Workers'Weekly On-Line
Volume 43 Number 8, March 9, 2013 ARCHIVE HOME JBCENTRE SUBSCRIBE

Education Is A Right!

Oppose Gove’s Programme to
Dismantle the Education System

Workers' Weekly Internet Edition: Article Index :

Education Is A Right!:
Oppose Gove’s Programme to Dismantle the Education System

Letter to the editor:
Save Lewisham Hospital – The Fight Continues!

International Women’s Day 2013:
Women’s Security and Future Lie in the Fight for the Rights of All!

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Education Is A Right!

Oppose Gove’s Programme to
Dismantle the Education System


In the face of widespread opposition and criticism, Education Secretary Michael Gove was forced to retreat on his abolition of GCSEs and their replacement by a tiered system of English Baccalaureate Certificates, vocational qualifications and so-called “certificates of achievement”. His plans to reorganise the exam system and create a single exam board have also been called into question.

Gove is intent on carrying out his “revolution” in education, breaking up the existing arrangements so as to replace them with something that serves the neo-liberal programme for education. His education reforms are not only about cuts and privatisation, but also about how the ruling elite see the role of education in their “big society” and who and what education serves.1

The kind of school to deliver such a curriculum is increasingly seen as the academy. Originally introduced by Labour as a way of introducing private interests into state education where schools were designated as “failed or failing”, they are now being pushed across the board. It has become quite a scandal how schools are being bullied and bribed to become academies, while other schools have been positioned to “fail” in order to impose academy status on them. While the traditional state sector will have its curriculum in its basic, prescribed form, “academies will have the freedom to vary any part of the national curriculum they consider appropriate,” said Gove. The idea is that the business interest involved will take things even further. Their flagship model is Pimlico Academy, which “has used its freedoms to create a more demanding knowledge-based curriculum.2

This programme of converting schools to academies is arousing widespread opposition, not only from teachers and other education workers and their trade unions3, but from students and communities. Gove has been described as on a “war footing” with unions in recent months, and many battles have been fought from concerned communities on this dismantling of the public education system.

The government is washing its hands of responsibility for providing education, health care and other key social programmes. It is hell-bent on converting schools into a resource for big business and imposing a curriculum geared to social control and instilling an ideology that serves their imperial aim of “succeeding in the global race”. Teachers and their unions are organising to defend their rights as workers and the rights of their students in opposition to Gove’s capital-centred and elitist vision.


Notes

1 Gove has taken up the theories of controversial American academic E D Hirsch, whose concept of “cultural literacy” has been taken up by the conservative right in the US. Hirsch achieved notoriety with his 1987 book Cultural Literacy: What Every American Needs to Know, which listed five thousand facts deemed “essential”. Whatever the academic criticisms or merits of this theory, it is being promoted by Gove as a kind of “back to basics” approach to education, harping back to a supposed pre-seventies golden age of highly structured fact-learning. Gove wants a curriculum of specific facts as opposed to general skills. As to what these facts are, he is taking up Hirsch’s idea that children need to learn that knowledge in particular that forms what Hirsch called “the shared intellectual currency of the society”, and in the context of the notion of “British values”, is turning this into a prescriptive list of what the government decides forms the core content of so-called Britishness. Even Conservative Imran Khan accused Gove of “air-brushing black people out of history”.

In a speech to the Social Market Foundation on February 5, Gove summarised the new curriculum as one that “affirms – at every point – the critical importance of knowledge acquisition”. In this curriculum, history, “rather than a disconnected set of themes and topics there is a clear narrative which encompasses British and world history, with space for study of the heroes and heroines whose example is truly inspirational”.

It is well known that Gove drafted various apologists for the British Empire to advise on the history curriculum such as the pro-imperialist Niall Ferguson, for whom the “big story” of the last 500 years “is the rise of western domination of the world” – he authored Empire: How Britain Made the Modern World – and the self-described “extremely right-wing” and “reactionary” Andrew Roberts.

2 Since its conversion to an academy in 2008 (despite opposition from staff and the community), Pimlico has been sponsored by Future, a charity founded by Caroline and John Nash which sponsors a number of academies. John Nash was previously chairman of the British Venture Capital Association, chairman of Care UK, a senior figure in various financial firms, and board member of the neo-liberal think tank the Centre for Policy Studies (set up Margaret Thatcher in the seventies, and counts the above-mentioned Niall Ferguson as another board member). Just last month, Nash, a major donor to the Conservatives, was made a life peer and a schools minister.

Annaliese Briggs, the principal of Pimlico Academy, was appointed at the age of 27, with little experience and while still in training. It appears that what qualified her for the role was her background as director of the “Core Knowledge Project” at Civitas, another right-wing think tank. This has been actively promoting Hirsch’s methods and has published British versions of his books, such as What Your Year 1 Child Needs to Know. Briggs is the editor.

3 At the Conservative Party conference in October, without a hint of irony, he accused union leaders of letting their “ideology hold back our children”, after the NUT and NASUWT voted to take action short of a strike. He labelled the outlook of the teaching unions as one of “soft bigotry and low expectations”. He followed this up in December by deliberately raising tensions, writing to heads to ensure a “robust response” towards all staff who carry out industrial action, calling for pay to be docked for those that “work to rule” and condemning unions as “irresponsible”.

According to the Daily Mail, he is considering new anti-union laws. “A senior source at the Department for Education said the measures under consideration include legislation to make it more difficult to call strikes, challenging strikes in the courts possibly including the European Court of Human Rights, and making it easier for academies to sack sub-standard staff.”

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Letter to the Editor

Save Lewisham Hospital – The Fight Continues!


Since Jeremy Hunt’s decision to arrogantly ignore the demands of the people of Lewisham and other areas of South East London following the unprecedented 25,000 strong march on January 26, the struggle to carry on the fight to save Lewisham Hospital has continued unabated.

The strength of the Save Lewisham Hospital Campaign (SLHC) has been the level of feeling, resolve and active participation by the whole of the local community; it is this force which the government can only combat by lies, false promises and their attempts to bring about their privatisation of the NHS by stealth.

The leading activists of SLHC include people from all parts of the community – local GPs, consultants and other NHS staff, trade unionists, ordinary mums. The strength and vitality of the SLHC is shown by its ability to evolve and change its strategy and tactics to meet the needs of the moment. An example of this was its recent decision to strengthen its working structure by having a Steering Committee as well as various working groups dedicated to different aspects of the campaign. These working groups included a “people’s commission of enquiry” on the decision to downgrade Lewisham Hospital focusing on the “consultation that never happened”, i.e. that the evidence for Lewisham hospital was not heard by doctors, nurses, other health workers, hospital managers, GPs, patients, community representatives, etc. Other working groups focus on practical actions such as the “mums and buggies” demonstrations at the Ministry of Health which have continued since the big January 26 demonstration. The SLHC is also mounting a legal challenge against Hunt’s decision alongside one by Lewisham Council.

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Louise Irvine, the chair of the SLHC has pointed out that it would take time for the government to implement its disastrous plan, and that it would be much more difficult to attempt to run down a thriving busy, well-used hospital. The focus of the SLHC since Hunt’s announcement has therefore been to encourage the local community to “Keep using Lewisham AE and children’s services!” With this in mind, a further action “Born in Lewisham Hospital” is taking place on March 16 to “Join hands around our hospital and defend Lewisham’s maternity and children’s services!”

The SLHC has never viewed the fight to save Lewisham hospital as a parochial struggle. In the last few weeks since Hunt’s announcement, the SLHC has further developed its ties with other hospital campaigns in the neighbouring boroughs of Bexley and Greenwich as well as throughout London and the whole country. In fact, the struggle for the NHS throughout the country is developing apace and on March 6, it was announced that Jeremy Hunt had been forced into a u-turn on section 75 of the former health minister Andrew Lansley’s infamous 2012 Health and Social Care Act dealing with regulations introducing private competition into the health service. Both Labour and the Liberal Democrats were claiming credit for forcing a government re-think on this but, as the Guardian pointed out (“Labour and Lib Dems both claim credit for ‘NHS privatisation U-turn’” The Guardian 6.3.13) it has been the “massive public outcry – including a petition signed by nearly 250,000 people” that has been crucial. The Lewisham struggle is part of a massive struggle throughout the country to defend the NHS from the relentless privatisation on which this government, following on from the previous Labour government, is hell-bent; the present “retreat” over section 75 can only be viewed on as being a tactical retreat – the struggle has to continue apace!

From the outset, the overriding feeling by the SLHC and the local people is that this struggle is inseparable from similar struggles all over the country. It is a struggle for the whole future of the NHS summed up by the slogan: “A Victory for Lewisham is a Victory for All!”

(Activists in the Campaign to Save Lewisham Hospital)

See website: www.savelewishamhospital.com

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International Women’s Day 2013

Women’s Security and Future Lie in
the Fight for the Rights of All!


As we celebrate International Women's Day on March 8, 2013, it is the case that, across Britain, as well as internationally, women are in the front ranks of the organised resistance of the working class to the anti-social offensive and austerity agenda being imposed on society by the rich and their governments at all levels. Women have stood in the midst of workers everywhere to develop an alternative for themselves and society, affirming that the people’s security and future lie in defending the rights of all.

The working class has raised the banner that governments must defend public right, stop paying the rich and increase investments in social programmes and public services. Women have stood in the front ranks against intervention and war, militantly marking the tenth anniversary of the historic February 15 Two-Million March, demonstrating against the continued occupation of Afghanistan and Iraq, the interventions in Syria, and the provocations and attacks against the DPRK.

Women have been at the forefront in defending social programmes and public services, one of the most prominent campaigns over the last year being the fight to save Lewisham Hospital in London’s AE and maternity services. Under the banners “Health Care is a Right!”, “A Victory at Lewisham Hospital is a Victory for Everyone!” and “The Wrecking of the NHS Cannot Be Accepted!”, the people have organised themselves into an effective force with women front and centre. Out of this has come a new conviction that there is an alternative and the workers themselves must be the ones to create it.


Health workers throughout the country are on a daily basis opposing the attacks on the NHS and resolutely defending hospital jobs and services. Wherever one looks over the past year, women have been at the centre of the struggle to safeguard the future of the NHS and its hospitals, to defend the rights of health workers and stem the tide of privatisation and monopoly right.

Marking the tenth anniversary of the historic February 15 when two million people marched in central London, women have been leading the way in affirming that it is a responsibility to get organised, and to take up the task to get the organised workers’ movement in all its forms, including the trade unions, to be part of this movement for a future without war. This means identifying and taking a stand against the source of war, irrespective of which party is in power, and going all out in the fight for an anti-war government in Britain. The resounding slogan has been, “For a Future Without War!”.

The government has escalated its offensive against workers this past year attacking their wages, benefits, pensions and working conditions, and the services they provide to society. These assaults against a sector where the majority of workers are women are meant to transfer public funds away from social programmes and public services into schemes to pay the rich. However, workers, and particularly women, have resisted such attacks by organising themselves on a new basis.

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Key to this organising work has been women's opposition to the neo-liberal anti-social offensive, placing the focus on working to achieve a new direction for society. Workers are placing themselves at the centre, doing their own thinking, establishing an independent politics, and making the issue to resolve the crisis in favour of the interests of the whole society, and not the rich. Fighting under the banners of “Stop Paying the Rich!” and “Fight for the Alternative!”, workers are striving to build a society in which the rights of all are recognised and guaranteed.

Women are taking up the stand that to defend their dignity in the face of abuse and violence they must work for a new direction for society, as the old direction brings more degradation and abuse. In this, as against all attacks on the rights and dignity of all, they are vigorously asserting that “No Means No!”.


As the producers of the wealth society depends on and as those who bring into being and raise the next generation of society, women stake their claim on the wealth they produce and demand it be used to fund the social programmes which are required to provide the rights of all with a guarantee. This includes the right to health care, the care and security of pensioners, childcare, education and recreation for children and youth, and all the things human beings require to flourish.

On International Women's Day 2013, people celebrate the spirit of resistance of the fighting women throughout the world, and affirm that the dignity and future of women lies in the fight for the rights of all. The working class and people are determined to fight the anti-social offensive and to work out how to become effective in setting an agenda for society and solve its problems. Their vision is to create a society of socialised humanity in which the rights of all are recognised and guaranteed.

Hail International Women’s Day!
Victory to the Struggle of Women for their Complete Emancipation!

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