFI Buildings Association.

Another Leeds highlight is the Stephen Lawrence Award, and I agree this was a worthy initiative. But a few years ago, my friend was rushing back to her school [St Peter's] in order to put the finishing touches to its Stephen Lawrence Award display, when she found out that another school had been chosen as award winner without her school even being viewed. Then there was another lowlight: a couple of years back when a brother and sister each nominated the other for some sort of award from Education Leeds - I forget which - both received it, and the comment from the presenter - We've never had a brother and sister get these at the same time!

So, what's happened here is: it's Leeds in the Year 2000; it's education; there's some problems; bring in a private company. My friends, Steve and Sally, came to the CASE [Campaign for State Education] meetings, and warned us, and they were absolutely right. Capitalism was after new blood. What's left to make to money out of, now that we have our claws back into the nationalised industries? Children, my pretties, children and schools.

And Leeds Council offered up its neck to the privatised vampire, and they started to draw blood. And the firm they brought in to draw this blood was called "Capita", its very name hardly disguising its intentions. But the council laid aside its garlic, opened the windows and let the angels of death fly in. Oh and how they ripped their teeth into Royal Park and Tinshill and Leopold and Asket Hill, and whenever there was inner-city children who needed the love and protection of teachers and support staff whom they'd known all their life, they cut the links, and oh how there was money to made what with the meetings and the documents and the building of annexes.

But as we're thinking where is the point of all of this; our children are worse off now, well, there are gongs to be had, awards to give out, and the World seems to be saying: Well done to you all; here's a clock and a laminated certificate. So our schools must be great now because they have all got certificates to prove it.

And what is all so sad is that there are legitimate awards being handed out on a regular basis at civic ceremonies at Leeds Civic Hall, and they are being devalued by the vampire gongs.

No comments:

Post a Comment