Privatisation

It is clear that the government are intent on a policy that is nothing less than privatisation of the management of all state funded schools, primary as well as secondary. Blair said that all schools would become academies or trust schools. Brown continued this. Gove has expanded this into setting up “free” schools which can be run for-profit.

Academies and trusts, whether they are sponsored by greedy bankers and used-car salesmen or by more positively motivated organisations like the Co-op, are a step towards the privatisation and fragmentation of state schooling.

Academies and trusts increase competition between schools, undermine efforts to counter social and economic inequality and frustrate the ability of local authorities to plan a coherent system of local schooling. The financial top slicing by the Government of all councils to pay for academies and free schools is hastening the destruction of Local Authorities.

Only our action and action at the strongest schools will force a change.

I believe that I have, assisted by Brent colleagues and members of the local community, not just talked the talk but rather walked the walk. We will continue the fight to the absolute limits of our ability. Why? Because state education is something precious and worth it.

Asbestos

Asbestos is a killer. Everyone knows that. But not everyone realises how big a ‘problem’ it is. It is now one of our biggest killers. Thousands are dying often painful and agonising deaths. Hundreds of teachers have died of asbestos related diseases and as it normally takes many years for these diseases to develop, the numbers affected is set to rise. What is seldom talked about though is that for every premature death of a teacher many other support staff, caretakers, cleaners etc: and even more pupils die. The average pupil teacher ratio is approaching 20 pupils for every teacher. Furthermore, children are more vulnerable to and affected by exposure.

We have to act now to stop this virtual murder of teachers and pupils. No asbestos is safe. It always has the potential to be disturbed by flooding, fire, structural decay, vandalism or unwary or incompetent contractors. I organised a petition calling on the Union to demand that the government set a date by which all asbestos would be removed from educational establishments after Michael Lees spoke about his wife, a school teacher, who had been killed by asbestos. I will be speaking to the motion that has been prioritised at this year’s annual Conference to this effect and have already been supporting Michael Lees’ campaign to achieve this.

Brent is still a leading association in all the three unions taking motions to the annual conferences about the dangers of asbestos in our schools.

Proliferation of Faith schools

Faith school is a term that is adopted for a religiously controlled school. Religiously controlled school, I believe, is a better definition than faith school and enables better consideration of the merits or otherwise of supporting first Blair’s intention followed by Brown, and continued by this coalition government to massively increase the number of religiously controlled schools. Since 1870 when more than 2/3rds of schools were religiously controlled the numbers have slowly and steadily declined to approximately 1/3rd today. The historic trend was towards the complete secularisation of education. This does not mean that RE would not be taught in schools, but that religious organisations would not control state funded schools.

Blair’s agenda was not just promotion of his Christian views but via academies and trust schools, to obtain the handing over of the management of state schools to private groups. Religious organisations were an obvious way of helping to carry this out. Prime Minister David Cameron is quoted as saying “I think faith schools are an important part of our system, I support them and I would like if anything to see them grow… I’m a strong supporter personally and politically.”

The only way round this without having a proliferation of different and, in my view, divisive religiously controlled schools is to move in a very gradual way to a long term ending of state funding for all religiously controlled schools and I have argued for this position both within the Union and publicly.

Equality and discrimination

We live in an unequal, and indeed increasingly unequal, society. The biggest factor in unequal treatment and provision in our society, including education, is class inequality. This is rarely mentioned or addressed not just by government but also within the Union. It is right to oppose discrimination on the grounds of what is commonly referred to as race (this is a social categorisation as scienctists generally say that there is no such thing as races in humans – we are one human race) of sexual orientation, of religion etc: but it is wrong to ignore and not fight against the biggest form of discrimination visited on our children. I believe we should fight this growing class inequality, as firmly as all other inequalities.

But I do not believe that the best way to do this is to separate out into exclusive identity groups e.g. black teachers, LGBT teachers, Muslim teachers etc: and have separate sections within the Union on this basis. Nor do I believe that we should have separate elections and reserved or guaranteed places on the executive. Within the Union, except by virtue of election to a particular post, we should all be treated equally as teachers and Union members. We may be gay, black, Muslim, etc: and face discrimination because of this and this must and should be fought against. But for us all, our primary identity within this Union is as a member. If one member is discriminated against it is a matter for all, to be dealt with and combated by all, and not just a particular section.

Professional unity

My strong belief, and what I have been working for over many years, is that professional unity is necessary to give us the best chance of successfully achieving the above objectives. This does mean unity in action, so successfully shown at national level with teachers’ united threat to take strike action over our pensions, and in most areas on the ground with the local anti-academy campaigns. However, organisational unity is also necessary. The government thrives on our organisational disunity and disputes between the unions.

The lecturers have shown the way forward by NATFHE and AUT uniting to form UCU. If this unity had occurred earlier perhaps they might not have seen the devastating comparative fall in their pay, now worse than teachers by some 14%. I will continue to maintain a resolute stand to achieve what after all is only common sense. I and other members and supporters of UNIFY – one education union (formally Professional Unity 2000) have promoted the cause of unity. If elected I will use my position and influence (and membership of all three main unions) to try and take the process further.