Last night, I attended a meeting convened by the National Union of Teachers about my local secondary school, Bethnal Green Technology College, becoming an Academy. The school has already had a public meeting about this – as I noted in a previous post. Alex Kenny, a prominent NUT activist in east London, Alasdair Smith of the Anti-Academies Alliance, and Oliur Rahman, a councillor in charge of children’s services in the Borough, all spoke at length.
The most notable speech was given by Oliur Rahman. My personal view is that it was quite venomous. In it, he said quite clearly that he would tell parents not to send their children to BGTC if it became an Academy. I spoke defending the school’s bid for Academy status (all outlined in a previous post) and challenged him on his views. Please watch my vodcast for the full exchange.
The meeting was attended by about thirty or forty people. From my rough estimates, there were about ten BGTC staff (although I am happy to be corrected on this), a couple of parents, and then the rest were union officials or left-wing activists. I was the only person who spoke in defence of the school’s Academy status. The meeting was very civil and everyone was nice to me, but it was clear many people were angry about the decision that the school had taken. Staff seemed to be worried about changing conditions of pay and service, and other people were concerned about accountability issues already well-aired on this site. They were all valid points but they didn’t address the central issues, which in my view are:
•BGTC needs more money if it is to continue to flourish: Academy status will mean it can raise funds in all sorts of other ways.
•BGTC needs to “re-brand”, Academy status gives the school this chance.
•BGTC needs to have more control over its admissions to stop it being a “dumping ground” for all the difficult children in the Borough.
•Staying with the LA looks like it will inevitably involve redundancies and down-sizing.
•BGTC is not privatising; there are no private sponsors. Indeed, it will use more “in-house” expertise rather than being forced to accept private contracts foisted on it by the Borough.
Sadly, Oliur Rahman was the best advert for Academy status; he seems intent upon playing politics with the school. I remain shocked that he could say that he is going to tell parents not to send their children to the school – irrespective of its educational merits. He appears to put politics ahead of children’s education.
Oliur Rahman, in his role of head of children's services, is in charge of 98 schools and 37500 pupils.