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Last Updated: Monday, 17 April 2006, 15:51 GMT 16:51 UK
Attack on city academy 'cronyism'
By Gary Eason
Education editor, BBC News website, at the NUT conference, Torquay

City of London Academy
The government wants 200 academies in place by 2010

A teachers' conference has condemned what it claims is "sleaze and cronyism" surrounding the city academies scheme.

Cheers erupted when a delegate at the National Union of Teachers conference said if crimes had been committed "the entire sleazy crew" should be jailed.

The union sees the government's plan to have 200 academies in England by 2010 as a threat to the future of state education and the comprehensive ideal.

Ministers say academies are driving up standards in education in England.

In the NUT debate, in Torquay, numerous delegates referred to the allegations that the Labour Party has offered peerages in return for loans and for sponsoring its academies - which police are investigating.

Brent teacher Hank Roberts said people committing crimes should be jailed.

"If any crimes have been committed, please jail the entire sleazy crew," he said - Tony Blair included.

"Cronyism is not a democratic way to run a country."

Persuasion

Lambeth teacher Sara Tomlinson said her primary school recently had faced the "threat" of becoming part of an academy for children aged three to 19.

"The offer of a brand new school to replace a crumbling building is a tempting one," she said.

"But we beat off the academy threat for good," she said, to applause.

They had persuaded parents it was not right to go from a school controlled by the local authority and paid for by tax payers, to a situation in which a millionaire took over the land and had the right to control the governing body.

"My message to these millionaires is: we won't try and sell you used cars, you shouldn't try and run our schools."

Others referred to what they saw as "blackmail" - whereby local authorities were offered money for new school buildings, but only if they agreed to open academies.

'Failing?'

Earlier on Monday Education Minister Bill Rammell said results were improving fast in academies "where all else has failed, where for generations children have been denied the opportunities that they should have".

But the idea that academies replace struggling schools was challenged at the NUT conference by a teacher from Haggerston girls' school in the inner London borough of Hackney, Kate Ford.

Her school's governors had proposed that it should become a city academy, she said.

"Were we a failing inner city school? Well actually no," she said.

Last year 54% of pupils had achieved top GCSE grades - in line with the national average, but in an area of high deprivation, with more than half the pupils entitled to free school meals.

Strike call

For putting in about 2m, sponsors get a controlling say in the running of an academy - while the government puts in typically 23m capital and pays the running costs.

Ms Ford said her school's site was worth an estimated 90m.

"You can get control of that under the city academy programme for 2m," she said, "and you get a knighthood thrown in."

Determined campaigning, involving parents, had fought off the academy proposal but a national campaign was needed, she said - including strike action - "to defend our schools".

The conference backed a resolution which rejected academies as an effective policy for education in socially disadvantaged areas.

It instructed the union's leadership to campaign vigorously for an end to the academies programme and to consult on and publicise alternative policies.




BBC NEWS: VIDEO AND AUDIO
See inside one city academy



SEE ALSO:
Why the fuss over city academies?
17 Mar 05 |  Education
Academies: Who are the sponsors?
13 Feb 06 |  Education
Honours row 'threatens academies'
14 Apr 06 |  UK Politics
'Positive picture' of academies
03 Aug 05 |  Education
Public 'misled' on city academies
30 Jun 05 |  Education
MPs call for a halt to academies
17 Mar 05 |  Education


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