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Volume 41 Number 11, April 2, 2011 ARCHIVE HOME JBCENTRE SUBSCRIBE

London Conference on Libya:

Discussing Libya’s Future in London?!

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London Conference on Libya:
Discussing Libya’s Future in London?!

Government Goes All-Out to Create a Business-Centric Education System

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London Conference on Libya:

Discussing Libya’s Future in London?!

A conference to legitimise and further coordinate the continuing military onslaught against Libya took place in London on Tuesday hosted by the British government.

Reported targets in the "coalition" acts of aggression against Libya
Reported targets of the "coalition" acts of aggression against Libya

International opinion and even UN Security Council Resolution 1973 call for a ceasefire in Libya, but the London Conference on Libya was most notable for the fact that it was attended by no representatives of the government of Libya, nor indeed by any elected delegates of the Libyan people. Convened in order to establish a broad international coalition to oversee the continuing attacks on Libya its participants mainly comprised the 28 member countries of the warmongering NATO, drawn from Europe and North America, as well as representatives from the UN and the EU. The League of Arab States and the Organisation of the Islamic conference each sent a representative, as did the governments of Qatar, Iraq, the UAE, Jordan, Kuwait and Lebanon. The African Union declined to attend and the only African representatives were Tunisia and Morocco. The London Conference therefore had the appearance of the imperialist gatherings held in the 19th century when the European colonial powers decided how to partition the continent of Africa.

The language used by the imperialists of the 19th century who spoke of their “civilising mission”, the “white man’s burden” and the “pax Britannica”, while they slaughtered their way to conquest, would not have been out of place in Lancaster House this week, where Cameron spoke of “humanitarian aid” and the warmongers “saving lives” and “building a stable peace” while missiles continue to rain down on Libya on a daily basis from the ships and planes of some the world’s strongest military powers.

As well as reaffirming that “might is right” and that the bombardment of Libya will continue until the government of that country is toppled, the Conference also sought to give legitimacy to the so-called National Transitional Council. France has already hastened to recognise this supposed entity as the “legitimate” government of Libya, and indeed it was treated as if it had legitimacy by the London Conference. This signalled the intention of Anglo-American imperialism to oversee the political future of Libya. This was despite confirmation from one senior NATO commander that those who formerly identified themselves with the so-called al-Qaeda network and fought against the Anglo-Americans in Afghanistan and Iraq are now fighting for the National Transitional Council. It was in these circumstances that the US Secretary of State announced that the London Conference had agreed to finance and possibly also arm the rebellion against the Libyan government, a proposal that has been supported by the British government. Indeed, it is now widely accepted that the Anglo-Americans have been operating covertly in Libya in support of the rebellion for some time. Such intervention is completely illegal under international law and has already been compared to the actions of the Nazi and fascist powers in Spain in the last century. It demonstrates how the very concept of international law and norms governing relations between states is being torn up by these vicious big powers who present themselves as the most civilised to fool the gullible.

The emphasis which the conference placed on “humanitarian assistance” after nearly two weeks of bombardment suggest that the time may not be far off when external forces intervene on the ground in Libya under the auspices of the UN. The military onslaught, on the other hand will remain firmly in the hands of the NATO, while in order to continue the pretence that there is broad international support for this particular crime against the peace and to attempt to determine Libya’s future, the conference established a “Contact Group” which will initially be chaired by Britain and Qatar, a former British colony governed by an absolute monarchy and the only Arab state that recognises the National Transitional Council as the legitimate government of Libya. According to reports, Qatar’s stance was decided following a lucrative deal allowing its state oil company rights to market oil in rebel controlled areas of eastern Libya.

The London Conference organised by the Anglo-American imperialists and the other leading warmongers must be condemned, as must the continued military onslaught on Libya. The British government and its allies stand exposed before world opinion for this and many other crimes against the peace. Their warmongering activities underline the urgent need for the people of Britain to establish an anti-war government.

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Education Bill 2011

Government Goes All-Out to Create a Business-Centric Education System

Fight for the Alternative!The coalition has presented its Education Bill, which in their words “is an important step in implementing the government’s education reform programme and helping to create an education system that delivers ever higher standards for all children.” It was introduced into the House of Commons on Wednesday 26 January and is now in Committee.

In The Importance of Teaching, the white paper on which the Bill is based, the government laments a “grim fatalism” they see in society, a belief that “deprivation must be destiny”. “But education provides a route to liberation from these imposed constraints,” they stress.

However, behind the rhetoric of liberation lies the reality that what they are further instituting is an education system where the most powerful monopolies, either directly through new arrangements, or indirectly via market forces, are being freed to both control and plunder the system for their own narrow interests.

Running through the Bill and the preceding white paper is a notion of “best” and “success” based in the aim of competitiveness of the powerful monopolies, which in turn leads to their concept of “raising standards”. As they say themselves in the opening paragraph of their paper, what “really matters is how we’re doing compared with our international competitors.”

This provides the thread to the various elements of the Bill, the main aspects being: discipline and control over school students; so-called autonomy of schools through the creation of Academies and “Free Schools”; and concentration of control over the school and college system as a whole under the signboard of accountability.

Teachers on the March of the Alternative On discipline, the government outlines the further criminalisation of the youth in schools. The powers that the Bill gives to staff over students have been described as unprecedented by various commentators. It gives teachers a police-style power to stop and search students for items banned under school rules, such as mobile phones, and the manner in which searches take place is to be changed. It also repeals the requirement for schools to give 24 hours’ written notice of a detention to students’ parents. The right to appeal exclusion is to be eroded through the abolition of exclusion appeal panels and their replacement by review panels, which will not be able to overrule a school’s exclusion decision.

On “autonomy” for schools, the government is going all-out to push Academies and what they call “Free” Schools as the direction in which they are aiming to take the secondary school system.

Academies are schools independent of Local Education Authority control, funded by a combination of public and private money. Originally introduced under Tony Blair as a key part of his “Third Way” agenda, Academy status was at first foisted onto schools deemed as “failed or failing”. Free Schools, which can be set up by community groups, businesses, charities, religious organisations and other sponsors, are a variation on the same theme.

The present government has taken the Academy programme to a new level, switching to actively encouraging schools to request conversion to Academy status. The Academies Act 2010, one of the coalition’s first acts on taking power, made it possible for all state schools in England to become Academies.

The present Bill takes this even further. It expands the Academies programme to allow 16-19 and alternative provision Academies. It makes it easier for schools to become Academies and changes the regulations on the amount of consultation needed. The requirement for academies to have a specialism has also been removed. Furthermore, the Bill increases the Secretary of State’s ability to make land available for Academies and Free Schools.

In fact, the Bill introduces a presumption that any new school will open as an Academy or Free School.

It is clear that the government is pushing Academies and Free Schools as the new model for the education system. There appear to be two main aspects to this. The first is to further blur the distinction between public and private education and create new public-private partnership style arrangements where both schools become a lucrative source of profit and business gets a bigger say in how schools and the education system as a whole are run.

As Peter Wilby pointed out in an article in the Guardian around the time of the election, “Though profit-making companies are barred from being trustees of state-funded schools such as academies, several are exploring the option of forming not-for-profit trusts, allowing them to run schools directly, and then to make money by selling services to the trusts.”

The second aspect centres on the issue of accountability. The thinking behind the programme, and similar programmes in the US and Sweden (such as Chartered Schools in the US), is a theory of trading autonomy for accountability. While state schools are supposed to be less autonomous, it is the government that is accountable. The notion is that Academies, etc., gain a degree of independence in return for being held accountable for their results and finances. This not only makes schools more businesslike in nature, but allows the government to shift accountability away from itself and abrogate its responsibility for providing education.

On the other hand, and this time under the banner of increasing accountability and transparency, the government is further strengthening its control over the education system to implement its agenda.

As they explain: “The Bill will abolish five arm’s length bodies and where some of their functions need to be retained, they will fall to the Secretary of State, accountable through him to Parliament. The Bill will focus school inspections on four core areas of: achievement, teaching, leadership and management, and behaviour and safety. It will make sure the Secretary of State has the powers he needs to intervene in schools that are failing their pupils.”

The government is going all-out to institute a business-centric model for education. The Education Bill can be summarised as a Bill for more big government, a government strengthening its powers to carry out the will of big business to further plunder and control the school and college system, and ensure that the student body remains compliant in the name of “discipline”.


Trade Union Response

Commenting on the Education Bill, NUT General Secretary Christine Blower said:

“Despite the Education Secretary’s claims that he wants to remove the ‘dead hand’ of Government from schools, this Bill appears to do exactly the opposite and will lead to a greater centralisation of power.

“... No longer requiring school governing bodies to have staff and local authority elected governors on their board will lead to schools becoming less democratically accountable in how they are run.

“If the role of the local authority and the Schools Adjudicator is weakened we will end up with an admissions free for all. This is a gift to Academies and Free Schools which will be even less responsive and accountable in terms of both admissions and complaints.

“... We welcome protection for teachers and the intention to remove bureaucracy but, as ever, the devil will be in the detail. While the [General Teaching Council for England] didn’t exactly win the hearts and minds of teachers there is no mention of what it will be replaced by. It will however be a problem if it is the Secretary of State, who will then be acting as judge and jury for the teaching profession.

“... This Bill rides roughshod over the premise of a democratically accountable education system. It will see the rights of parents and pupils vastly reduced and it is a backward step for society.”

Regarding the Bill as a whole, the reaction of teaching and student unions has been critical. To take one example, Chris Keates, General Secretary of the NASUWT, said:

“The Bill sets out a horrifying vision for the future of education in this country.

“The core values and ethos of state education, social justice, democratic accountability and equality, and the principle that education is a service held and managed in trust for the public, are all left in tatters by the provisions in this Bill.

“The public and parents are disenfranchised. Children’s rights are undermined. Parliamentary scrutiny is sidelined.

“There can be no doubt that a climate is being created for the free market to flourish.

“The concept of education free at the point of delivery is under attack by this Coalition Government.

“There is little to distinguish between the privatising changes being introduced by stealth in the NHS and the naked attempt in this Bill to limit access to education on the basis of ability to pay.”

Note: For more information on the Bill, see
http://www.shift-learning.co.uk/useful-links/137-the-education-bill-2011.html

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