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Management thrashed in academies debate
Beth Sutcliffe, Lewisham Socialist Party
Students, staff and parents gave management a sound drubbing in a south London debate over whether three schools should be converted into academies.
Around 200 turned up for the 14 May event. David Sheppard, executive head of the Prendergast school federation in Lewisham, went head to head with the Socialist Party's Martin Powell-Davies, a member of the National Union of Teachers executive.
From the start the audience clearly felt disaffected by lack of communication about the planned change. An online questionnaire supposed to get "feedback from the school community" was judged overwhelmingly biased. One of the schools' former sociology teachers said her GCSE students could have written a better one!
Sheppard repeated many times that there would be no change to the ethos of the schools. Both Martin and audience members asked why convert if there would be 'no change'?
As teachers who currently work in academies pointed out, the reality of academisation is they are expected to work far longer hours - which has resulted in many leaving the profession. Again and again, staff, parents and students demanded a ballot take place to decide the schools' fate.
This was met with the reply: "This is a consultation, not a referendum." But pressure for a ballot remains strong, with further strikes planned in June.
Towards the end, Sheppard assured everyone that he and the governors would be attending more meetings in future - saying, "I always keep my word." The audience laughed. Clearly the community has little faith in him.
One attendee commented afterwards that "if that had been a boxing match, it would have been stopped in the second round."
In The Socialist 20 May 2015:
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