Articles  •  Britain

The battle of Downhills – no to Academies!

23 January 2012

Staff and parents at Downhills Primary School have launched an impressive campaign to fight the Department of Educations attempt to force the community school into becoming an academy, writes Rachel Brooks
Downhills is facing an onslaught from central government as the coalition tries every trick in its arsenal to force the school to become an academy. Secretary of State for Education, Michael Gove, gave the school’s head teacher and elected governing body a deadline to convert to academy status or face having its entire leadership removed and replaced by an appointed leadership. The primary school, in Tottenham, North East London, had until the 20th of January to go academy or face the wrath of Gove. Frustrated at the lack of primary schools taking up his offer of academy status, Gove has turned to forced conversion by using his powers to take away elected bodies from the school.
Gove is being met with tough resistance.  The schools community has launched a campaign to defend the school against privatisation, and is winning support across Haringay and beyond. After a week of local protests and meetings, Haringay also hosted a 600 strong anti-academies meeting, linking up with the local anti-cuts group.
The campaign around Downhills is exemplary in many respects, mainly because it has managed to draw in the entire community which is connected by the school, and it is emphasizing the importance of schools being run democratically, on the basis of need not profit.
By 20 January Gove was forced to back down and dropped the timetable that would have removed the elected board of the school. Instead an Ofsted inspectorate will come to the school and there will be more consultations in the coming months. An important climb down by the government, but the threat of privatisation still lingers.
If the campaign against academies is to go to the next level it has to play on its links to the community, but have a national strategy. Gove is picking on schools like Downhills because of their relative need to “improve”, and is bullying its govenorning body into behaving how he wants. Unless the unions, parents, students and communities nationally fight this then we will find ourselves in an Orwellian dystopia where schools are run on the basis of profit.

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