MILLIONS of pounds of taxpayers’ money being stuffed into privately-run academy schools are being siphoned off to line the pockets of the academy bosses. Meanwhile, council-run state schools are being starved to the bare bones.
The head of the Harris Federation academy chain, Sir Dan Moynihan, is on £425,000 a year, while teachers in state schools are being forced to visit foodbanks and to take out credit cards and payday loans to pay their rent and avoid eviction. Harris Federation academy chain was founded by Philip Charles Harris who doubles as Baron Harris of Peckham!
MPs on the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) have found in a report that academy trusts in England are paying ‘unjustifiably’ high salaries to trustees and depriving ‘the front line of vital funds’. Teachers’ union NASUWT has surveyed its own members. Teachers have responded by pointing out the cash-starved state of the council-run schools which they work in. They provided examples of rain coming through the ceilings, of mould and damp, vermin infestation, and of temporary classrooms in cramped and crumbling school buildings. Meanwhile, class sizes are booming, with children packed in like sardines.
The National Education Union (NEU) is currently meeting for its first annual conference in Brighton. It will be discussing a motion calling for a public inquiry into academy chain finances, including the pay of academy bosses. NEU joint general secretary Dr Mary Bousted has stated: ‘While most schools face brutal budget cuts, and teachers are experiencing real-terms pay cuts, this report (the PAC report) confirms what we have long known – that some academy trusts appear to be using public money to pay excessive salaries.’
It is absolutely crystal clear what the Tory government is up to. It is running council schools into the ground, starving them of funds, starving them of teachers, and pushing them to the limits in terms of how many children they can squeeze into every class. Once this is done, in swoop the government inspectors, Ofsted, who declare the school is ‘failing’ and demand it becomes a privately run academy, or part of an academy chain.
This is what they attempted to do to The Village School in Kingsbury, Brent, a very good council-run school which teaches children with special needs. When the governors declared that it must become an academy, parents, pupils and teachers were up in arms.
Teachers have organised strike after strike, parents and pupils joined them on the picket lines and have protested and demonstrated. Yesterday, the news broke that the Department for Education (DfE) has turned down the proposal for The Village School to form a Multi-Academy Trust (MAT) with Woodfield Academy. They say the MAT is not big enough!
The NEU said: ‘The whole deeply flawed MAT idea should now be dropped. Brent Council should also use this opportunity to publicly reiterate its call for The Village School to remain a Local Authority school.’ Academies are failing. Eight out of ten are in debt and in danger of collapsing. They are run as businesses and the same rules of the market apply. It is a dog-eat-dog world where only the ruthless survive.
Smaller academies are taken over by bigger academies, bigger academies are then taken over by academy chains. Academy chains become so big and run so many schools that they start to collapse.
Vast sums of money are siphoned off by the academy bosses and their entourage of private security firms, private catering firms, private cleaning firms, accountants and consultants. They feed off the smaller schools in their chain to keep the bigger ones afloat. The end result is that the chain collapses, as in the ‘Wakefield City Academy Trust scandal’ when the Trust divested itself of its 21 schools. Ofsted rated 11 of the 14 primary academies and six out of seven of the secondary schools as below the national average.
The teaching unions are in conference over Easter. They must decide to demand that the TUC call a general strike to put an end to the privatisation of education and the academy debacle by bringing down the Tory government.