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24 June 2009

'Sponsors' deserting academy schools

SIXTY OF the 85 privately sponsored academy schools that were financed under the original academies deal had not received the funds expected from their private sponsors, according to information in the House of Commons Library which was reported by Private Eye magazine. The sponsors had promised 142 million but had left 60 million still unpaid.

Roger Shrives

The 'big idea' of academy schools is that private sponsors, ie rich business figures, corporations, religious charities, even other private schools, can put in up to 2 million to finance the building of a new school while the government puts up the remaining 25 million or so. In return for their relatively small 'investment' the sponsor can choose most of the school's governing body and also control its 'ethos'.

This is a bad idea at any time, allowing rich people or firms to blackmail local authorities, offering 'help' with new schools in return for personal or corporate publicity. And as academy schools seem to be 'failing' at as high or higher rate then ordinary secondary schools, they would seem to be more hindrance than help.

Academy sponsorship is an even worse idea now the economic crisis is hitting capitalist corporations hard.

Honda motor cars and the United Learning Trust still owe 1.5 million for Swindon Academy. Liverpool's Belvedere Academy is expecting HSBC bank and the Girls Day School Trust to hand over 980,000 but so far has not got a penny of it. JCB is supposed to have produced 1.75 million for a new academy in Staffordshire but has also failed.

These big companies promised cash when they were making big profits. Now, the economic crisis in banking and manufacturing means that HSBC, Honda and JCB have seen their profits fall sharply. Sponsoring schools, which before seemed a good way of boosting their image, now seems a waste of money so the cash dries up.

This revelation did not get much coverage in the mainstream media but facts have little impact on this government.

New Labour adores its academies just as it loves its PFI and other privatisation schemes. We need a new workers' party that says no to academies and fights for a well-financed, publicly run and financed education system.

Schools should be run by accountable, democratic committees, where representatives of parents, pupils and teachers can help make decisions, not people whose only claim to 'expertise' is money, business or religion.

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