Next organising meeting – Tuesday 13th March, 7pm, Kings Arms, Quay, Bideford

Below is the agenda for the next meeting of the anti-cuts alliance, to be held at 7pm, Tuesday 13th March in the Kings Arms, on the Quay in Bideford.  Please note also that there will be a stall in Ilfracombe High Street next Saturday (17th) 11am-1pm, if you would like to help out with this, or to add anything to the agenda ahead of the meeting, please contact Rosie Haworth-Booth at rhaworthbooth [at] yahoo.com.

Agenda

 1. Introductions and apologies
2. Minutes of last meeting and matters arising ( reports back on print prices Bideford and Barnstaple; preview of Wake Up Call;  mailing list for Plymouth and Exeter contacts; printing of flyer – need to send to Paul Miller;etc) (all)
3. Saturday stall and Film screening Ilfracombe 17 & 22 March respectively (Jane & Rosie)
  plans for next stalls and films? (all)
4.Treasurer’s Report (Paul)
5. Regional and National News (all)
6. Media coverage – locally and nationally (John)7. Unity in Action (Paul, Gerry)

8. AOB
9. Date of next meeting
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Next screening of Sicko – Ilfracombe, 7.30pm, Thursday 22nd March

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Meeting tomorrow – note change of venue

We will be meeting as usual in Bideford at 7pm tomorrow, but instead of the Arts Centre we will be meeting in the Kings Arms, also on the Quay.

Here is the agenda:

1. Apologies and introductions

2. Welfare ‘reforms’ – presentation by Gerrard Sables

3. Other regional and national news

4. Film screening

5. Stalls

6. Unity in Action meeting

7. Ink suppliers

8. Finance report

9. Any other business

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Privatisation of school services – bad news for schools and children

Last year, Devon County Council privatised the school meals service.  Now it seems, as a result of this, some primary schools are now not able to provide hot meals to their pupils.  The managing director of the company which provides the service pointed out that “it’s not a charity. We have got to cover our costs.”  What this means translated into reality is that they are a private company who wants to make as much money out of providing food to schoolchildren as possible.  This means increasing charges to schools while reducing their own costs.  The usual way to do this is by attacking the pay and conditions of staff and reducing the quality of the service.  Time and time again, this is what happens when public services are privatised (‘outsourced’ is usually the euphemism).  We have seen it in public transport, the NHS, water, anything you care to think of.  The public pays more for a service that gets worse.

And now Devon County Council is privatising Devon Education Services, which provides a whole host of services and support for local schools.  How long until local schools can no longer afford these, while taxpayers money goes to wealthy shareholders rather than into improving children’s opportunities?

The privatisation agenda in local and national government is allied to the general cuts agenda.  Some services are cut, and others are sold off to private companies.  More and more, wealth is transferred from us to the already rich, and we pay the added price of worse (and fewer) vital services, job cuts, pay freezes and attacks on our pensions (public AND private).  Isn’t it time we had an alternative to this madness?

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Welfare – An Alternative Vision

The PCS Union, who have previously produced excellent information and materials on the cuts, have now produced ‘Welfare – An Alternative Vision’, an argument against the disgusting attacks the Government is carrying out on the welfare system.

You can download the pdf version of this excellent document here: Welfare – An Alternative Vision.

Here is just a snippet from the introduction:

“The current government is attacking the welfare system by cutting £18 billion from welfare, while giving away more than £25 billion in corporate tax breaks over the same period. It is emphasising the cost of fraud when £1.5 billion is lost in this way, but turning a blind eye to £120 billion of tax lost through evasion, avoidance and non-collection.”

 

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Agenda for tomorrow’s meeting – 7pm, Yeo Room, Barnstaple Civic Centre

1. Apologies and Introductions

2. Minutes of last meeting

3. Update on NHS

4. Other National and Regional News

5. Stalls, flyers and film screening

6. Printer

7. Finance report

8. Update on Proposed Unity Meeting

9. Future meetings

10. AOB

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The privatisation of schools

This week I’ve been visiting, with a colleague, National Union of Teachers (NUT) members in primary, special and secondary schools in Cornwall.

The purpose of our visits was to find out about issues in their schools and to offer support and training for organisation, and in many cases resistance, to the increasing demands being placed on teachers by increasingly bullying managements.

Most of the schools we visited have converted to independent academy status. This means that they are no longer community schools under Local Authority (LA) control. Instead central government has direct control in the shape of the Minister for Education, Michael Gove. Boards of Governors now have the power to hire and fire without any reference to the LA. They also have responsibility for the buildings and the grounds of these schools along with other matters such as Health and Safety and Terms and Conditions of work, which were the responsibility of the LA. Should the school ‘fail’ in any way the Secretary of State now has the power to close it down or have it taken over by an ‘outstanding’ academy.

The Academies programme began under the previous Labour Government, following their drive to privatise schools via the Trust Schools programme. Devon NUT led a highly publicised campaign, both locally and nationally, against them.

The claim for trust schools and academies by the Blair led Government was that standards, especially for children from deprived backgrounds, would be driven up. These first academies were taken over (effectively handed over) to the likes of Lord Harris, of Harris Carpets, Peter Vardy, a second hand car dealer and Creationist zealot, and Steve Chalk another Christian zealot. Large amounts of money from the government were set-aside as ‘sweeteners’ to encourage schools to change to academy status.

There have been many campaigns nationally to resist these changes. The Anti Academies Alliance (AAA) www.antiacademies.org.uk has regular updates and reports on news and events. There is also much helpful information regarding the arguments against the privatisation of our community schools.

Sadly, a number of academies have been put into ‘special measures’ following the Office for Standards in Education (Ofsted) visits. The latest is the Sir Robert Woodward Academy in Lancing West Sussex. We do not celebrate at this news, or the fact that in an analysis of the most recent exam results tables by the Anti Academies Alliance over 20% of academy GCSE results either show no improvement or have declined. It is the students who are being let down for purely ideological reasons.

The consequences have been far reaching. The Tory led coalition has driven the Academies programme via the Education Act, giving powers to the Education Secretary, which for instance, can force a school to become an academy if it is not meeting the so called ‘floor targets’ set by Ofsted.

Furthermore, there is no requirement to consult all interested parties such as parents, community groups and prospective parents, for example, to agree whether or not a school should change its status. No public meeting, no arguments for and against, no ballot. In other words small groups of people on governing bodies with vested interests in moving towards privatisation have been making decisions to take this route without any recourse to democratic processes.

A further difficulty for schools is that the assessment of their ability to deliver the curriculum, as per Government demands, is constantly changing. For example, it was reported this week that the new Head of Ofsted, Sir Michael Wilshaw, says that a school that has been deemed ‘satisfactory’ in the past will now be in the ‘failing’ category.

Here’s the good news though. There are a number of schools throughout the country that have organised opposition to academy status. Downhills Primary School in Tottenham is a wonderful example of the whole school community uniting in their resistance. I recommend having a look at the video of their song Save Our School on youtube. It is so inspiring*.

There is also the spectre of so-called ‘Free Schools’, based on the Swedish move to a complete privatisation of schools. Route 39 is being touted in North Devon by a group of parents. The regulations that usually apply to where children can be taught safely by fully qualified staff are being openly flouted by the odious Mr Gove in his quest to destroy the idea of comprehensive education in a good local community school for all children. Just this week it has been reported that a Swedish Free School has been put up for auction on Ebay. It would be laughable if it weren’t so tragic.

This is a full frontal ideological attack by the Tories, ably supported by their liberal friends, to smash comprehensive education. It is deeply divisive and has already led to further segregation by background and belief.

The fight back continues,however. Several campaigns are running. Some have already been successful. The Anti Academies Alliance has useful information on its website. The National Union of Teachers website has further information by clicking on its campaigns button and then the priority campaigns button.

Last but not least, we in the North Devon Anti Cuts Alliance are contributing to the debate and the fight to retain comprehensive education and to keep it from the profiteering hands of private businesses, religious groups and others.

North Devon Anti Cuts Alliance welcomes anyone who wants to resist the excesses of this government, as it tries to make those who can least afford it pay for the crisis created by their friends in the banks and hedge funds. They see education and students, for example, as nothing more than another business to be exploited for their prestige and profits.

Dave Clinch

*Unfortunately this video is not accessible at the moment, I will post it on this site if I see it become available again.

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