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Defending state education - Brighton academy victory
Dave Richards, former Varndean governor and Brighton Socialist Party member
I was a governor at Varndean school for over four years because I passionately believe in a properly resourced comprehensive education system, open to all regardless of their background.
But applying for 'academy' status was raised at a governors' meeting.
Governors could not discuss the issue outside of the meeting, even with partners. I resigned to join with others actively campaigning against academy status.
Varndean School Against Academies organised to lobby the governors. This followed a very successful public meeting on 17 June, which saw calls for further action including parent, staff and student protests and industrial action by the staff.
Around 80 people gathered at the school and held a noisy protest outside the room where the governors had their meeting. What was particularly encouraging was the involvement in the lobby of representatives from key trade unions such as the NUT and Unison alongside students, former students, parents, local people and campaigners.
All of those who spoke, including a former head girl who left the school in 1952, stressed the importance of defending public education. Socialist Party member Julie Donovan highlighted the impact a shift to academy status would have on children with special needs and called on the governors to discuss the decision with the lobby.
Two year-11 pupils were verbally attacked by the head for being photographed conversing with people taking part in the lobby. We must make it clear that we will defend the rights of students to speak out and to demonstrate to defend their education.
The governors meeting ended without any decision being made. Later the head and chair of governors released a statement which attacked the campaign, but gave a clear commitment that Varndean will not become an academy now or in the near future. They even adopted one of our campaigning slogans, 'Varndean is not for sale'.
This victory however may only be temporary. It is clear that the Tories are hell-bent on destroying the comprehensive education system and rolling out academies as widely as possible. Already there are academy rumours surrounding another school in Brighton and Hove and we should be looking to launch a city-wide campaign to defend public education.
In The Socialist 20 July 2011:
News International scandal
Socialist Party news and analysis
Anti-cuts news and campaigning
Socialist Party workplace news
Socialist Party reports and campaigns
International socialist news and analysis
Selling the Socialist
Socialist Party review