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Parents vs. Academies

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An Important first victory was won last week by CAAM (campaign against academies in Merton) lead by parent and Socialist Party member Rob MacDonald in the High court. This was the first of three test cases to be heard over the academy schools.

Rob won the right to a judicial review which will be held at the end of July. The case was over whether the council and government had to have a Funding agreement for the setting up of academy schools when they have the consultation process.

The funding agreement is not just about money. It is like the contract that sets out all details of how the school will be run like admission, discipline, and provisions for special educational needs. For example at Tamworth Manor the admission policy was put out well after the consultation process had finished and is controversial. The judge himself liken this to giving a blank cheque to the sponsors.

The arrogance of the government and Merton council has had a blow from this ruling. The council legal case was very weak and basically blamed the government. They also couldn’t use much of their case as it was a political attack on Rob for being a member of the socialist party and an ideologue. In their first legal papers Articles from the socialist party website were used as evidence that he was a leading member of the group in SW London. And the fact we had a good website was mentioned as if that meant we weren’t parents. This use of red scare tactic has been led by the ex- council leader and the local labour MP, who repeat this argument over and over and add that Rob doesn’t live right next to the school. It all shows the desperateness of these people.

Robs response is to answer first “how does this not makes me a parent”. Then he points out there are two ideologues here. One for privatisation and loss of democratic control and one for quality comprehensive education for all.

The press coverage has been huge. Rob did 24 interviews to the nation’s media over 3days and was on every major TV, radio channels and most of the serious press. Locally it has had press coverage almost every week and has been front page over 10 times in the last year. It is likely the full judicial review will be a lot harder to win as the government are likely to join the battle. The courts are far from the best area to fight these battles but any upset for the academy programme would be positive.

The court case has raised the whole question of democracy in England. An unelected minister Lord Adonis gives control of a school to an unelected Lord Harris of Carpet right. The decision is pushed through by cabinet in the council rather than a full meeting. The School organisation Committee don’t vote unanimously to close the schools so a Un elected adjudicator decides to do it. If all this doesn’t work an unelected judge decides. That’s capitalist democracy.

Rob has got some legal aid but the community also has to pay towards cost so far the campaign has raised £4000 mainly from trade unions and individuals.

The negative side of the issues is the limbo this has left the two schools in Merton. Some parents are very concerned and rightly just want some conclusion. Students and teachers will break up for the holidays not knowing the future. This is completely the fault of the council who have tried to railroad the plans through for September 2006. Despite many warnings from the campaign.

This case might have implications for other areas. It also could start to galvanise the opposition. If you would like rob or a speaker from the campaign to address your union or campaign group please get in contact.

For Up to date information or to use the message board go to http://www.campaignagainstacademiesinmerton.t83.net

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