AS many as 2000 angry, school teachers, school students, parents, construction workers and supporters rallied at Westminster Hall yesterday, to protest at the Academies Bill being rushed through Parliament. The Bill the protesters say, will destroy state-funded education and bring in a two-tier system, pitting school against school.
Many school students attended with their teachers with particularly lively delegations from Brent and Camberwell.
Chris Keates, NASUWT General Secretary, told the mass rally: ‘They are setting up a system of private schools funded by the tax payer and they are using the anti-terrorist legislation to rush it through parliament We have got to stop this fragmentation of our education service. It’s going to end up being a divisive system with a few that will prosper, and less fortunate children will not have the same power to get get into the hierarchical structure of schools.’
Julia Neal from the Association of Teachers and Lecturers and a member of the General Council of the TUC said: ‘The government are rushing this legislation without any discussion. It is also a sinister form of attacking the unions since once they start letting a school out of local authority control then there are no standards; they will not have to follow a national curriculum and they will not have to follow the same pay and conditions.’
Lynn Stables, a parent governor, spoke from the platform. She said: ‘My son’s school will be affected by cuts. I went round the school with the Head Teacher and I had no idea how bad it was. I came away appalled and angry. The buildings have “concrete cancer” and will only last another year or two.
‘My son’s education matters to me, and it matters to him. On behalf of the thousands of people all over the country just like me, these policies have to be reversed or their is going to be trouble in the schools.’
Alpha Kane, a teacher from Wembley, said ‘I don’t agree with the coalition policies. It’s the privatisation of education. We need comprehensive state-funded education. This is a reactionary government which wants education for the wealthy with nothing for the poor.’
TUC leader Brendan Barber, speaking from the platform, said: ‘These education reforms are not isolated reforms but are part of what risks becoming the wholesale dismantling of our public services, which are to be broken up, and starved of investment.’
He concluded: ‘We will only succeed if we reach out beyond the confines of our movement and encourage others to embrace our cause. That’s why we must continue to build coalitions with parents, governors and other education professionals, campaign in our communities and inspire ordinary people to get involved. Only by building a progressive alliance can we tackle the coalition’s regressive approach to education.’
Crystabell Wardally, and her mates from Charles Edward Brook Girls school in Camberwell spoke about the crowded conditions at her secondary school. She said: ‘Half of our teachers have left because of the conditions. We have two buildings but they both need refurbishment. Now it can’t be done. In Year 10 we need a place to study.’
Her friend Hofesa Mariam Zanei said ‘We should have our rights. They should not give all the money to the academies; they should give it to Education. It is the key to the future. It’s funny how they can find lots of money for army equipment but not for schools.’