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The News Line: Editorial Record numbers miss out on first choice secondary schools – Bring all schools back in-house! NATIONAL Offer Day was yesterday, with record numbers of children missing out on their first choice of secondary school. More than half a million families found out yesterday morning which school their child will attend in September.

Around 115,000 children across England were left disappointed due to a continuing shortage of places, according to analysis by The Good Schools Guide. The school places crisis is rapidly escalating!

It is the sixth consecutive year that demand for places has sharply increased following a rise in birth rates that peaked in 2010/11. School classrooms are at bursting point, with half a million pupils squeezed into classrooms with more than 40 in a class. The problem is that privately-run academies and free schools are a law unto themselves. They can set up where and when they want, whether there is a genuine need for a new school in that area or not.

Kevin Courtney, Joint General Secretary of the National Education Union (NEU) said: ‘The government haven’t created enough school places. You need to build enough places and they need to be in the right places. They have been obsessed with academies and free schools. It is where all their attention has been and they have allowed free schools to open.

‘Very many of them opened in places where there wasn’t the same need as in other areas and that is why you are seeing this huge pressure on class sizes in particular areas. Local authorities have lost a dramatic amount of power since the coalition government of 2010.’

The Academies Act 2010 saw to it that since then any new school that is built must be a free school or an academy. No new council-run schools have been built since the act was passed. Meanwhile, a new survey by the NEU released yesterday shows the widespread funding and workload pressures on school support staff.

The responses paint a stark picture of diminishing numbers of support staff, teachers and resources in our schools, as well as the continued exploitation and mismanagement of support staff who remain in post. Three quarters of respondents (74%) confirmed that they work additional uncontracted hours.

Two thirds (65%) of those working additional hours said they are never paid or otherwise compensated for this additional work. Only 15% were able to say that they are regularly reimbursed for additional work. Of those who work unpaid additional hours, a great majority (82%) say they do so because workload demands it and a significant number (28%) say they do so due to cuts in support staff numbers at their school.

Of the 81% who stated they are not paid for their lunch break, just one third of that number always got the full break to which they are entitled. Another third, however, said they either ‘rarely’ or ‘never’ got a full break.

On this, Kevin Courtney said: ‘Unpaid hours are not just widespread, but normalised. The majority of support staff are made to do the work of teachers. They are seen as the cheap option. And as the cuts bite, the numbers of support staff become fewer in the majority of schools. This is a deplorable situation.’

Academy schools are sucking in millions of pounds of taxpayers’ money while council-run schools are being starved to the bone. There are examples of council-run schools asking parents to contribute to the costs of providing even basic stationery like pens and paper, while school buildings are being left in a state of rack and ruin because schools cannot afford repairs.

Meanwhile, school support staff are left to plug the gaps, working their fingers to the bone in an attempt to deal with the huge staffing shortages. It is absolutely crystal clear what the Tory government is up to. It is running council schools into the ground. Once this is done, in swoop the government inspectors, Ofsted, who declare the school is ‘failing’ and must become a privately-run academy.

All of the teachers’ unions are opposed to academies, therefore all must mobilise together for mass strike action to bring down the Tory government and bring in a workers’ government. All schools will then be back under local council control with enough new council schools built to ensure that every child can get the education they need!
 
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