Coventry Labour council schools chief sets up academies firm

Coventry Labour council schools chief sets up academies firm

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Cllr David Kershaw

A Coventry Labour councillor has set up a business designed to take over schools and turn them into academies. Councillor David Kershaw, who is cabinet member for education, is heading a new academy company called the West Midlands Academy Trust.

Writing in the Coventry Observer, Les Reid revealed that the company was set up just last month by Cllr Kershaw and is believed “to be in line to win Tory government permission to take over five struggling schools in Birmingham. The five schools are understood to be those which make up the Perry Beeches Trust and are already Academies. The fact that these schools are struggling is a clear indictment of the government’s Academies programme.

Cllr Kershaw has done this at a time when Labour are campaigning against Tory plans to force schools to become academies, and have been distributing leaflets around Woodlands ward claiming local Labour council candidate Patricia Hetherton is “fully behind the campaign to save Woodlands Academy”. After the release of the Panama Papers implicating leading politicians in tax dodging, this is yet another example of hypocrisy.

Hetherton’s leaflet also claims that “[she] knew that the opening of Finham Park 2 would have an impact on student numbers in the area”. “Local” Labour MP Geoffrey Robinson also features on the leaflet, and last month he said the same to the Coventry Telegraph. However, while they say this now, Cllr Kershaw wrote to the Department for Education last year expressing support for Finham Park 2!

Cllr Kershaw has also been key in advocating and pushing through the council’s library closure plans, and the (currently shelved) plans to cut transport to schools for disabled children. As a former headteacher, it is shocking that he seems willing to make cuts that will clearly damage children’s education.

Other partners in the business include Alan East, a Labour candidate for Bablake ward in May. Locally this is yet another example of Labour saying one thing and doing another – how do Kershaw’s actions compare with the anti-austerity policies of Jeremy Corbyn?

Members of the National Union of Teachers (NUT) are campaigning against the enforced academisation of all schools and will be balloted over strike action against funding cuts and threats to teacher’s contracts and pay and conditions. We give them our full support – concerted industrial action can stop these plans and bring this government down!

Coventry teacher ‘We need to highlight homelessness’

Coventry teacher ‘We need to highlight homelessness’

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Campaigners outside Edgwick Play Centre – defending play facilities and homes is critical

The following was a speech written by a delegate from Coventry to the NUT conference. Unfortunately due to time constraints the speech wasn’t made, however we are publishing it on our website as it raises some critical issues for our city.


 

This week I sat with one of my students as he described with glee that he had moved into a new home. He showed me photographs of his new home and talked about how he could now fly his remote control helicopter in his living room. A month ago he was a completely different child. He lived in one room with his family in a hostel.

A hostel that provided nothing, not enough beds, no cooking facilities and washing facilities that were shared amongst many families. Every day he arrived late as he had to travel across the city to school.

Despite the conditions he has been living in, he always smiles, but he has found it incredibly hard to cope with school. Learning has not been important as his priorities have been led by basic needs. In the past month, since being rehoused, he has made more progress than he has made in the previous six months. He has started to speak more confidently and read and write.

As teachers, we know that if children are living in poverty and deprivation, it will adversely affect their mental health and in turn their learning. In this data driven education system, this is one thing that can be measured. But we are told that this is irrelevant and all children in Primary should be working at the same level. It’s crazy.

There are an increasing number of children in exactly the same position in my school. In Coventry, in the last year, 290 homes were repossessed. The CAB has recorded a 100% rise in enquiries on homelessness.

Many of these will have been from families with school age children. The main reasons for this, the CAB quotes, is the changes to benefits and benefit sanctions which have led to sanctions that have meant that many cannot pay rent or mortgages and stay in their home.

We need to highlight homelessness in the same way as we have raised the use of food banks in Coventry. The publication of the numbers of our children and families living with constant transience and homelessness should shame this government in exactly the same way. Forcing them to resign and pull back on benefit sanctions.

We need to fight the austerity cuts locally, whoever they are carried out by. Cuts that are removing homelessness support services and money for refuges that are the last line of support for many of these families.

We need to shame the landlords that are profiting from this situation and that are evicting our families. Shame the banks that are repossessing homes. We need to defend those who face eviction. We need to demand that all our children have a right to safety, to a home and to an education that is not fractured because of government policy.

 

 

 

‘No more academies. No more cuts’ A Coventry teacher speaks out before NUT conference

‘No more academies. No more cuts’

A Coventry teacher speaks out before NUT conference

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Nicky Downes

The annual conference of the National Union of Teachers begins today in Brighton. Socialist Party member and NUT activist Nicky Downes is a delegate from Coventry. Speaking to us whilst travelling to this key meeting of teacher trade unionists she told us

The education system in this country is well and truly broken. We need to fight back just like the junior doctors are doing to save the NHS. If this doesn’t happen we will continue to have a system that values profit above learning. A system that believes anyone can teach and the best education comes from a book or computer programme flogged by Pearson. No more academies. No more cuts. A qualified teacher in every class.

Jane Nellist, also from Coventry, and a member of the national executive of the NUT has written an article calling on the unions to act against the academies onslaught. It can be read here

If you are a teacher and want to link up with Socialist Party members in the NUT, please fill in the form below!

Lively Coventry protest against forced academies

Lively Coventry protest against forced academies

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Protesting at the Department of Education, Coventry

A lively protest took place in Coventry earlier this evening against the government’s plans to force every school to become an academy.

The demonstration, held outside the Department of Education building and organised by the National Union of Teachers (NUT) was supported by teachers, parents, school  and university students. It also drew support from members of UNISON, UNITE, GMB, CWU and Coventry TUC.

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Jane Nellist with Sam Kempster

Jane Nellist, recently re-elected to the national executive of the NUT, chaired the protest explaining why her union was so opposed to the Tory privatisation plans.

Eileen Hunter, an NUT activist from Warwickshire spoke passionately about how these plans needs to be fought.

Sam, a student from Coventry University, spoke about the need to forge links, and brought solidarity greetings from Coventry students.

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Hands off our Schools!

Parents also spoke about the effects that academisation has had on the education of their children.

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Outside the Department of Education

Paul Hunt, assistant branch secretary of Coventry City UNISON, explained how the Tory proposal will be an attack on UNISON members in schools. He spoke in support of a co-ordinated fight back between the public sector unions pointing out that the government is weak – witness the resignation of IDS and the splits over Europe. The junior doctors have shown a lead, now is the time for a general strike in this country!

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On the protest

All speakers showed that the fight must now be taken to the government.

Jane Nellist closed the protest explaining how her union conference this week must come out with clear plans for industrial action and that Coventry NUT would be continuing a campaign after Easter to defend education.

NUT protest in Coventry against Tory academy plans

NUT protest in Coventry against Tory academy plans

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Coventry NUT (National Union of Teachers) has organised a protest this week against Tory plans to turn every school in the country into an academy. The protest is outside Coventry DFE (Department for Education) offices in the Butts on Wednesday 23rd at 4.30pm.

We have already seen the negative effects of “academisation” in Coventry, with a number of schools such as Blue Coat, Grace Academy and Woodlands facing financial difficulty – Woodlands Academy is currently under threat of closure.

Forcing all schools to become academies is indicative of the Tories’ desire to privatise public services, by removing schools from local authority control and handing them over to big businesses. Teachers, parents and students need to fight these plans – save our schools!

Protest outside Coventry DFE on Wednesday 23rd at 4.30pm! 

Protest against closure of Woodlands Academy

Protest against closure of Woodlands Academy

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Protest outside Woodlands Academy (photo Cov Telegraph)

Over 200 staff, parents and pupils gathered outside the gates of Woodlands Academy on a very cold and wet afternoon to protest at the proposals to effectively close Coventry’s only all boys school. Please read and share the below report from Jane Nellist, joint divisional secretary of Coventry National Union of Teachers (NUT) which represents many teaching staff at the school.

A consultation letter was sent to all parents and staff outlining plans to close Woodlands School and merge pupils into the neighbouring Tile Hill Academy, currently an all girls school, and that it would be renamed and become a co-ed school in 2017.

Woodlands School was built in 1954 as a purpose built Comprehensive school, one of the very first Comprehensive schools in the country.  It became an Academy in 2011 even though teachers and unions protested against the proposals and took strike action against the conversion.  At the time, unions warned that there was no guarantees of extra funding and new school buildings. That’s exactly what has happened.

We know that by 2020, Coventry will need to find many more school places for children that are currently in Primary Schools in the city due to population growth, and that’s without accounting for further housebuilding in the city.

This situation highlights the government’s chaotic  education policies with the growth in Academies along with the demise of the Local Authority and sensible democratic accountability, oversight and planning for school places. It is also a consequence of the government’s policy of agreeing to Free school expansion, including a Free school in the area, Finham 2, which has added to the destabilisation of school places in this area of Coventry.

The Department for Education, whilst agreeing to the Free Schools and pushing schools into becoming Academies is failing to step in and support schools. The marketisation of our schools and increased competition, encouraged by the Tories, is proving a disaster.

This has all contributed to the very worrying situation of the planned closure of one of Coventry’s schools, and the job losses of teachers and support staff at Woodlands.

Parents are angry, pupils are unsettled and staff are left with not knowing if they have a job.

Coventry parents, pupils and education staff deserve far better.

 

 

Socialist candidates pledge to support Coventry libraries

Socialist candidates pledge to support Coventry libraries

TUSC candidates pledge to save Coventry libraries

TUSC candidates pledge to vote against cuts to Coventry libraries

Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC) candidates attended an event organised by the Save Coventry Libraries campaign and pledged to vote against any reduction in library provision. Every local and general election candidate in the city was invited – but not a single candidate from Labour, the Lib Dems, the Tories or UKIP even turned up.

The candidates who signed the pledge included Sarah Smith, TUSC candidate for Woodlands, who organised a petition of almost 1500 people against the closure of Tile Hill Library. Local teacher Nicky Downes, one of the organisers of the campaign and the TUSC candidate for Coventry North East, said “It was great to have so much support from other TUSC candidates and from the public. It’s a shame our Labour candidates won’t do the same and stick up for our services.”

A letter has also been sent to Save Coventry Libraries supporting the pledge on behalf of all TUSC candidates. It reads, in part, “All TUSC candidates are happy to pledge to vote against library closures or any reduction in library services, and to vote against all cuts to public services. The people of Coventry rely on libraries and other services, and unlike our current Labour councillors we wouldn’t vote for any cuts.”

Do you want to support TUSC candidates? Fill in the form below and get involved!

Coventry students demand £10 now for uni workers

Coventry students demand £10 now for uni workers

Coventry Socialist Students members campaigning with TUC Young Workers

Coventry Socialist Students members campaigning with TUC Young Workers

This week marked another success for Coventry Socialist Students as a motion calling for a £10 an hour living wage, proposed and seconded by CSS members, passed through the students union council. We argued that the SU should campaign for the university to pay all staff at least £10/hr, the policy of the TUC (Trade Union Congress),

This motion, adding to the SU housing responsibility motion previously passed, represents another area of student’s lives which CUSU now has to campaign to improve. The motion means the union has resolved:

  • To campaign for an £10hr minimum wage for all university and CUSU staff.
  • To release a public statement criticising the university management for amassing such a great surplus revenue and not allocating it to improve the conditions of its workers.
  • To release a public statement against the pay rise of the university management whilst the average wage paid by the university to its staff has decreased.
  • To release a public statement expressing support with the UCU with their grievances, as well as calling for student and worker’s unity.
  • To mandate the Communications Officer to communicate with the UCU in regards of future co-operation about issues students or lectures face with the University management so a united front can be presented.
  • That the Union as a whole will campaign to increase student awareness on the surplus revenue the University has, the exploitation going on of workers and the importance of paying £10 an hour (TUC Living Wage).

Not only does this motion have a direct effect on students employed on campus by the university, CUSU or any outsourced services, it also has a much wider implication to the university. The motion also called for greater co-operation between CUSU and the UCU, the main Trade Union representing lectures. This is significant as it allows students and lectures greater opportunity to unite together to campaign together against the commodification of education and the ever increasing corporate style running of the university.

Furthermore, CUSU now has to publicly criticise the management for amassing over £21m in ‘surplus revenue’ last year. This is a very significant step in turning the SU into a campaigning, fighting organisation which will stick up for students even if it goes against the university management.

As a society which fights for students we will continue to work within and outside the student union to achieve our aims. If you agree with what we’re campaigning for, and want to fight for socialist change, join Socialist Students!

Interview with children’s author Cathy Cassidy about library closures

Interview with children’s author Cathy Cassidy about library closures

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Cathy Cassidy speaking at NUT “Save Our Libraries” meeting. Nicky Downes centre, Alan Gibbons far left

Around 50 people attended a “Save Our Libraries” meeting on Tuesday 3rd March, organised by the National Union of Teachers. The meeting, chaired by Coventry NUT President and Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition activist Nicky Downes, heard speeches from authors Alan Gibbons and Cathy Cassidy about the importance of libraries and the campaign to save them.

Socialist Party member Dan Crowter spoke at the meeting about the need for the council to adopt a fighting strategy by using their reserves to buy time, and build a campaign with trade unions and community groups to get the money back from central Government. Afterwards we interviewed children’s author Cathy Cassidy about the campaign.

Dan: Where do you think the campaign to save the libraries should go now?

Cathy: We need to keep it up. This [the one year delay of closures] isn’t breathing space, it’s a chance to build the campaign. The protests and lobbies of the council should continue, write letters to the paper, turn up to meetings and councillors surgeries. Keep saying it. Be a thorn in the side of the council! The campaign in Coventry has been amazing, so keep it up. Put pressure on the council – I don’t believe any Labour councillor wants to make cuts.

Dan: So what would you like to see the council do instead?

Cathy: Well, instead of making cuts with a heavy heart, why aren’t their hearts so heavy that they decide they can’t make the cuts? If it’s playing on their minds, if it’s weighing on them, on their consciences, they should listen to that. They should listen to the people of Coventry, and stand up for the people and for the children who use the libraries. Children keep contacting me and telling me they care about their libraries, asking me to stop this from happening in their town – the councils need to listen.

Thanks Cathy for doing the interview and supporting the campaign – join the fightback against library closures and all cuts!

Tile Hill Library campaigner – “Why I fought to save our libraries”

Tile Hill Library campaigner – “Why I fought to save our libraries”

Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition activist Sarah Smith

Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition activist Sarah Smith

On Monday 23rd February scores of protestors held a “read-in” at Coventry Council House to protest at the councils proposals to close libraries in the city.

One of them was Sarah Smith from Tile Hill, a Socialist Party member and Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC) activist who campaigned against the closure of Tile Hill Library and has now organised a petition against the closure of Jardine Youth Centre and Tile Hill Children’s Centre.

Below are some remarks she wrote about the campaign.

“The Library “read in” protest on Monday involved the telling of stories, so here is a story of a girl, who as a child had nothing. This girl got kicked out of school aged 14 without being able to read or write and was branded a good for nothing.

This girl used to pass a house often and in that house lived Dave Nellist, this girl heard that this MP stood up for people like her but didn’t ever dare to think that one day she would meet him. That girl was me, and now I campaign alongside Dave!

It’s thanks to Libraries and adult education classes that I learned how to read and write and got diagnosed with Dyslexia aged 25. So when I heard of the threatened closures I knew I had to get involved and started the “Save Tile Hill Library” petition, taking it in to every shop on Jardine Crescent. By standing with a stall in Tile Hill, and thanks to the shops support in having the petition, it has gained further support and well over 1000 signatures.

My petition ends Tuesday 3rd March, from there I aim to start a new petition, this time to save the Youth Centre and Sure Start Centre that are in Tile Hill. Finally, I feel very passionately about this campaign and my own theory on the reason why this is happening is the following – we are all entitled to our own opinion, but how do you reference that opinion if there are no books on that Library shelf? I feel that this is an attack on the lower and working class to silence us, but they WON’T silence me!”

Sarah is the prospective TUSC candidate for Woodlands in the May elections. Vote TUSC for fighting local councillors who’ll stand up for you!