A protest rally was held in Chester city centre by teachers and campaigners from West Cheshire opposed to what they claim is the ‘privatisation of schools’.
They are angry Chancellor George Osborne used his Budget speech to say all schools in England will become academies by 2020 or have official plans to do so by 2022.
Academies are independent, state-funded schools, which receive their funding directly from central government, rather than through a local authority. Existing academies include Christleton High School , Mill View Primary School in Upton and Boughton Heath Academy.
But teaching unions say Osborne’s plans were not included in the government’s election manifesto or the Queen’s Speech with a defiant message that members will seek to defeat the Education White Paper through an alliance with parents, governors and concerned members of all political parties.
Chester teacher Greg Foster, secretary of the local branches of the National Union of Teachers (NUT) and the Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL), told those gathered at The Cross: “We are here today to tell the government ‘no’ to privatisation of our state school system, ‘no’ to making a profit from our schools, ‘no’ to all of the Tory privatisations in the name of austerity.
“Schools are about learning, schools are about hope for a better future. We won’t let them turn our schools into businesses run for profit.”
Some local teachers argue the changes will open education up to the influence of big business, take away the input of parents and elected councillors and that ‘profits’ will be siphoned off through inflated management salaries and consultancy fees.
Yesterday's (Wednesday, March 23) teatime protest was held in tandem with simultaneous protests around the UK and a march on Westminster when members of the teaching unions staged a demonstration outside the Department for Education.
A leaflet handed out to passers-by in Chester stated: “The government has announced plans to force all schools to leave their local council and become academies – whether they want this or not. They are also planning to remove parents from school governing bodies and to allow schools to employ unqualified teachers.
“None of these things were in the government’s election manifesto or the Queen’s Speech. This is an attack on schools, teachers, parents and governors and is facing huge opposition – in short, it is the privatisation of schools.”
Instead the teaching unions argue the government should be addressing the ‘real issues’ such as a crisis in teacher recruitment, funding cuts, insufficient school places in some areas and the ‘chaos and confusion’ around primary testing.