Lewisham NUT opposes ‘Trust’ schools
“The NUT believes that the Government’s promotion of Trust school status will facilitate the ability of a future government to dismantle comprehensive education … The NUT is determined to dissuade governing bodies from considering or proposing that their schools become Trusts.”
National NUT Position Statement 2007
LEWISHAM NUT BELIEVES that the proposal to form a ‘Trust’ between Addey and Stanhope and Deptford Green schools, with the support of Goldsmiths College, is a significant threat to the future of comprehensive Local Authority schooling in Lewisham.
We urge governors to reject it.
What is a trust ?
• Trust schools are voluntary-aided or Foundation schools with a charitable foundation made up of external sponsors.
• Deptford Green would no longer be a Local Authority community school.
• Both schools would become accountable to the sponsors who can take a majority of places on the governing body. Staff and parents are likely to have reduced representation.
• The Trustees could gain control of school premises; be able to shape the curriculum; and dominate governance.
• Trusts set their own admissions policy.
• Staff would be employed by the Trust, not by the Local Authority.
• They can act as promoters to bid for other schools as well, expanding the Trust.
Breaking-up Lewisham schools
Along with Academies, Trust schools, be it with business or university backers, are a key part of the Government’s agenda to take schools out of the control of elected Local Authorities. Instead, private sponsors will run education. But these competing bodies will promote their own interests, rather than the interests of the local community as a whole. Centrally-funded education services will also be under threat.
This proposal cannot be seen in isolation from the other proposals being encouraged by Lewisham officers to privatise schooling:
• Monson Primary School taken over by Aske’s, despite community opposition.
• Malory and St.Joseph’s becoming Academies outside Local Authority control.
• Crofton federated with Prendergast who also plan to run the ‘New Secondary School’ in Lewisham. This could easily become another competing ‘Leathersellers’ Trust.
• Meadowgate and Pendragon Special Schools to be replaced by a new school – again to be given to private bidders.
• The latest ‘National Challenge’ is being used as an excuse to privatise some of the 638 schools on the Government’s hitlist – Catford High School has to be vulnerable.
Why should education in Lewisham be dominated by unaccountable Haberdashers, Leathersellers and Goldsmiths?
The NUT – along with many others – believes that schools should be run by an elected Local Authority with a planned comprehensive admissions system to cater for every child. This is what is at stake.
If this proposal is agreed, the move towards the complete fragmentation of Lewisham secondary schooling could be unstoppable.
What about admissions ?
Families in the north of the borough have always faced a struggle because of the selective policies that have been followed by some other schools.
Breaking-up schools so that they belong to separate admissions authorities will only exacerbate the problem. Whatever assurances may be given at first, when schools are run by several different Trusts and Federations, any planned common admissions procedure is likely to breakdown. As ever, working class families will be the ones that lose out.
What about education ?
There is no evidence that Trusts or Academies provide any better education than community schools. Where results have improved, it has often simply been down to changing the pupil population.
Without being part of one Local Authority, the danger is that schools across the borough will work in competition, rather than together.
Of course, some Governors may be attracted by the idea of working with Goldsmiths. But why does such a partnership depend on setting up a Trust? If Goldsmiths wants to help local schools, why does it have to take this damaging route that endangers the future of Local Authority schooling and changes the employment status of staff?
Partnership not sponsorship
“University and College expertise is important for secondary schools, but the sectors are very different …They can learn from each other, but as equal partners, not through ‘sponsorship’ …
What experience and what mandate do they have to run our schools? And what recourse does the local community have to challenge the decisions of university sponsors if it all goes wrong? …
Universities and colleges should concentrate on widening participation
by expanding and developing partnership schemes” from a UCU (the Lecturers’ Union) Briefing on Academies.
What might it mean for staff?
The Government is encouraging Trusts to use powers to ‘innovate’ under the 2002 Education Act. This can include applying to change existing pay and conditions arrangements.
Under the various plans being encouraged by Lewisham CYP officers, instead of being part of one Local Authority, Lewisham teachers will be employed by a whole number of different employers. That is bound to undermine collective trade unionism.
NUT members in a number of Bolton schools are balloting for strike action simply over the principle that they do not wish to leave the employment of the Local Authority. The National NUT would support similar action in other areas.
How far has this plan gone?
Lewisham NUT believes that, behind the scenes, this proposal has been under discussion for some time. There is a real danger that it could be quickly pushed through the legal processes required before opposition can be organised.
If a governing body agrees in principle to the Trust proposals, it only requires a brief (six weeks minimum) consultation before the governors can then meet again and agree to set up the Trust.
Other ‘consultations’ over Monson and SEN have not allowed any real debate. Governors and parents need to have access to both sides of the argument with public meetings with platform speakers against as well as for, and, if necessary, parental ballots as well.
Lewisham NUT, Town Hall, SE6 4RU
Contact us on: 020 8314 7487
Secretary, Lewisham NUT.