Today I'm joining parents and teachers across the country, alongside the ATL and NUT, to rally against unnecessary and unwanted changes to our schools system announced last week. The Tory Government's plans to force all schools to become academies is a top-down, costly reorganisation of our schools, which nobody wants and schools don't need. The anger from parents and teachers against these plans has been swift and palpable.
Please stop and think. Please listen. Not everyone who is complaining about the direction of education policy in this country is a refusenik who fails to see any benefits in your proposed changes. I think encouraging entrepreneurialism in schools is a good idea. Helping them capitalise on their assets in a sustainable manner makes sense. But education cannot and must never be turned into an entirely free market.
When you're a teenager and trying to fit in 'feminism' is almost like a dirty word, so if you're radical you label yourself a 'humanist' because while you don't really understand what feminism means, judging by the reaction of your peers it's not 'cool' and it certainly isn't sexy. Now at 21 years of age I couldn't find one female friend or family member who doesn't label themselves as a feminist, and most of the women in my life have been on the receiving end of some kind of sexual violence at one point or another.
80million children had their education affected by conflicts and natural disasters in 2015. Girls are particularly disadvantaged being 2.5 times more likely to be out of school than boys in countries affected by conflict. Alas, the devastating news does not stop there: the situation is getting worse instead of better due to increasingly dangerous geopolitics around the globe. We need to act urgently to ensure that girls are protected and don't become the immediate casualties each time a new crisis unfolds.
Did the Chancellor invest in improving our children's prospects in yesterday's Budget? Kind of. He certainly invested. Over four years he is spending £640 million on turning all schools into academies and moving to a new funding formula, £690 million on longer school days, £490 million on school sports and £80 million to improve attainment in Northern schools. Sadly, the chances of this windfall actually improving education, especially for children from low income backgrounds, is uncertain at best.
Here's the problem. The government's plans are, in reality, a straight transfer of resources and responsibility. These move away from local authorities, and the democratic control that they are subject to, in favour, ultimately, of private organisations who are not accountable in anything like the same way. And who must as a reason to continue to exist, turn in a profit.