Islington District - National Education Union



Tech City “free school” to close: What a criminal waste of money!


 

Back in 2014 Islington NUT (now NEU – the National Education Union) expressed concern that the proposed STEM 6 16-18 Tory free school in City Road threatened to create a “wild west” of schooling provision in Islington, undermining other schools and making it difficult for the local authority to coordinate educational provision in the borough.

Schools, we said, should not operate like supermarkets in a free market which can be opened and closed according to the number of customers they attract.

This week’s announcement that Tech City College - as STEM 6 was renamed three years ago when it was taken over by a different group of private sponsors having “failed” an Ofsted inspection – is to close in the summer due to it being “financially unsustainable” with only 49 students on roll fully vindicates our concerns.

Since it opened in September 2014, teachers at the college – with the support of many of its students and their parents - twice had to take strike action to scrap the zero-hours contracts imposed on them by management, improve on the three weeks paid holidays they were entitled to and to win a fair system of pay progression when the couple running the new sponsor, Aspirations, were paying themselves more than £400,000 per year between them.

In September 2015, local MP, Emily Thornberry, wrote to the then Secretary of State for Education, Nicky Morgan, expressing concerns about developments at what was then STEM 6 calling for ‘urgent action’ to rescue this academy’.

Not entirely, satisfied by the response she received from Lord Nash (on behalf of Nicky Morgan) she wrote back to him expressing further concern about ‘considerable difficulties’ at Tech City, including the resignation of seven teachers (half the teaching staff) this term and the ‘little progress towards improving working arrangements and performance management’.

Perhaps at least as worrying to the general public, was another issue she raised in her letter: the apparent misuse of public funds:

  • I remain concerned [she wrote] that STEM [Academy Education Trust] has been permitted to start a school at huge public expense which is failing to deliver an acceptable service to inner-city pupils. A further concern is STEM’s former plans to expand their work into South London. – I understand that Norwood Police Station was purchased by DCLG in 2014, with the expectation that STEM would open a second Academy there in September 2015
  • However, after gaining the DfE approval, and recruiting some members of staff and some pupils, STEM decided to abandon this project, and the building remains empty. This does cause me considerable concern – a public asset which could have provided much-needed affordable housing or other facilities of use to the local community remains empty two years after the mayor closed the police station.
  • I would appreciate your further comments on the DfE’s relationship with the STEM Academy Education Trust –what assessment of the Trust’s plans were carried out before they were permitted to set up an academy in my constituency. Why was the Trust allocated another public building when it had no track record of delivering good quality education? Will the Trust be held liable for any costs in relation to the South Norwood building?

In a press statement we release at the time, I commented:

  • The victims of any inadequacies correctly identified by Ofsted – and the damaging which inevitably follow an inspection failure – will first of all be the students and then the school teaching and support staff, who were provided with patently inadequate support by school governors and senior management.
  • The best way for STEM 6 to get the support and guidance that has been lacking up to now would be for it to be taken over and run either by Islington local authority – whose schools are all either “good” or “outstanding”, according to Ofsted – or by the Ofsted-rated outstanding City and Islington Sixth Form College.
  •  

It is unfortunate we were not listened to at the time, but the principle remains as relevant today as it was then.

It is outrageous that so much tax-payers money – so desperately needed by other schools when per-pupil school funding has been cut by 8% since 2010 – has been wasted on an ideologically-driven Tory crusade to marketize our schools and hand them over to private sponsors.

Remaining students and staff at Tech City today should not be abandoned because Aspirations has failed to make the college “financially viable”.

Instead of being closed, the government should allow Islington Council to take responsibility for supporting the school – possibly in co-operation with the nearby City and Islington College - and to integrate it in to a democratically accountable system of state schooling which meets the needs of the local community.





Plan to convert Islington's Catholic schools into academy group dropped due to lack of interest














School Cuts

Fewer teachers, more pupils: children are losers in school funding cuts

New research by the School Cuts Coalition has found that the ratio of pupils to each classroom teacher has gone up in 58% of Islington’s secondary schools since 2014/15. This means less attention in school for our children and young people.

While schools have been doing all they can to shield their pupils from the damage caused by the £2.8 billion real-terms cut from school budgets since 2015, the lack of investment in education is really biting.

The latest research - drawn from figures produced by the government itself- shows that, in England, secondary school staff numbers have fallen by 15,000 between 2014/15 and 2016/17 despite them having 4500 more pupils to teach.

Secondary schools in England have seen their staffing fall by an average of 5.5 posts since 2015. these cuts are falling heaviest on front line teaching, with each school losing an average of 2.4 classroom teachers and 1.6 teaching assistants as well as 1.5 support staff.

The School Cuts coalition warns that the situation is likely to get even worse, as 17, 942 (nine out of ten) primary ans secondary schools in England and Wales are predicted to be hit by a real-terms cut in funding per pupil between 2015 and 2019

To see how funding cuts have affected your school visit schoolcuts.org.uk




What do we want.....
                                 
 A qualified teacher for every child in every lesson  Allow councils to open new schools where they are needed Consult the profession properly on changes to the curriculum and to examinations  Don’t test the very youngest  Fund schools and colleges properly Remove excessive workload and pointless bureaucracy  End performance related pay for teachers  Reverse unfair pension changes  Ensure government/union talks are about policies rather than just their implementation  Make sure we have enough teachers





As never before, education policy is being driven by ideology not evidence. Every government announcement is laden with myths about schools, teachers and our education system.

EduFacts - http://www.teachers.org.uk/edufacts - aims to challenge government and media rhetoric by presenting the facts about what's going on in our schools, our education system and in the teaching profession.