Standing Up for Education and Cavell

I was somewhat surprised and more than a little nervous to be asked by the local NUT rep if I’d speak at their strike rally this lunchtime. Having got my head round the idea though, I agreed to give it a go. Despite the rain there was an amazing atmosphere outside the Forum with plenty of inspiring speakers to get behind in the cause of standing up for education, defending our teachers and getting what actually matters for our children. And chanting “Hey, ho, Michael Gove has got to go!”, “Gove, OUT!” etc was rather fun too.

NUT Strike Rally, Norwich, March 26 2014

For the benefit of anyone who wasn’t there and is remotely interested, here’s what I said, with added sound effects from the audience (warning, if you’re a regular reader of this blog, you just may be familiar with the basic material):

So what is Save Cavell all about? In a nutshell, we’re a group of parents fighting to stop a good local, community school from being forced to become an academy. One of the biggest ironies of the situation is that all the rhetoric coming from Michael Gove and the DfE around academies is about democracy, empowering heads and giving parents choice. On the ground, however, here at Cavell and at other schools across the country, the reality is more like being sold into slavery. {Boo!}

We love our school. It has a strong pastoral ethos, an award-winning allotment and freshly cooked meals using produce grown by the children. Everyone who visits – even Ofsted! – recognises the buzzing atmosphere and the pride our children take in THEIR school. {Cheer!} Our children feel safe there, the staff know them and look out for them and the children know each other across year groups far better than we ever did when I was at school! It’s heartbreaking to think that all this could be taken away.

Cavell went into special measures in March last year after the Ofsted blitz across the county, and according to government policy, schools in special measures should become academies wherever possible. This stems from the dogma that market forces are the answer to everything. But because primary schools in particular beg to differ and are not exactly queuing up to convert, Gove’s running out of willing volunteers for his academy experiment. Now he’s actively looking for conscripts. {Boo!}

Meanwhile, Norfolk County Council seem to be desperate to appease the DfE for reasons of their own. In fact, their actions have made the situation considerably worse. They have been a massive distraction to the job of improving our school and educating our children. They have waged war on the school instead of supporting it, and apparently regard us as a pawn to be sacrificed to Gove’s ideology to save their own skins. {Boo!}

We have been bullied by Norfolk County Council and the DfE to try and make us accept their flawed, unproven and anti-democratic so-called solution. Yet we have a better alternative of our own, one that has the support of parents and the community, and one which has actually been shown to work. {Cheers!} We were within days of entering a Co-Operative Trust with the other schools in the Hewett Cluster {Cheer!} when the Council stepped in to sack the governors and impose an Interim Executive Board. {Boo!} This Board is made up of three members, with NO parent representative and NO staff representative – what do they care about our children? It’s just another job for them! In fact two of the members are former employees of the Council and the other still works for them. Clearly, their sole purpose was to do the DfE’s dirty work and apply for an academy order, which they duly (or unduly) did. {Boo!}

Unfortunately for them, by the time they got round to this, Ofsted had visited again and taken the school out of special measures. {Cheer!} This means that nobody has the power to force an academy on us. {Loud cheer!} BUT… {pause} they’re choosing to ignore that fact! {Boo!} Michael Gove has made an academy order – and a special fast-track one at that, apparently as punishment for standing up for our school against his bullying. {Extra loud boo!}

Potato with ears

Remind you of anyone?

There are so many things about the situation that don’t make sense if you look at it without Gove’s ideological blinkers. How is a remote and out of touch secretary of state supposed to know our school better than we do ourselves? {Cheer!} Why are they so sure that giving our school to one inexperienced outside sponsor is going to be better than working together to strengthen existing partnerships with five local schools? Why do we have to go blindly down the one-way academy track? Why take such huge risks with our children’s education for generations to come? What happens to the deeds when they give away our school and its land for 125 years? {Too right!} What happens if it all goes wrong, as we’ve seen with high profile academies lately? At the moment, the school is OURS, a central part of our community.{Cheer!}  Once it’s handed over to some outside sponsor, it becomes THEIRS, just another arm of a business empire. {Boo!}

We have been told that a Co-Op wouldn’t work, wouldn’t be strong enough, yet we’ve recently seen and celebrated the success of John of Gaunt school in Aylsham which, as part of the Aylsham Cluster Trust, has been rated outstanding across the board. {Cheer!} This is precisely what we want to achieve for Cavell, but sadly we are now going to have to take legal action to get there. The process of seeking a judicial review has begun, but there is still time for the County Council to save face. We call on them to acknowledge the hard work put in to improving the school by the teachers and leadership team and to step up to their duties to support our school and others like it across Norfolk. {Cheer!}

We call on the Secretary of State to withdraw his academy order before tens of thousands of pounds of public money are wasted on enforcing his market-driven ideology. {Cheer!} Will he live up to his own fine words and accept the democratic will of the people? {No!} Empower heads to decide the future of their schools for themselves? {No!} Free schools from bureaucratic interference and give us as parents genuine choice? {No!}

In the meantime, the campaign continues. If you are not doing so already, please follow us on Facebook and Twitter for news and updates on events, meetings, protests etc. This case has national implications – if Cavell can be railroaded like this, no school is safe. We must continue to protest against this damaging and distracting agenda and hold all those responsible to account for their actions. {Cheer!} Staff at the school may not be able to speak out individually, but that is where your Union comes in. We are hugely grateful for your support, and theirs – huge thanks to the NUT for giving us a voice while everyone else is trying to take it away! {Massive cheer!} – and we will fight on. We CAN win this, and we WILL win this! {Cheers, applause etc}

NUT Strike Rally, Norwich, March 26, 2014

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About forwardtranslations

I'm a freelance literary translator from German and French to English. The title of my blog comes from Mary Schmich's description of reading: it struck home with me, and seems especially apt for translated fiction. Here are some of my musings on what I'm reading, re-reading, reading to my children, and translating.
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2 Responses to Standing Up for Education and Cavell

  1. Pingback: Cavell IEB’S Contempt for Parents Laid Bare | a discount ticket to everywhere

  2. Pingback: Twerking Lizards, Wizards and Creative Writing: Translators in Schools 2 | a discount ticket to everywhere

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