PFI continues to bleed schools dry

Schools across England are being forced to pay millions of pounds, money that is desperately needed for teaching staff and resources, to private companies for useless activities and substandard services. Over 900 of the country’s schools are locked into contracts under the Private Finance Initiative (PFI) scheme introduced in 1992 by the Tories and increased massively under the succeeding Labour government. PFI and the private-public partnerships (PPP) it creates, are one of the tools used by capitalists to extract profit from public services, siphoning off resources from socially produced wealth (in the form of taxes) into private pockets. As well as impacting education, PFI was expanded by Labour with devastating consequences for services such as transport and healthcare.


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Fight the Randstadisation of education

Protest for equal pay for equal work

Since September 2020 I have been working in schools and remotely as a teacher on the government’s much vaunted catch-up programme, the National Tutoring Programme (NTP), which supposedly aims to provide personalised tuition to the most disadvantaged children. Initially, the contracts for this initiative were laundered out to a group of private companies which monopolise supply teaching and agency work in Britain’s schools, but from September 2021 one big corporation, Randstad, will enjoy the exclusive right to provide NTP teaching in Britain’s schools. As the company skims the cream off an education system in deepening crisis, working class children are being failed between the blurring lines of government and monopoly capitalism.


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Wolves at the doors of Britain’s schools

Prime Minister Boris Johnson sits in a school classroom wearing a face mask

On 8 March primary and secondary schools across England re-opened for all to resume in-class education. Yet the preparation has been inadequate, with the government advancing a series of ‘recommendations’ on safety rather than a real plan for safety, wellbeing and addressing the crisis of learning created by a year’s mismanagement of the pandemic. The Tory government is intent on accelerating a ‘recovery’ which will inevitable be at the expense of the working class. Just as serious is the lack of opposition to its plans. Armed with nothing but timid recommendations of their own, the unions are failing dangerously.


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'Schools are Covid-safe’ and other fairy tales

Lack of state support for school students and staff provoked protests and pickets in France

Main article image: Lack of state support for school students and staff provoked protests and pickets in France

On 4 January 2021, after insisting millions of children and staff at reopened primary schools attend and mix, potentially spreading the virus to family members and wider communities, Boris Johnson announced yet another inevitable U-turn. In the face of increasing infection rates and the threat of the NHS being overwhelmed, Johnson announced a national lockdown with schools ‘closed’ until mid-February at the earliest, and the last-minute cancellation of exams. Schools were left scrambling to try to implement a plan for remote learning with no time to prepare. Under pressure, the latest government directive is that schools will not fully reopen until 8 March at the earliest. Meanwhile the fundamental problems facing the state education system – underfunding, overcrowded classrooms, filling the gaps for cuts in children’s mental health and other services - are only accelerating under the pressure of the pandemic. RUBY MOST and LOUIS BREHONY report.


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Covid crisis on campus

Students at University of Manchester protest and tear down fences

The idea that the government had taken adequate measures to make campuses ‘Covid-secure’ was an obvious lie. By early November, the University and College Union (UCU) reported at least 40,000 students and staff had tested positive since the term began; an inevitable result of having students from all across the country and beyond mixing in halls of residence, student accommodation and lecture halls, with no functioning test trace and isolate system. But what universities lacked in public health infrastructure they made up for with punitive rules; many simply warehoused students in their halls, some hired private security and guard dogs to patrol campuses. While reckless partying students were blamed for the inevitable rise in outbreaks, several universities directly and illegally endangered lives, holding fire exits closed with cable ties. 


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Coronavirus: chaos for students as universities bank the profits

University residence window reads 'Tory free covid positive'

An avoidable coronavirus crisis has developed in British universities since the middle of September. At Manchester University the number of confirmed Covid-19 infections shot up, from just 10 cases on 27 September, when testing began on staff and students, to 160 just three days later, and 380 by 4 October. At Northumbria University in Newcastle, a staggering 770 students and staff were found to be Covid-positive by 2 October.


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Education: a lesson in racism and class division

The Bullingdon Club

The pandemic has intensified and laid bare the class divisions and racism entrenched within capitalist Britain. For many children from working-class families, the pandemic has meant rising hunger, isolation without any green space and in cramped and poor-quality housing, and thousands could not even access the bare minimum of online learning. Even before the pandemic began, progress on closing the attainment gap between rich and poor students in England had already halted for the first time in over a decade. RUBY MOST reports


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Covid ‘catch-up’: a success for private companies

Thousands of young people do not have access to a suitable device or broadband with which to use it (photo: Ivan Radic/CC2.0)

On 2 July, Education Secretary Gavin Williamson announced that since the ‘battle against this virus has become ever more successful’, there would now be a ‘carefully planned’ return to school, college and nurseries for all students this September. The ‘successful’ reopening of schools to more pupils since 1 June saw rising numbers of suspected Covid-19 outbreaks, from 14 in the first week of increased pupil numbers, to 55 by the start of July according to Public Health England. The ‘careful plan’ includes no funding to cover reopening costs for schools which have suffered a decade of austerity. Instead, piles of public money will be poured into lucrative government contracts for private companies from a Covid ‘catch-up’ package. Meanwhile, child malnutrition is on the rise, and thousands of students still cannot access online learning. RUBY MOST reports.


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Resist ruling class drive to reopen schools

RCG in London demand mass testing and PPE

On 22 May, the Independent Sage committee — which was set up in response to the lack of public or scientific scrutiny of the activities of the government’s own Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE) — published a report warning that the wider reopening of schools on 1 June risks spreading Covid-19 and causing a potential ‘second spike’ in the pandemic. Until the virus can be accurately monitored and controlled through a nationwide programme of community based testing and contact tracing, there must be no increase in numbers of pupils in school; the unions and educational staff must organise to ensure their essential demands are met. RUBY MOST reports


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Education notes: mixing business with education

Parents and students protest against academisation in Birmingham

Secretary of State for Education Gavin Williamson is leading the post-Brexit spin on the Tories’ ‘education revolution’. Jingoistic rhetoric is used to conjure up a vision of post-Brexit highly technically skilled British workforce building a world class biotech industry. The reality is that billions of pounds of state funding is being wasted, sucked out into the hands of private individuals and companies through unaccountable ‘free’ schools and academies, while most of the state education system faces chronic underfunding.


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Education: isolation and the myth of ‘bad behaviour’

School pupils in isolation

Pupils are being subjected to ‘distressing and degrading’ isolation as punishment for such innocuous infractions as wearing their hair in the ‘wrong’ style or forgetting equipment, according to research by the Children’s Commissioner Anne Longfield. Longfield’s ongoing research aims to determine how widespread the draconian punishment has become; at least one school has converted a toilet block into isolation cubicles, and another uses a cardboard booth to restrict ‘disruptive’ children. RUBY MOST reports.


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Education: how far will Labour go?

Protest against schools cuts and academisation, London 2016 (photo: Shabbir Lakha, Facebook)

The Labour Manifesto includes some ambitious plans to change the miserable state of the education system in Britain. It proclaims it will create a ‘National Education Service’, bring academies back under local authority control, scrap tuition fees, introduce six years of free learning for adults, reduce testing in schools and reintroduce the Education Maintenance Allowance. The promise to replace Ofsted will appeal to many tired of sterile, data driven education, although exactly how the new body will be different is not clear. Some of Labour’s more radical plans, such as the proposal agreed at conference to ‘integrate private schools’ into the state system, have been watered down even in this ‘most radical’ manifesto. The Social Justice Commission, which will replace the Social Mobility Commission under Labour, will merely be asked to ‘advise on integrating private schools’ [our emphasis], and any mention of seizing private schools’ assets and redistributing them ‘democratically and fairly’ have disappeared.


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Another decade of school crisis

After a decade of systematic cuts, Britain’s state education system is crumbling; as of August this year Tes* and National Governance Association research found 4.2% of secondary schools have had to cut opening hours, 32% have cut teaching staff and over half (52%) have cut support staff. The survey confirmed poorer students and those with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) are the worst affected, as 60.5% of schools do not have sufficient funds ‘to support the needs of pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds’, and 78% are not funded to meet SEND requirements, while the number of schools having to provide food banks and wash their students’ uniforms is rising. With a possible general election in the pipeline for October, the Tories have made a great fanfare of their plans to ‘level up’ funding by £7.1bn by 2022-23. But their sums do not add up; school leaders and the National Education Union have pointed out that this is woefully short of the amount needed to reverse the damage done to schools, which is estimated at £12.6bn by 2022-23. Ruby Most reports.


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Educated to rule

In June the Sutton Trust and the Social Mobility Commission published a report on ‘social mobility’, ‘Elitist Britain 2019’, which found that high-powered jobs in the media, politics, law and public sector ‘remain dominated by a narrow section of the population: the 7% who attend independent [private] schools and the roughly 1% who graduated from just two universities, Oxford and Cambridge.’ The study comes as Boris Johnson has just become the 20th Eton-educated British Prime Minister, and no one better epitomises this privileged ruling class minority than this chauvinistic self-serving career politician.

The commission found that those in ‘elite’ jobs were more than five times as likely to have been privately educated than the rest of the population. The privately educated accounted for 65% of senior judges, 57% of the House of Lords, and 44% of newspaper columnists; and the 1 % of the population with an Oxbridge education for 71% of senior judges, 57% of cabinet ministers and 56% of permanent secretaries. This tiny minority of extremely powerful and privileged people are educated to rule over the working class.


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Education exclusion crisis

After years of school budget cuts, falling wages for teachers in real terms of more than £4,000 a year since 2010 and cuts to support staff and essential social and mental health support services, the education sys-tem in Britain is in crisis, and thousands of the most vulnerable children are being pushed out of school.

On 7 May, Edward Timpson, former Conservative children’s minister, published his delayed landmark review into the rising use of exclusion and specifically why some groups of children are more likely to be excluded than their peers. Timpson’s review showed eight out of ten permanently excluded children come from vulnerable back-grounds – 78% of permanent exclusions were issued to pupils with special educational needs (SEN), those eligible for free school meals (FSM) or those otherwise classified as in need. In the 2016/17 academic year, 7,700 pupils were permanently excluded – equivalent to nearly 40 children a day. Statistics from the Department for Education (DfE) show that the number of under-11s being taught in pupil referral units after being excluded from mainstream education in England has ‘more than doubled since 2011’ (The Guardian, 1 April 2019). This includes 42 under-fives, 28 of them toddlers aged two and under.


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Absolute breaking point for education system

A warning that Britain’s education system ‘is failing the most vulnerable pupils’ while class sizes rise and budgets have reached ‘absolute breaking point’, came from Paul Whiteman, general secretary of National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT) on 8 March. On 4 March MPs debated schools funding after more than 100,000 people signed an online petition started by head teacher Andrew Ramanandi calling for a desperately needed increase.

The government repeated its mantra that they have ‘increased funding by an extra £1.3bn across this year and next, over and above previous spending plans’ (UK Government and Parliament Petitions 5 February 2019). In reality, since 2010, schools have seen funding shrink by 8% on average, and sixth forms by 20% according to the Institute for Fiscal Studies. This means cuts to support staff, services and interventions for children with special educational needs and disability (SEND), and that teachers are forced to cover ‘for canteen staff and cleaners’ and schools are being forced to close early to save money (The Guardian 8 March 2019).


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The scandal of school exclusions and the lost lessons of Risinghill School

Pupils in British schools face isolation or 'exclusion' if they fail to meet standards

Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! 268 February/March 2019

Schools used to ‘expel’ pupils but today they ‘exclude’ them. Exclusion is either permanent or temporary, usually three days, but a pupil may be given multiple temporary exclusions in a school year. The number of children permanently excluded from state primary, secondary and special schools in England and Wales increased by about 1,000 to 7,700 in 2017, more than 40 permanent exclusions a day compared to 35 in 2016. Temporary exclusions also increased, by 40,000 to 382,000 – meaning nearly one in 20 pupils suffered a fixed-period exclusion.


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The fight for state education

On 28 September an estimated 2,000 headteachers marched to Downing Street to protest against budget cuts

What must be done by the teachers’ unions today

The attacks on state education today are profound and it is obvious that the teachers’ unions are not fighting back. Parents, pupils and staff around the country are carrying out strikes and protests as their own schools are affected by underfunding and privatisation. But what is missing is any organised national resistance. On 28 September, an estimated 2,000 headteachers marched in central London in protest against budget cuts. But this is a cry of despair, not a political movement. The Labour Party has set out a plan for a ‘cradle to grave’ National Education Service in parallel with the National Health Service to offer everyone ‘the same standard as with health care’. But like the NHS, education has a ‘postcode lottery’ of better service for wealthier areas and is also suffering from underfunding and growing privatisation.

Smoke and mirrors at the Labour Party conference

Shadow Education Secretary Angela Rayner, who previously refused to be ‘bogged down’ on the merits of different types of schools, came out to the Labour conference with the crowd-pleasing message that so-called ‘free’ schools and forced academisation are ‘not fit for purpose’. Labour will, she said, end the scandal of CEO pay and uncontrolled spending on lucrative contracts to friends and family in academies, and introduce national pay rules. While she said that councils will be given back the right to open schools and ‘take control of admissions’ there is nothing in this programme to ensure that this will happen. With 80% of academy schools in deficit, this is as much a programme for saving the schooling system as for changing it.

What, then, is necessary to demand a truly democratic state education system? The history of the political struggle over British state education offers answers.

The British state is late

The establishment of national education came late to the UK. Prussia had state education as early as 1763 while in the Hapsburg Empire, state-funded schools were mandatory in the late 18th century for Czechs, Croats, Italians, Hungarians and Poles. In contrast most of the proletariat of the UK received the harsh schooling of factory discipline and waged labour. However, the time arrived when manufacture needed skilled workers. A stable, literate and numerate workforce was required to run British capitalism competitively against the rising threat of a more productive US and German capitalism and the state had to step in.

A class-based patchwork

A patchwork of schools already existed. These were largely denominational institutions known as Voluntary Schools, run by a variety of religious foundations including Catholic, Methodist, Baptist and Church of England. There were also dame schools, ragged schools and philanthropic factory owners’ schools. All these existed alongside a small number of old established grammar schools and fee-paying private schools known, for historic reasons, as public schools. These institutions had been established for the education of the children of the merchant class who could not afford private tutors or governesses. These elite schools benefit from charitable giving. They have built up enormous wealth and as ‘charities’ receive huge tax breaks. It is estimated that over the next five years Eton College (former pupil David Cameron) and Dulwich College (former pupil Nigel Farage), among other establishments, will receive £522m in tax rebates due to their historic status.

The 1870 Education Act was the first parliamentary legislation on schooling in the UK. It set up a unified central government department of education but grafted onto Local Authorities the responsibility to set up Board Schools paid for by ratepayers for children aged 5-8. (Fully compulsory education was not introduced until 1880 and parents had to pay a fee until the 1891 Free Education Act).

The battle over the state schools

There was a political struggle over the character of the new state education system. The National Education League was set up in 1869 to fight for a progressive secular education system that would integrate all existing schools. Its demand was for ‘free, unsectarian and compulsory education’ supported by the local authorities. It was opposed by the National Educational Union, the association of schoolmasters and heads, which wanted to extend and build on the existing religious foundations.

The 1870 Act was a compromise, setting up Board Schools alongside church-sponsored schools. In two further concessions to the faith lobby, Board Schools had to have a religious but non-denominational framework with compulsory prayers. Voluntary Schools – wide in their evangelical ambitions but short on funds – would receive state financing despite their exclusive mission.

The legacy

It is in this compromise and in the defeat of radical demands for an integrated school system that the seeds of privilege and religious preferment were planted in the very heart of state education from the start. The legacy can be seen very clearly especially in times of austerity when there is a brutal scramble for advantage. Academy schools have been snatched from local authority control, the state-funded expansion of faith schools, and ‘free’ schools diverts funds from central government into the private sector and vicious competition for league table priority drives exam targets because the money follows these success criteria.

The only way forward to defeat the fragmentation and corruption of the system is to return to the demands of the National Education League of 1869 for free, unsectarian and compulsory education overseen by local authorities and funded by central government in accordance with pupil need.

The unions are failing to fight back

 The new teachers’ union, the National Education Union (NEU), was formed in 2017 with the amalgamation of the National Union of Teachers and the Association of Teachers and Lecturers. It claims 500,000 members.

This workforce of over half a million knows that their union is failing to fight the attacks on state education. They know an estimated 50,000 pupils are missing education for all sorts of reasons, with no record of who is responsible for them. They know that thousands of pupils are excluded from school rolls each summer because their predicted exam grades will bring down the pass rate. They know that councils are cutting spending on Special Needs across the country while at the same time the Department for Education has spent over £747m in eight years buying off Local Authority schools to become academies. Teachers and education workers must fight for the integrated, secular and accountable state schools demanded by the pioneers of 1869.

Susan Davidson

Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! 266 October/November 2018


Workers and students win key concessions from exploitative university

IWGB unionists march in London

On 25 and 26 April 2018, workers from the Independent Workers Union of Great Britain (IWGB) in the University of London (UoL) went on strike against the outsourcing of contracts which harms working conditions. The IWGB’s president, Henry Chango-Lopez, called it ‘the biggest-ever strike of outsourced workers in UK higher education history’. Over 100 low-paid, outsourced workers from the Senate House participated. The rally on 25 April attracted hundreds of workers, students and other supporters. With further strike action threatened, the University of London management announced on 24 May that it would begin a process to end outsourcing and bring facilities and management contracts back in-house, a major step towards victory for the IWGB campaign. Nonetheless, workers are holding the management to their word and will go ahead with strike action planned for 6 June. Elias Haddad reports.


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Academy schools: from blue-sky thinking to a foggy future

Protest against the academisation of a primary school in Newham in February

When academy schools were introduced by the Blair Labour government in 2000, they were taken out of the local education authority (LEA) control, given extra funding, and promoted as examples of the superiority of the private over the state sector. The government made an alliance with the ‘carpet king’ – millionaire Carpetright owner and Conservative Party donor, Philip (later Lord) Harris of Peckham. The original deal was that for a down payment of £3 million, any business could take over and run a school. Today, the Harris Federation runs 40 schools and pays its chief executive, Sir Daniel Moynihan, £420,000 a year. Where does this money come from? From the budget of the Department for Education (DfE), the same budget as for LEA schools. Far from escaping the state, academy schools depend on it for finance, and have received more than their fair share of funds. Now they face massive budget deficits and debt, and an estimated one-third of them are facing financial crisis.


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Scandal and fraud in the apprenticeship business – again

Education Is A Right2

Despite its silly name (which would fail a seven-year-old a Sats test), Learndirect is a training and apprenticeships ‘provider’ with a seriously large contract worth £158m a year from the Education and Skills Funding Agency (EFSA). It was privatised in 2011 in a £36m transfer to Lloyds Bank, which was 40% owned by the government at that time. An investigation by the Financial Times revealed that in the four years following privatisation the company spent 84% of government-provided cash on payments to managers and financiers, loaded itself with £90m of debt and diverted £20m in dividends from its operating company as profits dwindled. In 2012, it spent £500,000 on sponsorship of the Marussia Formula One team (Financial Times, 15 August 2017).


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Plot against Muslim community exposed


In 2014 a torrent of abuse was launched against schools in Birmingham, Manchester and Bradford about a conspiracy by Islamic extremists acting as school governors in an undercover plot to take over schools – the Trojan Horse.

A wave of Islamophobic racism swept through the media. The retired Commander of Counter Terrorism Control, Peter Clarke, was appointed to lead an investigation into 25 Birmingham schools. Tony Blair joined in, recklessly linking the so-called Trojan Horse plot to the fundamentalist organisation Boko Haram.


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Labour’s manifesto on education

Labour’s pledge to recast the state education system as a National Education Service providing free ‘cradle-to-grave’ educational provision ‘as a right, not a privilege’ at first sight seems radical. However, to implement this commitment, a Labour government would have to be prepared, not merely to raise the funds, but to challenge the huge private sector interest in the education business world that they themselves invited in and funded.

Outsourcing every aspect of educational infrastructure from exam boards to payroll has led to significant privatisation of the state education system. The UK takes a large slice of the £130bn educational technology market, with schools paying £900m a year to profit business providers. A complete reversal of Labour’s financial collaboration with corporate interests would be necessary to implement recommendations of the manifesto. The pledge to return to ‘national pay bargaining for teachers and support staff’, for example, is not possible without the abolition of academies, ‘free’ and ‘faith’ schools, as well as selective Specialist, Beacon and City Technology Colleges. These institutions set their own curriculums, admissions policies and wages and conditions for staff and are ‘stand-alone’ autonomous organisations although financed by the state.


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Interview with Durham teaching assistant

durham lions

Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! gives our full solidarity to the Durham teaching assistants who have been engaged in a heroic struggle against Durham Labour council to defend their jobs, wages and conditions. The Labour councillors voted unanimously in favour of 23% pay cuts for the teachers. Our supporters in the North East attended their recent march and rally (Durham teaching assistants continue fight against wage cuts) and interviewed one of the organisers of the campaign, Sam, who is also a teaching assistant. We produce the interview in full below.


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Education cuts mean education cuts, Prime Minister

Three issues today demonstrate the determination of the government to attack schooling in England and Wales. The first is the continued fragmentation of the state education system by the introduction of divisive school models such as the ‘free’ schools, sponsored academy schools, specialist schools and now by extending grammar schools. The second is the reduction of school income under the pretext of ‘ending the postcode lottery’. The third attack comes from freezing the overall school budget so that £3bn will be cut by 2019-20.

There is indeed an inherited unfairness in the school funding formula in England and Wales measured by per pupil spending. Inner London schools receive an average £5,918 for each student while in Blackpool it is £3,336. Education Secretary Justine Greening is preparing a White Paper to change the designated school grant from the Department for Education (DfE) to local education authorities to even out the distribution of money and end this ‘unfairness’ (see FRFI 155).


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Boycott the racist school census: Keep border controls out of our classrooms

school census

The Home Office has admitted that it intends to use data from this year’s school census to create a ‘hostile environment’ for migrant children. For the first time, from October 2016, the school census includes questions about nationality and country of birth. The Department of Education will pass on information on up to 1,500 children a month to immigration officials, bringing the UK Border Agency right into Britain’s classrooms. The information is used to track down and deport migrant children and their families. When some schools and nurseries in Hackney, in east London, collected nationality information in July 2016 the result was the deportation of up to 50 schoolchildren. The RCG and other activists such as Against Borders for Children (ABC) have been mobilising against the January 2017 census, encouraging all parents to show solidarity and exercise their right to write ‘refused’ next to these intrusive and patently racist questions.

This racist census is the latest assault in a much longer trajectory of the British state targeting the children of migrants. In 2013 the government discussed excluding children with ‘irregular’ immigration status from schools; in 2015 the then Education Secretary Nicky Morgan called for a review of ‘education tourism’ and how much it is a ‘pull factor’ for migrants. Theresa May wanted the 2016 Immigration Act to legislate for the withdrawal of school places for children with irregular immigration status, and called for schools to check passports before accepting new pupils. This was rejected by other government officials – in favour of placing a legal duty on schools to collect pupils’ nationality and country of birth data via the census.


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Racism in education suspensions

Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! 1 – November/December 1979

The case of the young Rastafarian in Leeds is but one example of the vicious intolerance of the teaching profession and its desperate need to keep control and discipline over the pupils.

In June 1979 there was a public meeting instigated by the United Black Women's Action Group to tackle the immediate problems affecting black children in Haringey schools. Within the last year, and within the London Education Authority alone, black parents have met in Camden, Hackney and Brixton to organise their protests against the treatment their children are receiving from the schools. At a recent meeting of the Islington Committee for Community Relations a speaker from the Caribbean Teachers' Association described school common-rooms as 'citadels of prejudice' and urged action on racism in schools.


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Fight racist and elitist selective education

Since 2007 every school has had to submit its census twice a year.  This information identifies free school meal eligibility, ethnicity (numbers of EAL pupils – English as an additional language) and Special Educa­tional Needs. The numbers determine how much funding the government gives to each school.

This year the Department for Edu­cation has requested additional information, the nationality and country of birth of pupils to be confirmed by presentation of the child’s passport. This information is due to be sent to Department of Education on 6 Oct­ober and schools have to check nationality status every term.

Parents can, before this date, declare that they want to opt-out and refuse to give this information to schools. If they have already given this information before this date, they can instruct schools not to send this information to central government as it will end up in the hands of immigration enforcement. All schools, nurseries and child-minders should be giving parents an option to opt out from providing this additional information. School letters should have the option ‘I do not wish to provide this information’ and also state that ‘there is no requirement for the school to see your passport or birth certificate’.

Some schools and nurseries in Hackney already collected this information in July and the result was the deportation of up to 50 schoolchildren. It is vital that no parents comply so that there is a united front against this ruling. There is a good leaflet advising parents of their right to opt out at which provides a template letter for parents to send to their school or nursery. Solid­arity of all parents/carers can succeed against this piece of state racism.


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The unacceptable face of capitalist education

Falmer academy protest

The attack on state education, initiated by the Labour Party’s smear on ‘bog standard’ local authority schools in 2001, has led to the massive plunder of public funds under the academies project. The budget of the Department for Education is shrinking in real terms, just like the BHS pension fund, but a stream of cash flows into the pockets of a few. While BHS boss Philip Green’s family received £307m in BHS dividends from 2002 to 2004, the pension fund of 11,000 current and 20,000 future retirees dried up. While school finances freeze, the rip-off merchants help themselves.

Ian Cleland, the chief executive of Academy Transformation Trust, which runs 21 schools in the Midlands and the east of England, receives an annual salary of £180,000 and expenses, which include joint insurance with his wife on a XJ Premier Luxury V6 Jaguar car (plus a £500 service and £402 for new tyres). In March of this year Cleland said the Trust was looking to save £500,000, and staff were required to reapply for their jobs: ‘The education sector is facing a number of significant financial challenges across the country with all schools, academies and multi-academy trusts being affected. As a result it is essential that we review our costs and consider where savings can be made, without impacting on the quality of education.’ (The Observer 24 July 2016)


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Keep the caterers: University of Manchester staff win fight over jobs and pay

The University of Manchester was left with egg on its face after it was forced to backtrack on plans to make 43 catering staff on campus and in halls of residence redundant.

The staff are employed by university subsidiary UMC Limited on zero-hours contracts with none of the protections and benefits of in-house employment. They were informed of these redundancies in March, just one month after the university agreed to pay them the Living Wage – itself the result of years of pressure from staff and students on campus. The proposals would also have changed the contracts of remaining staff from full-time to term-time, reducing their salaries by a third.


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Tories back down on academies

The Tories got it wrong

Education Secretary Nicky Morgan has had to back down over plans, announced in Chancellor George Osborne’s budget, to force all schools to become academies (see FRFI 250). The proposal was foolishly dogmatic and was opposed by many, including Conservatives, who relish their role in local councils and on school governing boards and felt insulted by the idea that another institution could do the job better. Morgan got this wrong. It is as if she forgot that recent governments have been able to impose changes in the state education system only by playing off one section against another with special favours and extra grants. This was a diktat too far and there was a revolt against what was seen as the ‘nationalisation’ of the country’s schools and direct rule from Whitehall. Morgan will continue to use the inspectorate Ofsted as a useful intermediary, as it retains powers to take schools away from local education authorities if they are deemed to be ‘below the floor’.


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