Academies Bill – Save our Schools – Rally and Lobby – 19th July 2010

Representatives from Staffordshire Branch of UNISON travelled to London to join with the other Education Trade Unions – NASUWT, NUT, UNITE and GMB to press the coalition Government to reconsider its reckless plans to rush through the Academies Bill together with their recently announced halt to the funding of the BSF programme and the consequential impact that would result.  

The 5 trade unions were also joined by UCAT in a show of solidarity and to highlight the hundreds of thousands of jobs that are now at risk in the construction industry due to the cancellation of the Building Schools for the Future Programme.  Around 700 people attended the rally, followed by a march to Westminster and an arranged Lobby with MP’s.  The Academies Bill had its second reading and is being pushed through with extra-ordinary speed for Academies to come into effect from November this year.  This time table has previously only been applied for anti-terrorism and national security legislation.
The rally was hosted by NASUWT and speakers included Chris Keates, Leader of the NASUWT; Brendan Barber, Leader of the TUC and the Rt. Hon Ed Balls, Shadow Education Secretary. First hand accounts of what the loss of funding would mean to pupils, the School and the local community were provided by 2 parents and a Head Teacher. Julie Morgan a parent from Tamworth; Gordon Philips Head Teacher from The Meadows (a special school from Sandwell); Lynn Stables, parent from Fernwood School Nottinghamshire.
Brendan Barber referred to the wholesale dismantling of our public services.  That there was an alternative future where public services were not made to pay for the Bankers mistakes.  What we were seeing was about ideology more than necessity.  This was further echoed by many of the other speakers.  
Julie Morgan spoke on behalf of the families in Tamworth.  She went onto say about the impact the removal of the BSF funding had in Staffordshire and in Tamworth - “left our schools poor relations to the Academy”.  “Imagine our rage” at the cancellation of £100 million of School funding for the town, though the Academy will still get £65 million.  It was clearly an ideological decision, nothing to do with Education but the break up of our state education schools.  We now believe that that a 2 tier system will be put into place.
Gordon Philips Head Teacher of the Meadows a special school (College) in Sandwell spoke of the loss of £2 million of funding which would have provided vital equipment and what it meant to the students and their education.  He asked why funding could not be given to all children and said that we can not raise standards without support.  The Queen’s Government had made a decision to give BSF funding. The Queen’s Government had also now broken that agreement.  He finished by sending a clear message to the Coalition Government – if you invest in Education – you are investing in the future.
Lynn Stables, a member of the PTA from Fernwood School, Nottinghamshire spoke of the loss the £10 million would have meant to her school.  There had been no consultation just the money taken away.  She went onto explain what the money would be used for, Fernwood was an Excellent School but the buildings themselves had major problems and some areas were crumbling.  Lynn finished by saying that she wanted her son to have a good education but you can not access that education without a good building structure.
Ed Balls, Shadow Secretary of State started by thanking the trade unions for all the work they did in schools and saying that in the last 3 years he had visited over 300 schools. However when he hears comments that standards have fallen, he views this is an insult to the people and all the hard work that has taken place.  Labour during their period of office rebuilt and refurbished over 4,000 schools addressing the under funding of many years.  Cancelling now is a complete disgrace.  Effectively you are saying to the children around the country that you are not worth the investment.
He had been to Sandwell last week and listened to Gordon and his colleagues and what they viewed as a chance which came once in a life time.  Two weeks ago on Monday, Michael Gove, Education Secretary said he was going to rebuild your schools, the day after they were cancelled.  This action also puts at risk all those construction jobs in the private sector, at a time when we need them.
The Coalition Government was not using resources from the cuts to off set the budget deficit but to fund Free Schools.  Money was being taken from poor areas and given to well off areas.  The strong only working for the strong.  Money being taken away from people with disabilities.   He finished by saying that we want Government to listen. Invest in jobs, invest in the future.