Parents, teachers, lecturers – getting angry about education

More than 120 people attended last week’s Education Question Time meeting to discuss current pressures on education. The panel was impressive, the discussion wide ranging and contributions from the floor were excellent.

What we learned:

School budgets are failing to keep up with demands – more pupils, increased NI and pension contributions, the apprenticeship levy. The National Audit Office says that school funding will decrease 8.7% over the rest of this parliament, a £3 billion funding gap.

For most schools in Brighton and Hove, this means a cut of over £330 per pupil this year. For a class of 30, that’s £10,000 – so teaching assistants, sports, arts, even whole GCSE courses are going.

Academisation is still a pressure. Multi-academy trusts (MATs) reduce parent involvement; their teachers earn less but their executive heads earn more.

While parental choice is still promoted by the Government, decisions are taken by unaccountable regional commissioners. Consultations are a sham.
Government pressure is aimed at increasing selection in all schools, not just grammars. But selection reduces parental choice and has worse outcomes overall.

The professionalism of teachers is undermined by Government policy. Teachers must be trusted to teach, assess and report – they shouldn’t have to record every detail, photograph children’s work, provide evidence of every child’s involvement in every activity.

Key stage 2 SATs mean that pupils are taught inappropriate maths and English. The tests don’t tell us anything teachers don’t already know.

Teacher recruitment is declining everywhere, as are retention rates, particularly among young graduates – perhaps because they have recently experienced the realities of teachers’ working lives.

In higher education, lecturers’ conditions are becoming more precarious. Pay is being reduced. 50% of teachers in HE have been there for less than 10 years.

Further education colleges face the same pressures, with anti-union managements imposing worse conditions on lecturers, cutting courses, abandoning students with specific needs.

The student loan system destroys the idea of education as a common good. At the same time, it is failing. Many graduates can’t pay back their loans. Germany is reverting to a free HE system – it can be done.

The Higher Education Bill will destroy the collaborative environment in HE and lead to destructive targets, competition between colleges and poor quality courses for those who can’t afford Russell Group prices.

What can we do? What are we doing?

School Funding: This is a major motivating issue for parents. Save Our Schools is organising a launch event on Thursday 30 March.

And make your voice heard: write to your MP and ask your Governors to express their concerns too.

SATs: Parents can boycott the tests (but their children are still taught the same material). Both parents and teachers are fearful that they, their children and their schools will be targeted if they organise a boycott – it needs to be widespread.

University of Brighton: Some part-time lecturers’ pay has been cut by 70%. Management has refused to negotiate. Members of UCU voted 3:1 for strike action. Support their campaign to defend education and lecturers.

Sussex Defend the NHS can act as a model; meetings and demonstrations in Brighton and Hove, forming a national network, organising neighbourhood groups.

Brighton & Hove Education Question Time 2017 – This Tuesday 14th March 7pm at the Sallis Benney Theatre.

This week it’s been hard to avoid news on the growing opposition to the eye watering cuts to school funding that have left schools begging for money from parents and many headteachers openly challenging government policy. It seems government can find £250m for divisive grammar schools and for the £2.5b purchase of land for (often unneeded) free schools but will make cuts of £3b to schools budgets even when the NAO has estimated that maintaining school buildings needs £6.7b. Meanwhile university students and staff across the country (and even the House of Lords) are questioning large parts of the government’s HE Bill that will further damage university education. In further education, a campaign to Save Adult Education – that has faced cuts of more than 40% in less than 10 years – has been launched and there’s much more that deserves debate – youth services, academies, apprenticeships, catchment areas, early years and teacher education for example. The Education Question Time Event on Tuesday 14th March at the Sallis Benney Theatre provides us with an opportunity to debate these issues and build a campaign determined to defend education across all its phases by bringing together education staff, parents, governors, politicians and residents. Hope to see you there.

EDUCATION QUESTION TIME 2017: March 14th with Kevin Courtney (NUT), Sally Hunt (UCU), Sue Cowley (Education Writer & Blogger), James Williams (Education Lecturer), Councillor Dan Chapman and Catherine Fisher (Parent and Campaigner).



EDUCATION QUESTION TIME 2017: March 14th with Kevin Courtney (NUT), Sally Hunt (UCU), Sue Cowley (Education Writer & Blogger), James Williams (Education Lecturer), Councillor Dan Chapman and Catherine Fisher (Parent and Campaigner).

Do we have the education system we want? The funding crisis facing schools has led West Sussex school governors to threaten to strike; in Hastings the local Council, MP and community have expressed serious concerns about the closure of a university centre; in Brighton & Hove – and across the country – parents have expressed their opposition to the over testing of young children while Ofsted, too often, seems to treat schools and colleges simply as exam factories. University students leave their courses owing thousands of pounds while many teachers are leaving the profession and many parents considering if the school they want for their child exists. Further and adult education has faced years of cuts to funding – including to English courses for refugees and asylum seekers – while the influential IFS has criticised the government’s apprenticeship proposals. Over the last ten years, hundreds of thousands of parents, teachers and local councillors (including many in Brighton & Hove) have been vocal in their opposition to forced academies, grammar schools and unneeded free schools and cuts to local authority education services.

What’s going wrong with education and how do we bring about a better system? Come and join parents, teachers, lecturers, school support staff and governors and local councillors and residents discuss what needs to be done.

All welcome. Doors open at 6pm (cafe and networking) for the meeting at 7pm.


Protect Youth Services in Brighton and Hove

Brighton and Hove are set to make £800,000 of cuts in the youth service.  The consultation launched just days before councillors vote on the budget can’t be anything but token for more details see this Argus report.

A campaign to protect youth services has been set up and this Sat, 28th January, there is a march to protest at the proposed cuts in the city’s Youth Services.  The march will start at 1pm at the War Memorial in the Old Steine and will end at the train station.

A new free school in Brighton and Hove sponsored by the University of Brighton Academies Trust: what’s the problem?Can it be fixed by parental involvement?

University sponsorship does not safeguard democratic governance or parental engagement. Nor does it suggest a better school than those run by local authorities or even by other academy and free school sponsors (known as Multi Academy Trusts when more than one academy or free school is sponsored).

Free schools and academies both have the legal status of an academy but the term free school is used for newly opened academies, while existing local authority schools which convert are called academies. Both are, by definition, not locally accountable schools. In our experience, parental engagement tends to be greater with local authority schools and even academy heads will say that local authorities interfere rather less in their schools than Multi Academy Trusts (MATs) in their academies and free schools (regardless who set up the MAT). There is now evidence that MATs, including those run by universities, have over-ridden heads and interfered  in the curriculum of free schools and academies.

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£2 million in funding and 42 teaching posts could be lost from University of Brighton academies


A matter of days ago, it was with some pride that the Vice Chancellor of the University of Brighton asserted that the University of Brighton will “continue to expand its academy chain adding to the fourteen schools it has across Sussex with two further schools in Crawley and the secondary free school in Brighton which will make it the largest university multi-academy trust in the country” (see ). We presume she thought the further involvement of the University of Brighton in Sussex schools – making it one of the bigger multi academy trusts (MATs) in the country – was good for schools, parents, children and teachers.

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Brighton & Hove City Council considers “embracing” Nicky Morgan’s U-bend

Statement from Hands Off Our Schools Brighton & Hove

When the Brighton & Hove Council Children’s Committee sits on 6th June, item 15 on the agenda will be a proposal to “embrace & bend” government proposals for schools to become academies. Hands Off Our Schools Brighton is committed to fighting academisation proposals in every form. We demand locally accountable, creative, autonomous and fully inclusive schools with qualified teachers for ALL our children. Other councils have rejected the government’s plans outright, we expect no less from Brighton & Hove.
Statement follows:
Late last week, Brighton & Hove Council proposed a way forward with the government’s plans for forced academisation of our schools. They wish to “embrace & bend” government plans rather than reject them outright. Hands Off Our Schools Brighton & Hove was formed in April after parents, carers, teachers & governors were outraged by the government’s announcement of the Education White paper and we are still determined to resist these plans and defend our schools, teachers and children’s education.
In presentations to head teachers & governors, it is being suggested that the Council could form a trust, a pre-emptive measure that, it is claimed, apparently safeguards against being forced to convert. This particular model for a trust is not new. Some models have adopted Multi Academy Trust (MAT) status, some have been seen as pre-MATs. It would be unfair to suggest that the creation of a trust of this sort means schools will become academies, but it’s difficult to believe that the intention is anything other than to prepare for academisation (forced or otherwise). We suggest that it’s not difficult to imagine the trust becoming a MAT if needed and for the Council to withdraw from schools, indeed one local school governor has described the council’s proposal as “schools setting up their own MAT”.
We are determined that this will not be the future for our children’s education or for our schools autonomy. We want locally accountable, creative & fully inclusive schools with qualified teachers for ALL our children. We do not want our schools run by MATs – even if the MAT is encouraged or chosen by some local Councillors. We see risks in this proposal that include schools becoming academies without a democratic decision by all parents and staff involved with each school and a tacit acceptance of the ideological narrative by government, that wholesale privatisation of education is either desirable or acceptable.
The Council’s Children’s Committee meets on 6th June to request formal engagement from stakeholders (that’s teachers, parents, carers & pupils amongst others) about the preferred ‘partnership model’. There are a number of steps you can take to ensure YOUR voice is heard.
Join us to protect & defend our schools, our teachers and our children’s education. 
* Write to your local Councillor or to the leader of the Council to protest. A number of Councils elsewhere in the country have already expressed their total opposition to any plans for forced academisation; there is no reason why Brighton & Hove Council cannot do the same.
* Raise awareness of this issue with other parents/carers at your child’s school – you can ask us for flyers to help. 
* If you’re a teacher, talk to your colleagues. The NUT have made their opposition to academisation plans clear and are currently balloting members for strike action.
* Ask your Governing Body to make it clear they will not join a trust before proper consultation of and with the wholesale agreement of parents and staff.
Hands Off Our Schools Brighton & Hove