Monthly Archives: October 2012

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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Ballymurphy Massacre 1971

Ballymurphy 11 Relatives and supporters will be on Radio 5 Live during the Victoria Derbyshire show on the Conservative Party Conference. Obviously the show will cover all aspects of Tory Policy, but please try and get in on the Ballymurphy debate
Phone: 0500 909 693
Text: 85058 (charged at your standard message rate)
Lobby Tory Party Conference
Ballymurphy Massacre Vigil
5pm Mon 8th October
Meet at Hall of Memory Centenary Square Broad Street B1 2EP
THE Ballymurphy 11 were murdered during the first three days of internment (Aug 71) in Belfast by the 2nd Battalion of the British Army’s Parachute Regiment. This same regiment went on, 5 months later, to murder 14 demonstrators on Bloody Sunday in Derry.
The horrific catalogue of events in Ballymurphy between 9th and 11th August 1971 have remained hidden from public knowledge and focus for almost 40 years.
The families demand
· A full Independent International Investigation
· A British Government statement that the victims were innocent
· A full apology from the British Government
See more information at:
Troops Out Movement
Campaigning for British Withdrawal from Ireland
TOM 123 Birmingham B11 4PS Tel: 0121 773 8683 Mob: 0797 017 4167

The Climate has Changed

“Marxism”? Don’t mention it. “Socialism” you can’t, but while the political and economic changes have taken place so that the once unthinkable is now with us. How come?
Government, whether a Tory/Lib-Dem coalition, or Labour, variously labelled “new” and “blue” has fallen in with the changed power structures dominated by a monied elite. The Thatcher era, which we supposed was over after her “defeat” was championed by the supposedly new government of “New Labour” led by an acolyte called Tony Blair. Except he did things in a bigger and better way than Thatcher, presiding over bigger and better wars, conducted more and more by private enterprise, and privatised more of our essential public services making them ready for destruction. Opposition there is to our prized National Health Service, but our state school system is all but destroyed with Academies (brought in by New Labour) and Free Schools.
The question is do Governments rule? The answer is that they are bound hand and foot by the corporate power which can dictate what it wants without the opposition of elected politicians or a compliant media.
The Labour Party Conference supposedly coming up with an alternative message is once more regurgitating the one that the corporate masters want to hear. So we have New Labour, Blairite, Liam Byrne saying of course we have to get rid of benefits. They are a dirty word. So let the struggling unemployed, homeless and poverty stricken suffer while we think up something else. What’s the answer Mr Byrne? “Push ’em back to work”. Isn’t that precisely what the Government pay Atos to do with the result that many who are unfit for work end up suicidal. Is that what we want for our society? No politician will admit that, but for private sector organisations that is bread and butter. They get their money and make fat profits as the rich get richer, the poor poorer. The politicians, every one of them, repeat the mantra that it’s the economic crisis, stupid. Who created the crisis? And it wasn’t by accident either.

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