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Collaboration, Not Privatisation

8th September 2008

Best ever results at KS2 and GCSE show collaborative working can get results.

Schools in the city came up trumps this summer, hitting the ‘very challenging targets’ set by DCSF for school performance. In KS2 and in GCSE results Leicester schools improved by 5% on last year, a magnificent achievement. It was also a measure of what can be achieved in the future if collaborative approaches are properly embedded.

New College, which 3 years ago barely reached 10% on 5 A-Cs at GCSE, this year hit 40%, with 20% if the new measure of 5 grades A-C including English and Maths is used. Hamilton CC reached 53% 5 A-Cs, with 32% including English and Maths.

Much the same was the case in primary, with schools like Eyres Monsell primary, long under the cosh for being below floor targets, reaching the 65% benchmark and also the new target of 55% including English and Maths. All of which demonstrates the level of commitment of headteachers, teaching and non-teaching staff in the city to securing the best for their pupils.

So, you might expect the City Council to be delighted. Dream on.

Last November, facing threats that Education in the city could be outsourced, the council was more than happy to join with the schools and unions in developing a collaborative model for school improvement. The original Transforming Leicester’s Learning (TLL) Action Plan consisted of short-term, urgent intervention to achieve immediate DCSF targets by the summer. This was to be underpinned and succeeded by a larger term, sustainable collaborative strategy. For the last eight months they have talked glowingly about the key to success lying in drawing on the expertise in city schools. But the threat of part of the LA being outsourced has now been withdrawn. Officers jobs are safe; time for Plan B.

Now the council is intent on privatising a whole swathe of city schools as Academies. To prove the need for this cynical abandonment of the collaborative approach they claimed to support, the council has started talking down this year’s results. What a fine way to encourage staff and schools.

In the interest of what they call ‘hard realism,’ officers and politicians claim that this year’s results are:
a) not as good as they look;
b) not sustainable.
With sadness, they note that Leicester has moved up before only to drop back. In other words, this year’s excellent results are just a ‘blip’. Suddenly, the much vaunted TLL Action Plan is not going to produce the results required. Thus, the reversion to the ready made solution provided by the unelected Lord Adonis: make the National Challenge schools - those with under 30% 5 A-Cs including English and Maths - into private Academies.

This disgraceful, casually delivered insult to the dedication and hard work of countless teachers, headteachers and support staff throughout the city over the last year, is a measure of the contempt our so-called leaders have for schools in the city.

In their Secondary Strategy for Change, the council states that it is actively discussing with Leicester University, DMU and Leicester College “proposals for further Academies, based on the need to address the urgent challenges of our ‘National Challenge’ schools and quickly demonstrate positive impact and sustainable improvement.”

Neither of the Universities or the FE College has ever run a secondary school, so it is fascinating to ponder why the LA believes they might have some secret, as yet untapped, formula for sustainable secondary school success. More particularly, if FE and HE have something to contribute, why not take it on for the whole city, so all our schools benefit? Why can they only contribute in the form of Academies? Just as importantly, what does this mean for feeder primary schools? Will some or all of these new Academies be 3-16, leading to the closure of other schools?

Equally, one might ask what happens to parental choice? Under council plans, parents living in the outer ring on the west of the city from Eyres Monsell right round to Beaumont Leys will have no neighbourhood secondary schools other than Academies to choose from. Academy education will be compulsory for these communities. But then we are only talking about working class communities. Why would the council want to offer the less privileged citizens of Leicester the choice of a neighbourhood community comprehensive?

City of Leicester NUT is affiliated to the Anti-Academies alliance, as is Leicester Education Forum. We will be working with colleagues from other unions like NASUWT, UCU, ATL and Unison, and with community organisations and parents to defend comprehensive state education and oppose privatisation of any city schools.


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