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The News Line: Editorial Kick out the Tories, abolish academies and free schools to defend free state education TEACHING unions yesterday published a report detailing the effects of the Tory policy of slashing public spending on schools – increased class sizes across England as schools fight a losing battle to balance their budgets by cutting staff. 62% of state secondary schools had larger classes last year than in the two years before as schools try to deal with funding cuts.

Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Lecturers, said: ‘It is the last thing schools want to do but they have no other choice because they have to reduce staffing numbers and that inevitably affects the teacher-to-pupil ratio.’ Secondary schools in England have lost 15,000 teachers and teaching assistants in the past two years as a result of Tory cuts of £2.8 billion of real-term funding, forcing the majority of schools into budget deficits.

Since 2015, every secondary school has suffered an average reduction of 5.5 teaching and support staff at a time when pupil numbers are growing. Along with job cuts, schools are closing down the teaching of subjects like computing skills and ending any extracurricular activities, while children with special needs who require more intensive, often one-to-one help, are just being left to sink. In many schools now, parents are being asked for regular voluntary contributions.

The prestigious St Marylebone Church of England School for girls has written to parents suggesting a voluntary contribution of £50 a month to make up a funding cut of £1 million over four years.
This is music to Tory ears – the affluent middle class paying a state school for their children’s education while the sons and daughters of the working class are forced into increasingly large classes and deprived of the best education.

This is a return to the days before education was free and instead restricted to the wealthy. Along with cuts to school funding, the Tory programme of forcing schools into academies and creating ‘free schools’ is pushing the class size crisis to breaking point. The Tories have forced schools into becoming academies, taking them out of the control of local authorities and run exclusively by the private academy companies who have total control of their finances and the ability to pay themselves huge salaries and consultants’ fees.

While councils have a statutory duty to provide enough school places in their areas, they have no power to force academy schools to expand and meet the need to provide more places. Nearly two-thirds of secondary schools are now academies. With half of these academy chains announcing that they were going broke, they are certainly not interested in building more schools or expanding the ones they have.

In Kent for instance, the council recently complained that no academy ‘sponsors’ have been willing to take on planned new schools and the local council is forbidden to build any themselves. All new schools have to be either academies or ‘free schools’. While funding for teaching staff has been cut to ribbons a massive amount has been spent on ‘converting’ them into academies which has cost £745 million since 2011.

Meanwhile, the other Tory educational flagship, free schools, are having government money lavished on them. The 422 free schools opened since 2010 have cost £8.6 million each. They open in areas where frankly they are not needed and suck money out of the education budget at a massive rate.
According to the NEU, ‘Forty-two free schools have opened in areas with no predicted need for additional places, at a cost of at least £241 million.’

Millions are handed over to the privateers while school children are deprived of the basic right to a decent free education, a drive back to the 19th century when the education system was split between schools for the poor and private schools for the wealthy. This is the deliberate policy being ruthlessly pursued by this Tory government.

The only way to defend free education as a right for all is to kick out the Tories and advance to a workers government that will abolish academies and free schools along with the privateers whose only interest in education is how much profit they can make out of it.
 
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