Teachers, Councillors and Pupils Join Protests

Over the axing of Building Schools for the Future programme

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Education Secretary Michael Gove brings an end to Building Schools for the Future (BSF) programme

Schools Across Borough Hit by Cuts

Teachers, councillors and pupils descended on Westminster on Monday, July 19 for a Save our Schools rally protesting against the proposed cuts to the Building Schools for the Future programme.

The protest was timed to coincide with the the second reading of the Academies Bill.

A recent analysis conducted for the National Union of Teachers (NUT) by independent consultant Martin Rogers (attd) has shown that the Government has failed to calculate properly the funding impact of its Academies Bill.

As a result of the Government's Academies 'Ready Reckoner' Local Authorities (LA) will have to give large, excessive and unfair amounts of funding from other services as well as from education to Academies. This could mean that many LA will have to make major cuts on top of the 25% cuts demanded by Government. Not only could LA be seriously damaged but also budgets to schools that either choose or have to remain in LA could be slashed. The paper analysing this potential consequence is attached.

Christine Blower General Secretary of the National Union of Teachers, the largest teachers' union, said, "Time and again we have told the Government not to rush the Academies Bill. Consistency and fairness in school funding is absolutely vital. It is quite evident that Michael Gove, in his haste to railroad his Bill through has failed to consider its consequences for school funding. It would be entirely unacceptable for the Bill to discriminate against schools which remain in Local Authorities and to potentially wreck the other services they provide. I urge Government to provide proper time for parliamentary scrutiny of this Bill. The NUT believes it will, if not significantly amended, damage the whole education service.

"It is extremely difficult to see what justification there can be for fast-tracking the Academies Bill through the Commons and by-passing the usual democratic processes. These are not matters of national security or economic melt-down. The coalition government can have very little faith in its own legislation if they have to resort to such demonstrably unreasonable tactics to pass a Bill that will change the face of education in this country.

"Cutting the budget to rebuild schools is a huge blow to those that have been promised the sort of facilities you would expect in a modern school. Poor learning environments have a negative impact on the education of children, young people and the morale of the community. School buildings were woefully run down prior to Labour coming to power in '97 and while much has been done to improve them there is still a lot more to do. We are in real danger of returning to the crumbling inadequate schools that were a signature of the last Tory Government."

Announcing a complete overhaul of investment in England's schools, Education Secretary Michael Grove brought an end to the Building Schools for the Future (BSF) programme last week.

He said, "In the light of the public finances, it would have been irresponsible to carry on regardless with an inflexible, and needlessly complex programme."

Hammersmith and Fulham has been hit hard by the new policy, with rebuilding work cancelled at 13 schools across the borough.

The schools whose plans have been scrapped include three in Hammersmith, three in Shepherds Bush and seven in Fulham.

They are Sacred Heart, William Morris and Cambridge Schools in Hammersmith and in Shepherd's Bush, Phoenix and Woodlane High Schools plus Jack Tizard School for pupils with severe learning difficulities.

The schools in Fulham are Lady Margaret, London Oratory, Henry Compton, Hurlingham and Chelsea and Fulham Cross Schools, plus Queensmill School for children with autism and Bridge Academy Pupil Referral Unit.

Sir William Atkinson, the high profile head of Phoenix High School described the decision as "devastating news".

He added that children faced an unfair, “two-speed” education system with some pupils in dazzling new facilities, while others were condemned to “antiquated, inadequate buildings. These are buildings with concrete that is beginning to crumble, iron pipe-work which has been fractured, with lots of leaks and flat roofs which are constantly leaking.”

Just a few hundreds yards away from Phoenix High in Melina Road, Shepherd's Bush is the brand new, privately sponsored Hammersmith Academy, due to open in September 11, which promises its pupils state of the art Information Technology and Digital Media facilities.

Hammersmith and Fulham Council, which was planning a £207 million transformation of these schools under the Building Schools for the Future programme which it called Schools of Choice, has not criticised the government's action, but said town hall education chiefs will now begin to work with schools and the Department for Education on a revised affordable capital programme for primary, secondary, special and post-16 provision in the borough.

The council has also announced its own controversial plans to cut £55 million from its budget over the next three years by teaming up with Westminster City Council to merge their education services departments.

July 20, 2010


October 26, 2010