We should all share Jeremy Corbyn’s Vision for Education

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We should all share Jeremy Corbyn’s Vision for Education

By Naomi Fearon, previously Published here on Labour Futures

Recently we have seen Jeremy Corbyn announce his proposal for a National Education Service. This proposal is based around what Jeremy sees as the fundamental and underlying principle of education which is, “A collective good that empowers society and the economy”. It is worth noting that our education system has undergone some changes these last few years, most of which have included cuts, further privatisation through academies and free schools, more curriculum alterations and a continued rise in tuition fees. It is clear that Jeremy genuinely values education and the profession, stating in a written address to The Socialist Educational Association (SEA), Labour’s only educational affiliate, that, “In a fast changing world where new technology is making new jobs and breaking old ones, and information of every kind is instantly available, we need an education system that opens minds and imagination”. In this address he also referred to teachers as “dedicated” and was scathing of the fact that teaching by some, has not been valued as a specialist skill. With such clear passion and vision for education, it is not hard to see why Jeremy has won the supporting nomination from The SEA.

Through the National Educational Service proposal, Jeremy outlines his belief that like our NHS, the education system should be ‘from cradle to grave’. Further education has taken quite a battering over the last few years with the adult skills budget being slashed by 40% since 2010. The Association of Colleges (AoC) has predicted that if the spending cuts continue at their present rate the actual budget outside of apprenticeships will be reduced to zero by 2020 with no public funding remaining for any courses outside higher education and the student loan scheme. In his National Education Service proposal, Jeremy has stated that he would reverse the cuts and would look to significantly expand the adult education service. This would be funded by a 2% rise in corporation tax and would enable anyone of any age regardless of their background or circumstances to retrain or learn something new, opening up a wide range of opportunities.

At the opposite end of the education spectrum, Jeremy is keen to ensure that all children have equal opportunity to pre-school education. A report in 2014 by The Family and Childcare Trust showed that many parents in Britain are paying more for childcare annually than the average mortgage bill. The trust says childcare in England, Wales and Scotland is becoming increasingly unaffordable with a 27% rise in costs since 2009, while wages have remained static. Rightly dismissing what he calls the false dichotomy between early years and adult education, Jeremy argues for free universal childcare recognising that the current system is patchy and rather costly to say the least stating that, “Some families who are very poor can get a place, those who are well off can pay and everyone in between has to make their own arrangements”.

Recognising that education is a right and should not be a privilege, Jeremy has called for the abolition of tuition fees and the restoration of maintenance grants. He has proposed that free university should be funded through a higher rate of national insurance on the highest earners and by bringing Britain’s paltry rate of corporation tax up from 20% to 20.5%. Both the National Campaign against Fees and Cuts and the Labour Campaign for Free Education are supporting Jeremy for leader and unsurprisingly he is proving popular with university students, many of whom are turning up to see him at rallies. Tuition fees have been a widely contested issue since their introduction in 1998 under New Labour, with continuous demos from students calling for their removal. The abolition would be a welcomed policy by many and ensure that anyone entering Higher Education would not be saddled with a large burden of debt once they left.

Hot on the heels of tackling one controversial issue, Jeremy has been unafraid to take on another; academies and free schools. Academies since their introduction in 2000 have again, like tuition fees, been a widely contested issue. Whilst a few individual academies and free schools may do well, overall the programme has been a failure. In January of this year, the House of Commons Education Committee concluded that

“It is too early to judge whether academies raise standards overall or for disadvantaged children” also stating that “Academisation is not always successful nor is it the only proven alternative for a struggling school”.

Ofsted’s 2014 annual report stated that

“It is too early to judge the overall performance of free schools”.

These findings, along with continual financial scandals and the closures of some free schools has continued to paint a rather grim picture for the already unpopular programme. Jeremy voted against the introduction of both types and schools and has called for them to be taken back under local authority control. As Jeremy puts it “Why was it believed the ability to run a business, to sell cars or carpets might make you best-placed to run a school?” Recognising that schools should be accountable to parents and communities and not private market interests and board rooms, Jeremy would seek to rebuild our much fragmented school system.

Amongst Jeremy’s education proposals, it is important not to forget that Jeremy clearly values teachers. Any key element of a successful working partnership should be trust, co-operation and communication clearly something both Michael Gove and Nicky Morgan have failed to comprehend. It is no secret that the relationship between the teaching profession and the government has been anything but harmonious with previous education secretary Michael Gove referring to the profession as ‘enemies of promise’ and a ‘Marxist blob’. With relations showing little signs of thawing, any incoming Labour leader would need to defend our much maligned teachers against such attacks. Government figures from last year show that teachers are working up to 60 hours a week with many leaving the profession altogether. Jeremy recognises that the profession has been highly demoralised stating,

“Let’s thank and value teachers, and try to reduce the stress levels. I talk to a lot of teachers and so many say, ‘I would love to recommend teaching as a career but I don’t want anyone to do what I have had to do. The pressure is too great.’ That should not be so.”

Jeremy is right to address this issue as in order to have a world class education system we need to ensure that teaching is an attractive profession, not one full of over-worked and over-stressed teachers – many of whom are leaving in their droves.

It is clear that Jeremy knows that education should be lifelong and based around creativity, democracy, co-operation and equal opportunity – this is a vision we should all share.

Gove Versus Reality

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Michael Gove doesn’t need to listen to experts or tell the truth.  His aim is not to improve education.  His task is to parallel that of the reorganisation of the NHS .. the ultimate aim of both being to funnel public funds, straight into the pockets of the private sector.  By creating chaos and debilitating State education/NHS, he/they hope to persuade the general public (without triggering a revolution) that the profit-making private sector must be brought in to rescue the system.  Assets like school buildings, playing fields, hospitals are silently taken away from public control and handed over to unelected and unaccountable bodies.  This is a return to the days of primary accumulation, or as Marx preferred to call it, Looting!

Gove Versus Reality

Gove Versus Reality looks at the policies pursued by Michael Gove for his radical and draconian transformation of the English education system challenging his assumptions and the evidence he advances to support his approach.

 

 

Co-op Schools of the Future, an alternative to Academies and Free Schools

Co-operative Schools – the Alternative to Gove’s Private Academisation

Education has been a political football for decades. Perhaps some are surprised to hear it was Margaret Thatcher who got rid of grammar schools. Grammar  schools selected on academic performance rather than income, so many Tory voters found disappointment.

“The reason for the change from a selective to a comprehensive system was controversial, but not deeply divisive, at the time: middle-class parents in the Sixties and Seventies began to resent a test that could consign their children, at the tender age of 11, to schools which they regarded as second-class.”

Comprehensive education should be about the very best high quality education and opportunities for everyone, but in truth there has never been a true comprehensive system, since private and elitist public schools have remained. Now Michael Gove’s policies of Academisation and Free schools are being introduced by the Coalition at an alarming pace. And why? So that they can be ripe for privatisation and profiteering. The world’s best achieving education systems are in fact in countries such as Finland where private schools are banned.

go-away-Gove-its-our-school

What can be done? Here is alternative a way forward. The Co-operative School. 

This animation was commissioned by the Co-operative College and the Co-operative Group to explain how co-operative values and principles are being used in schools to make a real difference 

Weston-super-Mare Labour Party reports: ” South Ward Labour Councillors , and the party’s candidate in the forthcoming by-election on 2nd May, are calling on local parents to wholeheartedly and actively support moves to bring the Wards three local primary schools together into a ‘Co-operative Schools Trust’.

Under plans to be discussed shortly, Bournville, Windwhistle and Oldmixon Primary Schools (together with Walliscote Primary and Milton Park Primary) are considering becoming foundation schools, and operating as a co-operative Trust , which would be known as ‘the Weston-super-Mare Education Trust’.

The Co-operative Schools Society

Co-operative Schools are about developing a balanced set of values that will help young people become the good citizens our society needs.

The Values and Principles we have adopted are internationally agreed and used by Co-operatives across the world.

Membership of SCS is open to any school or educational co-operative as long as they share our values and principles. Our members use these values in their own organisation and work with other SCS members for everyone’s benefit.

“The Trust and partner organisations can exert influence, so who those stakeholders are is important, but the degree of openness, accountability and democratic participation that is afforded to educational professionals, parents and other commnunity stakeholders is such that we really believe this is the way forward – particularly given the challenges facing our schools in South Ward.”

If you would like to find out more about them use one of the following links:

Further Reading:

  1. Meg Munn MP. “Why I’m bringing forward the Co-operative Schools Bill
  2. Co-operative Keynsianism: Think Left
  3. Academisation and Demolition of our Education System  Think Left
  4. Gove’s Selective Truth Think Left
  5. New Statesman: Why whirlwind Gove is acting so fast.
  6. Local Schools Network: Would abolishing private schools improve education of all our children?
  7. The End of the Grammar School

The Puppeteers at the BBC : (More Dishonesty, Disharmony and Broken Strings from the BBC)

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 More Dishonesty, Disharmony and Broken Strings from the BBC

Challenging the false consciousness, in which much of the public are suspended has long been the greatest hurdle of the Left.

Even those who are cynical or sceptical of the lies and spin presented by politicians and the media are left uninformed. The break-up of trade unions by Margaret Thatcher made it more difficult to challenge the status quo, to question the propaganda, the pre-written scripts which led to demands for materialism and a rejection for socialism.  The impression endured because of a faith in the BBC.  There endured a respect for an institution, which they felt must be unbiased and truthful because it was publicly funded. The public looked to the BBC, expecting it would serve the public interests, inform, educate and entertain.

If it wasn’t on the BBC’s News, then as far as many were concerned it didn’t happen or was of little importance. Or in any case, anyone disagreeing was in a minority and could do little about it.

Whether that was ever true is questionable.  But it is true that the BBC is publicly funded, and there is a moral responsibility for presentation of facts backed by sound evidence and a balance of opinions, as well as quality broadcasting.

WELFARE REFORM : 

Since the 2010 general election, the BBC has presented the “News” in such a biased way, and  this has been discussed by many including  Think Left .

Last week the BBC (Oct 3rd, 2012)  the BBC reported on a case of benefit fraud (1), a typical report from the right wing media. There is no balance here  of argument, of context  or of relevant statistics. It is, without doubt an inflammatory report and intended to be so. It is just an example of the Coalition’s plan to harden support (2) for its welfare cuts.

The public would be better informed by the DWP’s own figures which show very low figures for fraud. 3)  Better still , considering the fraud of non- tax payers or tax avoidance might be far more informative and educational.

Additionally, a Freedom of Information document (4) from the DWP has revealed that rather than an average of 32 deaths per week as a result of Welfare Reform that figure has now risen to an average of 73 deaths per week.

FINANCIAL CRISIS  AND FOREIGN POLICY

The coverage of the financial crisis in Europe by the BBC (5) was in the least woefully inadequate. It seems more likely that the BBC had been informed what it should and should not be releasing.

We asked, “Who was pulling the strings at the BBC?” ( 6 ) Why, we might have asked, have we been constantly bombarded with ‘news ‘from the Middle East, if not to obtain broad support for a future war in Iran, even though the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have now been widely discredited ?   The media and the BBC maintain their status as puppeteers of   the same oil-speculating corporations, who look to manufacture consent for a war in Iran. (7)

HEALTH

Privatisation of the NHS was cynically planned by the Conservatives prior to coming to power. Manufacturing consent for the privatization of the NHS was never going to be straightforward for the Conservatives. After all, not only was the NHS, Labour’s finest policy, it is loved and valued by the British people. It was no accident that Cameron faced the electorate with this promise.  “The NHS will be safe in our hands.” (8)

 

David Cameron launched a presidential-style election campaign yesterday with a focus on what party strategists believe is their greatest asset: himself.

A close-up photo of the Tory leader’s face will feature on hundreds of 15ft-wide posters as part of a £500,000 nationwide advertising campaign.

The posters – targeted at marginal seats the party must win to take power – were rolled out across the country to promote Tory health policies.

Think Left’s article The NHS will be shown No Mercy  (9) shows clearly that the plan to privatize the NHS was in place well before the election. Yet,  Cameron denied any knowledge of Mark Britnell, yet he had been invited to several very high profile meetings about the future of the NHS before coming to power. Mark Britnell  was advisor to David Cameron, also has connections to the then Health minister, Andrew Lansley.

That the billionaires who own the media will exert influence over their editorials is hardly surprising, but we should demand more transparency and balance from the BBC. Without orchestrated support for the government’s policy on the NHS, it is doubtful that the Conservatives would have nudged into power, albeit without a majority, as they did so on the back on Liberal Democrat voters who would never have supported NHS privatization.

And still it goes on.

The Guardian  (Oct 4th) last week reported of cuts to   NHS services for cancer patients  and heart and stroke patients. 10) This is not reported on the BBC,  but you will reference to a new drug preventing strokes which referred to a small trial by the pharmaceutical company NoNO and Arbor Vita. (11)

Open Democracy have recently completed a in-depth investigation: and published its results.

HOW THE BBC betrayed the NHS:  Two years of censorship and distortion. (12)

In the two years building up to the government’s NHS reform bill, the BBC appears to have categorically failed to uphold its remit of impartiality, parroting government spin as uncontested fact, whilst reporting only a narrow, shallow view of opposition to the bill. In addition, key news appears to have been censored. The following in-depth investigation provides a shocking testimony of the extent to which the BBC abandoned the NHS.

Reading of the article is recommended.

 Download the PDF of this article

 An extract:

Considering the enormity of reactions against the bill, from the public , the press and the medical profession, and considering the NHS is the most highly regarded institution in the country, it would be reasonable to expect the BBC to inform the public that it was being “reformed” without a democratic mandate. Indeed, it was being broken up in direct violation of explicit election commitments. How did the Beeb cover it?

The broken pledge of no more “Top down re-organisations” was mentioned in online articles (analysis and reporting) just six times in nearly two years: twice in 2010, three times in 2011 and just once in 2012 – the year of the bill’s climactic passing. Of those six, half appeared when quoting critics of the bill. Only three times did the BBC independently raise the broken agreement themselves.

In news and analysis articles, the issue was in fact raised just twice in nearly two years, and only once directly on the NHS. Neither example is the BBC’s own analysis; it only ever appears in two quotes. It was cited directly here [13], on an obscure blog as part of a resignation speech. The only other mention was in a general article on critics of the coalition, with their broad “mandate” to govern questioned by both Rowan Williams and Andy Burnham – who mentioned the NHS within that context.

In an unprecedented move, a UK court effectively ruled on the bill’s lack of a democratic mandate, in its judgement on government attempts to withhold the infamous ‘risk register’.  The court’s judgement included the following comments:

“From the evidence it is clear that the NHS reforms were introduced in an exceptional way. There was no indication prior to the White Paper that such wide-ranging reforms were being considered. The White Paper was published without prior consultation. It was published within a very short period after the Coalition Government came into power… Even more significantly the Government decided to press ahead with some of the policies even before laying a Bill before Parliament.”

EDUCATION:

As with privatization plans for the health service , the Coalition’s plan to break up local  school networks, the stripping of assets and the  of forcing schools to become Academies, seemed almost to pass unnoticed. The lack of, or false reporting by the BBC has muted the dialogue, for the Coalition to pursue their plot.

The Anti Academy Alliance reports: 13)

Anyone who doubts that free schools and academies are about privatisation and will ultimately lead to ‘for profit’ schooling should read this report from the ATL’s Martin Johnson . It tells how IES – a company that has a contract to run a school in Suffolk has seen its parent company sold to a huge US private equity firm. This is the corporate takeover of education!

 

The stark reality behind Free schools is summed neatly is this publication from the NASUWT

So, who does pull the strings at the BBC?  The close links between the Conservative led coalition and the BBC are revealed in the Open Democracy document, explaining why the BBC chose to represent the government on the NHS.

A number of senior BBC staff have links with the healthcare industry. As Media Lens note , Dr Mike Lynch OBE, a member of the BBC’s executive board, has links to a number of firms in the health sector, including Apax Partners, “one of the leading global investors in the Healthcare sector”. BBC Chairman, Lord Patten, is on the board of Bridgepoint, a private equity firm with substantial healthcare interests. Bridgepoint also employed the Labour health secretary, Alan Milburn.

“One company acquired by Bridgepoint for £414 million in July 2010 is the residential care company Care UK”

That’s the same Care UK who donated £21,000 to the personal office of Andrew Lansley. On BBC links with government, David Cameron’s Director of Communications is in fact Craig Oliver, whose prior job was as a senior news editor at the BBC.

In light of evidence uncovered by the Open Democracy, the British people are entitled to feel betrayed, and to ask what further strings are being pulled at the BBC Barclays chairman Marcus Agius was a BBC director. 14)  He resigned in July.  

It is quite clear that there are procedures in place ensuring that is in the interests of those with influence in the BBC to support the government’s policies. The corruption is not confined to the NHS. The BBC is attempting to keep its employees on strings too. It seems the BBC has actively been supporting people who work for the BBC to avoid paying tax.  The cross-party Public Accounts Committee (PAC) said it was “shocked” to discover how many off-payroll contracts, under which individuals must make their own tax and national insurance payments, were provided by the BBC.

According to the committee, that number includes 13,000 people who appear on television and radio – so-called on-air “talent” – and another 12,000 off-air staff. Some 3,000 are paid via private companies, potentially allowing them to limit their tax liabilities.

This is also reported in the Independent 

A study by Think Left revealed that one third of BBC newsreaders went to Oxbridge,  A Think Left investigation into the profiles of News presenters from BBC 24, Newsnight, Radio 4 Today/News at Ten has unsurprising outcomes. Where information was known, it was discovered that there is inherent sexism. There is and under-representation of women, and where there are women the age profile contrasts sharply with that of men.

Almost exactly two thirds of newsreaders went to private, independent or public schools, hardly representative of the general public.

This pie-chart shows the tertiary education of newsreaders, furthermore, exactly one third have had an Oxbridge education, much in line with MPs, as shown below.

Perhaps ordinary people might have more confidence in the message from the BBC if its newsreaders were paid realistic salaries in line with the majority of other public sector workers. The Director General earns £838,000. Other directors as of March 2011 had salaries of £488,000, £517,000, £467,000 and £452,000.

The personnel employed by the BBC, can hardly be regarded as representative of the people. They are very similar in their range of backgrounds to the MPs, and the same criticisms can be levelled at the news presenters who interrogate the politicians, and issues of the day. For the most part, they can have little personal experience of the lives of a majority of the population, and consequently do not ask the questions or single out the issues which would be of significance for that majority. For example, why would privatisation of the NHS be a priority for a presenter who has always used private medicine? Why would tuition fees of 9K/y seem enormous to a privately educated interviewer when top public school fees are 29K?

It might be forgiven if they showed an understanding of ordinary people’s lives. That was certainly not the case here – this filmed during the riots, and since removed from the BBC website. Darcus Howe , a West Indian Writer and Broadcaster with a voice about the riots. Here is speaking about the mistreatment of youths by police.

This was filmed during the riots, and since removed from the BBC website.

Corrupt politicians, media employees pull the strings in government and at the BBC. They attempt influence people’s understanding of reality. They have snapped the strings of democracy and it is a discordant tune they play.

People, quite rightly expect public servants to be accountable, and freedom of information is designed to ensure that. We ask it of our teachers, of our civil servants and our doctors and nurses. Isn’t it about time that we had accountability, transparency and honesty from our politicians and our publicly owned and funded BBC? It is at the very heart of our democracy. The people did not vote to sell of our NHS and schools. The TV licence is not a Licence for Lies.

On re-election we look to a new Labour government to reverse the privatization of our public services, and to ensure we have a BBC  to provide a quality broadcasting service to entertain, educate and inform as expected in a democratic society.

Let’s have a fair society. We deserve it. Every one of us.

1. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-gloucestershire-19818773

2. https://think-left.org/2012/10/02/reframing-the-welfare-debate-winning-the-argument-2/

3. http://touchstoneblog.org.uk/2012/02/official-figures-show-the-low-level-of-benefit-fraud/

4) Freedom of Information document query http://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/claimants_with_serious_illnessdi?unfold=1#incoming-311613  

5) Think Left: Inadequecies of BBC’s coverage of the financial crisis.

6) Think Left: Who pulls the strings at the BBC? 

7) Manufacturing Consent for an Invasion of Iran 

8) Daily Mail report pre -election poster   Cameron  and the NHS is ‘safe in our hands”

 9) Think Left: Who said, “The NHS will be shown no Mercy?”

10) http://www.guardian.co.uk/society/2012/oct/04/cancer-heart-stroke-nhs-axe

11. BBC: Drug may prevent stroke damage

12: Open Democracy: How the BBC betrayed the NHS

13: Anti Academy Alliance: Editor’s Blog October 2012

14: Guardian reports Barclays Boss is BBC director

15: Huffington Post on BBC and tax avoidance

16 Independent on BBC and tax avoidance

Think Left: Tom Pride – NHS  Cancer Care privatised (if anyone’s interested)

Think Left: The media has a distinctly Blue Tinge

Think Left Understanding Our World

Think Left: Academisation and the demolition of our Education System

The Guardian: The BBC: Coverage of the BBC Bill, reference to Open Democracy report: http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2012/oct/01/bbc-coverage-nhs-bill