Category Archives: Education

US take over of British schools

Following my earlier blog on forced academies in Birmingham, our friend the DFE hit man, Rob Briscoe has gone a stage further. He has suggested that we invite K12 to give us a presentation as a prospective sponsor. A quick check on the internet: who are they? Nothing came up.
K12 is a US based company labouring to get US schools under its auspices. If they’ve been recommended by Mr Briscoe then they must surely have something substantial to offer? Rick Hatcher kindly sent me this:
Profiles of For-Profit and Nonprofit Education Management Organizations: Thirteenth Annual Report – 2010-2011
Gary Miron, Jessica Urschel, Mayra A. Yat Aguilar, Breanna Dailey
January 6, 2012

K12 Inc. runs 49 for-profit state schools in the US.
‘The largest net increase in schools managed was K12 Inc., which experienced an
increase of 14 schools between 2009-2010 and 2010-2011. A medium for-profit
EMO profiled in last year’s report, KC Distance Learning, was acquired by K12 Inc.,
the nation’s largest for-profit EMO in terms of enrollment.
In last year’s Profiles, the total enrollment of K12’s 24 schools exceeded that of any
other for-profit EMO. This year, after the acquisition of KC Distance Learning,
K12’s total enrollment for its 49 schools (65,396) far exceeds any other EMO.’
26 out of 49 K12 schools didn’t meet AYP. AYP (Adequate Yearly Progress) provides a crude indicator of the extent to which schools are meeting state standards.
This is a very interesting article about the politics of K12:
http://nepc.colorado.edu/files/EPSL-0404-117-EPRU.pdf

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Forced academies in Birmingham

Foundry School is in the Winson Green area of Birmingham, an area of transition and deprivation. I have been a governor there for some 20 years, but now it looks like the end of the line. A few months ago the school emerged from special measures in what everyone considered a remarkably short time. This was after enormous effort on behalf of the school leadership, staff and governors. Our euphoria has been short lived after one Mr Driscoll came to school and returned is to special measures.
To come out of special measures meant that the school must have made tangible improvement, however by the time Mr Driscoll arrived there had not been time for results to kick in. The other aspect is that schools in special measures are open to being forced into becoming academies. At least that is what we are being told, but when challenges have been made it seems it ain’t necessarily so!
Mr Driscoll was followed into school by one Rob Briscoe (I keep confusing the two) who came with local authority reps in tow to meet the Governors. The first thing Sue Twells, a Birmingham officer, mentioned was that Foundry could be considered for closure. The debate turned to us making a case against school closure with the academy status issue lost from sight. Sue Twells had already told us that we could not avoid becoming an academy, at which point I responded that it sounded like we were being bullied. The current Cabinet Member for Children’s Services in Birmingham, Brigid Jones, had sent a letter to all school saying that no school would be forced into privatisation, so why were City officers saying something different?
As for Mr Briscoe, he was somewhat impressed with the arguments that governors made in support of Foundry. As a result he kindly arranged a meeting with a possible sponsor. At least it seemed a kind thought at the time. We learn a little, since Mr Briscoe it turns out is not an inspector, but is employed directly by the DFE as a hit man whose job it is to bring in the academies.
Governors were treated to a presentation by two gentlemen from Oasis Academies who are interested in taking on around 9 Birmingham primary schools. The governors were all impressed by the sales pitch, particularly on their expressed concern with community involvement. The outcome was for an attempt to get an immediate decision that we would work with Mr Briscoe to become an academy sponsored by Oasis.
The next day I began to search out Oasis Academies on the internet. It was full of glowing reports of their secondary academies. That[s not what I was looking for however.
I found an independent reference to their primary school, Shirley Park, in Croydon. The report tells us that the school did significantly worse than the state school it replaced, and is one of the 200 worst performing schools in the country. Croydon will not allow it to take over any more of its schools.
Results for secondary academies were also poor, with Oasis being second from bottom among the private bodies setting up chains of schools across the country. State schools are narrowly beaten by just one chain when GCSE and equivalents are recorded. Mr Briscoe, why are you recommending ours school joins a group which can’t demonstrate good performance, particularly when you have expressed concern about Foundry’s performance? (I was interested to hear that at least one Birmingham head teacher had marched him off the premises!)
The Chair of Governors made it her business to invite union representatives to speak to governors. The euphoria around Oasis has now worn off and when we learned about the possibility of co-operatives. where schools link with high-performing schools, we felt we needed to explore alternatives which were not put to us previously.

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Education. The Verdict

Just as anyone with a background in health is the last to be asked about running a health service, anyone with the slightest understanding of education and learning will be swept aside. The Independent has published the verdict. Not that Gove at al will be the least bit interested since those giving the verdict either represent teachers or actually have to run the run down “system” that has emerged from the market- led views of running society. Class divide prevails.
There is no opposition to government because New Labour had already begun to introduce the Academy, which undermined local control of education. Underfunding always meant this was never to be perfect but at least local representatives who knew local needs could plan, Now anyone can go straight to the Secretary of State and day they want to open a school. Those who have applied in and around Birmingham seem the most unlikely educationists without any previous sign of interest or expertise. In one case it is a religious institution so a divide on religious/cultural lines is on the cards. Such schools have proved highly divisive in Northern Ireland and Israel/Palestine.
Now that the state system of British education is well on the way to being dismantled, just how will it be reconstructed. The major parties appear to have little if any idea.

Gove is forcing primary schools into becoming academies

Michael Gove is fast losing his department as his officers depart leaving a vacuum of experience and expertise. Never mind in Gove’s world the less know about education and learning the better. A source close to the department said: “There are persistent rumours of the tensions of working with this Government. Civil servants are told ‘we’ve already made our minds up’. They have no input into the process.” (source The Independent).The last people this government wants to hear from are practitioners working on the ground, as in other areas. As in the health services every teachers association is fundamentally opposed to this education blitz.
Experiments in setting up Academies – that’s very much what it is – are not going the government’s way. Not that the opposition cab say much because it is they who beagn the push to them, if not the so-called Free-Schools which are moving further and faster away from accountability and democratic control. Public money is being fed to the private sector. It they don;t work there will be nothing left to rebuild another service. Now in Birmingham the desperate Gove is forcing primary schools with Montgomery Primary School to the fore. Angry parents and teachers are mounting a vigorous campaign with the Birmingham Anti-Academy Alliance.
It will not only be government departments that are cleared out, but as new rules come into force pay and conditions change – considerably for the worse, so there is the prospect of an exodus of well qualified staff here too. The new panaceas will be able to bring in anyone they like. Retired army personnel seem to be sought after so we are likely to see something akin to boot camps emerge.

Bring back Woodhead

The education service in England has had to endure some far out Chief Inspectors of Schools coupled with Secretaries of State who want to interfere with it. This is the first time I realised there was a new kid on the block from the first of January who appears to vie with Michael Gove by taking an outlandish approach. Schools, he says, will be inspected without prior warning.
Gove is attempting to force primary schools to become academies. Where it becomes known there have been large protest meetings. The problem is that any crank can apply directly to the Department for Education with a submission for Free Schools without even the local authority being aware. How planning for education will take place, or accountability can happen is a complete mystery. Since New Labour pushed Academies there is no opposition to the privatisation of education from any major party.
I have heard rumours that organisations like book publishers are planning on running a number of schools, where of course they will have a captive market for their publications. Money is the key. Education as a serious area of study has disappeared. The less anyone knows about it, how children learn, is all dead and buried in the ideological world of market forces.

Education, Education, Education Cameronian style

The Blair mantra takes on a new meaning under Cameron. This is the fact that there are far too many kinds of school now and this is causing huge confusion. The one thing certain about it is that it will create more inequality, more elitism, as those more able to navigate the maze will be at an advantage. Once again that is likely to be the more affluent, so education, along with health, housing, transport, utilities becomes available to those who have the ability to pay. Forget the unemployed, the disabled, the sick.
The new schools are modelled on those already existing to offer privilege. Cameron’s notion is that can be reproduced in the state sector, and he has been back to Eton to ask for them to intervene in the state sector. Is that a good idea? It seems to me that the privilege comes from having the money to go to Eton. Educating children is a different matter. As with everything else at the moment th idea is to make less and less provide more and more. This means setting up schools with unqualified teachers, paying less, reducing pensions and job security while imposing longer hours and unfavourable conditions. In short driving a coach and horses through what has been hard one over many years. How will lowering the morale of the teaching force help raise standards? Free schools and academies have other purposes than education!
The supposed rationale for making cuts is that services have become unaffordable. Teachers’ pensions are a case in point. The NUT has shown this to be a fallacy. They seem to have forgotten that a few decades back it was said that there was too much in the teachers’ pension pot and so it needed to be reduced and so the money could be used for other purposes.
“Cuts” is what has been sold to us. It is not that. Here we see the beginnings of the dismantling of the state sector. This came into being to give all of us the opportunity to have what previously only a privileged few could enjoy. Thatcher began fighting “the enemy within”, that is the representatives of those who worked in manufacturing or obtaining the materials to carry that out. 80% of us were engaged in that. All that was stopped and we began relying on foreign, unreliable and very costly sources for our energy needs. While the productive sector shrunk those engaged in financial, unproductive, services rose exponentially. They have not only risen, they have taken over and are able to dictate what they take home and what the rest of us don’t. Problem is it’s difficult to blame the Tories who we know to represent an elite. If you voted Lib Dem you voted for this. But New Labour brought in privatisation which exceeded Thatcher’s dreams, including schools which would break away from local authorities and thus accountability through the democratic process, the Academies.

Stereotyping black children is still evident survey shows

I dislike SATs for wasting valuable time in educating children and imposing pressures on them, their teachers and their parents. However yet another report shows that low expectation of black pupils still occurs. The most worrying finding is that black pupils are consistently marked down by teachers when their scores are compared with external assessments
The debate has become a regular one. It is now 40 years since http://www.guardian.co.uk/education/2005/feb/01/raceineducation.race published his Underachievement of Black pupils and 25 years since the Swann Report which famously fudged the issue. This was preceded by the Rampton Report which looked specifically at the underachievement of black pupils but when the ugly duckling transformed itself into the Swann there was indeed a huge transformation. We needed to look at all our pupils. Who was “underachieving” and who was “overachieving” perhaps? It’s pretty clear that the initial concern had to be blurred, the problem being for Lord Swann being that some were attributing the chief reason to “racism”. Even members of his committee held this view as would be evident in the full report. In order to make sure every one understood that this simply could not be Swann sent his own summary to every school in the land. After all it wasn’t very likely that that many people would bother to read the full article.

The Great Debate: the opening of the flood gates to oppression

I trained as a teacher in the 1960’s. I’m glad I’ve got that out – but I’ll be branded. I’m still involved in education as a school governor and a director of Vital Link Educational and see the results of what was called “The Great Debate” as Jim Callaghan launched an attack on “trendy education methods”. This was just the beginning. The oppressive political involvement on education has been turning the screw tighter and tighter until the whole system is shrieking with pain. Teachers – never mind the sixties brigade – have been ignored. No doubt they’ll blame us for their troubles. Time, one head teacher believes, for the “Second Great Debate”.
State schools are paid for by governments not without good reason. There are expectations that they will provide cohesion in society, That is they will contribute to the reproduction of the “culture”, “values”, “norms” (as Pierre Bourdieu expounds it) that establishment figures trot out. Part of “State Repressive Apparatus” according to Althusser.

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