SERTUC Education Conference, Sat 7 February, London

A major conference on education organised by South-East Region TUC (SERTUC) with support from the Anti Academies Alliance and Reclaiming Education. After five years of the Coalition’s policies our education system is fragmented, under-resourced and over stretched. Thousands of schools have been removed from local accountability and handed to academy sponsors – often against the wishes of parents and teachers and too often with disastrous consequences. The flagship Free Schools policy is in tatters and the spectre of privatisation continues to haunt schools. There is an urgent need to discuss what we do now and how we rebuild a high quality and more equitable education system. This is the purpose of this major conference.
The conference will take place at Congress House, Great Russell St, London (registration 9.30am for 10.00am start) and we have been very fortunate to secure an impressive range of speakers and contributors. Linda Norrby from the Swedish teaching union Laraforbundet will speak on ‘What we can learn from the Swedish Free School experiment’. Mary Bousted (ATL), Kevin Countney (NUT), Megan Dobney (SERTUC), Dr Patrick Roach (NASUWT), Professor Gus John (Institute of Education) and speakers from the GMB, Unison and Unite will make important contributions. The conference will include an Education Question Time chaired by Zoe Williams from The Guardian with a panel including Natalie Bennett (Green Party), Jonathan Simons (Policy Exchange) and Alasdair Smith (Anti Academies Alliance). Workshop sessions will include Reclaiming Education, Hands Off Hove Park Campaign, Alliance for Inclusive Education, Communities for Empowerment Network, Our Community Our Schools and others.
A flyer for the conference is here SERTUC AAA conf flier 26 1 15 pdf.
Tickets are free (but in demand) and registration is essential. Email sertuc@tuc.org.uk or call 020 7467 1220.

Next organising meeting

Monday 9th February 2015:
Campaign for Education in Brighton and Hove: working towards a Manifesto for Education in Brighton and Hove
Organising meeting to plan events in the run-up to the General Election on May 7th. All welcome.
7:00 pm to 8:00 pm in the meeting room of The Eagle, 125 Gloucester Passage, Brighton, East Sussex BN1 4AF. See here for map: The Eagle

Education, business and democracy

How multinational corporations are robbing us of our democratic voice

This article by Nadia Edmond and Aidan Pettitt outlines the growing influence of business in education and how this reduces the democratic voice of parents, teachers and the wider community. It  is based on a contribution from the Campaign for Education in Brighton & Hove to a session on privatisation at a recent conference organised by the People’s Assembly in Brighton & Hove.

When CityLink sacked thousands of their workers over Christmas we thought it was appalling behaviour – but perhaps we weren’t surprised. We’ve become used to stories of asset stripping and a disregard of working people by private sector entrepreneurs. When we hear of companies relocating or setting up labyrinthine structures to avoid tax we’re angered but not amazed. We’re not naïve: we know what the pursuit of profit by private companies means. After all, who would deny that they’ve been cynical about estate agents or car dealerships? But we assume the public sector, and especially the education and health sectors, behave differently. We’d like to believe that schools and universities are run for the public good and are accountable to us – the public – and not run for profit by an investment bank or private company. We don’t expect those running our local primary school to be more interested in the value of the school’s land than the education of children or our universities to be primarily concerned with selling their degrees for a profit.

But increasingly, education is being treated by government and the private sector as if it was a business – to be managed by private interests for profit. We’re told that it’s better if the market replaces the democratic control of education and health. We’re told that schools and hospitals are better in private, not public, hands and that the private firms taking over parts of the public sector need to be rewarded with profit – because profit is the measure of success. Continue reading

From ‘fixed-ability thinking’ to ‘learning without limits’

Sarah Bragg reports on a seminar hosted by the Education Research Centre and the School of Education at the University of Brighton on Jan 8th 2015, with Dr Rachel Marks (UoB) and Dame Alison Peacock.

Snails, hedgehogs, meerkats, zebras, snow leopards.

Circles, triangles, squares, hexagons, dodecagons.

Mopeds, cars, ferraris, helicopters. 

Now here’s a difficult question: from the lists above, which labels do you think might designate groups of schoolchildren considered ‘high ability’, and which ‘low ability’? I’ll have to hurry you…

They are all actual examples, taken from Rachel Marks’s doctoral research into the effects of streaming and setting practices in primary maths teaching, and of ‘fixed ability thinking’ more widely – the idea that some people are ‘born clever’ or ‘smart’, and others… well, they just aren’t.

We have learned to be suspicious about claims about ‘IQ’ or ‘intelligence’, but ‘ability’ appears to be reconstituting the same beliefs in an as-yet less widely challenged form. And maths is one of the subjects where the language of ‘ability’ is most entrenched – it is seen as just common sense that one either can or cannot do it ‘naturally’. Continue reading