Birmingham councillors are to campaign with the unions, media and the Local Government Association (LGA) to mobilise opposition against the White Paper’s key policy: total academisation, following the the national call to action from the LGA Labour Group.
The Birmingham campaign follows a debate at the March Council meeting in which both Labour and Lib Dem councillors spoke in favour of a motion brought by Cllr Brigid Jones to oppose elements of the White Paper, including forcing schools to become academies and the removal of parents from governing bodies. The campaign will begin after the election on 5 May.
Now we all must do everything we can to help build an all-embracing city-wide campaign involving councillors and MPs (and not just from Labour), the school unions, headteachers, school governors, parents, community organisations, religious organisations – everybody. By working together we can create enough pressure in Birmingham as part of the national campaign to force the government to back down – through public meetings, a petition, letters in the press, radio and TV coverage, and massive use of social media – and more.
Read below the national call to action from Cllr Nick Forbes – Leader of LGA Labour Group, Leader of Newcastle City Council, and Cllr Richard Watts – Vice-Chair of the LGA Children & Young People Board, Leader of Islington Council. (The LGA is the national body representing all councils in England.)
The Labour councillors’ national statement
It’s vital that the children in the communities we represent get the best start in life.
By working in partnership with schools and communities, local councils are able to help improve standards and ensure that schools serve the needs of local communities.
But all this is at risk from a Tory Government that has announced reckless ideological plans to force all schools to become academies.
We need to organise our efforts to halt this damaging proposal – which, we must remember, is by no means certain to happen.
It’s astonishing that, at a time of major cuts to school budgets, the Government would propose spending hundreds of millions turning all schools into academies when there is not a shred of evidence that it will help improve education standards.
Over 80 per cent of maintained schools have been rated good or excellent by Ofsted, while three times as many councils perform above the national average in terms of progress made by students than the largest academy chains. When a school is struggling, we must take action – but converting every school to an academy, without giving parents a say, is not the answer.
We have already spoken out strongly against these plans. And it’s telling that Tory councillors across the country are furious about them too.
The Government needs to listen to the concerns of parents, teachers, unions, local representatives and experts and rethink the proposals. We have already met with Lucy Powell MP, Shadow Secretary of State for Education, and have agreed to work together to campaign against these proposals. But we need the expertise and support of Labour Councillors to really make the Government listen.
The first job we have as Labour Councillors is to get the message out that these changes are not inevitable and governing bodies should not rush to convert. Schools should make the decision about their status that is right for them and not feel pushed into converting now.
We want to hear from you about the local efforts you are making to organise against these proposals. Whether it’s organising a meeting of school governors, linking up with teaching unions, or supporting parents to write to your local paper criticising the removal of their say over how their children’s schools are run. We want to be able to use your efforts to show just how widespread the opposition is to this illogical Tory plan.
We will keep you up to date with what we are doing from the LGA Labour Group, but we must all start working to resist these changes now.
Cllr Nick Forbes – Leader of LGA Labour Group, Leader of Newcastle City Council
Cllr Richard Watts – Vice-Chair of the LGA Children & Young People Board, Leader of Islington Council
This article first appeared on the Birmingham Campaign for State Education (BCASE) website on 10 April at http://birminghamcase.wordpress.com/