Croydon Communists Respond to the Education White Paper

At the branch meeting last night (17 March) Croydon Communist Party condemned the Education White Paper Educational Excellence Everywhere published earlier that day. In the view of the meeting the White Paper heralded the end of local democratic control of education – indeed essentially the end of any democratic control over education as every state school is to be handed over to unaccountable multi-academy trusts (MATs) by 2020. Parent governors are to be abolished and the land owned by local authorities surrendered to the Secretary of State so that it can be leased to MATs. The White Paper offered no changes to the way in which MATs are to be regulated and to the level of fees and salaries they can extract from public funds.

The role of local authorities in education is to be confined to three areas:

 

  1. Ensuring every child has a school place
  2. Ensuring the needs of vulnerable pupils are met
  3. Acting as champions for all parents and families

 

The first duty is to be discharged by enabling so called free schools to open – but quite how local authorities can do this is unclear. Also unclear is how the other two duties can be discharged in the absence of any influence or power over MATs.

 

While the objective of the White Paper was clear enough, the meeting identified a number of contradictions indicating confused thinking at the Department of Education and in the mind of its Minister, Nicky Morgan. While proclaiming that it was not for the government to impose teaching methods (apparently reversing twenty years of politicians telling teachers how to teach), the highly questionable phonics method of teaching reading was endorsed. Similarly, on the contentious issue of religion in education, the government commits itself in the White Paper to work with the Churches and “relevant faith bodies”, whatever they are, to ensure that the religious character and ethos of Church and faith schools is protected. Thus for both curriculum and staffing academies will be allowed to “innovate”, i.e. employ priests to the exclusion of others and promulgate such views as creationism, without central interference.

There was only one reference to teaching unions in the White Paper: they are asked to work with others to identify and challenge the “culture” in and beyond schools which leads to “unnecessary workload”. It is not “culture” that led to unnecessary workload, it was government imposition of Ofsted and the National Curriculum. The role of teaching unions was not mentioned elsewhere in the White Paper, but here can be little doubt that a major objective of the paper is to break the influence of teachers’ unions in education. The meeting gave them every encouragement and support to resist the White Paper and committed the branch to do likewise.

OPERATION TROJAN HORSE: WHO ARE THE REAL VILLIANS?

Operation Trojan Horse refers to a leaked anonymous letter – which some say is a hoax – claiming to be sent between Muslim extremists seeking to take over Birmingham schools. Among the claims by whistle blowers are that sex education is banned and boys and girls are segregated in the classroom. Responding to these revelations, Education Secretary Michael Gove has ordered Ofsted inspectors into 15 schools in Birmingham to investigate them and there are now four inquiries underway overseen by a former counter-terrorism chief.

Over-reaction? The idea that our schools are being penetrated by religious groups can hardly come as a surprise to Mr Gove. Impervious to the consequences of religious segregation in Northern Ireland’s schools, he has encouraged the destruction of our predominately secular education system under local government control and is handing it over to a motley band of religious and business interests including, in Croydon, quite literally, carpet salesmen. Our once democratically accountable schools are disappearing – in Croydon this process is largely complete at the secondary level – to be replaced by academies and so called free schools outside the control of the local authority. As part of this programme, pay in what remains of the local authority sector is being held down, Ofsted is employed to keep teachers in this sector focused on the narrowest possible definition of educational attainment and the unions representing the staff in these schools are undermined and attacked.

Croydon TUC has published a list of ten policies which it asks candidates in the forthcoming local government elections in Croydon to endorse. Number 9 is to support our local schools still under democratic, local government control and to oppose the introduction of any more academies and free schools in Croydon. This call has so far been ignored by candidates standing in these elections except for the Communist Party candidates in Bensham Manor, Broad Green and Selhurst. This should not come as a great surprise. The Tories and Lib-Dems are complicit in this strategy and Labour started the whole thing off by starving Local Education Authorities of resources and initiating the academy programme.

Trojan Horses are for hiding in but also, it appears, for hiding behind.

Martin Graham