Readers’ letters - March 31

A reader disagrees with schools becoming academies, see letter
A reader disagrees with schools becoming academies, see letter
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Academies bad for education

The Government has decided that every school will become an academy. Academies are bad for education. Exclusion rates per school are over five times higher at academies than state-run schools. They take fewer children who receive free school meals. They have the “freedom” to employ unqualified teachers on lower pay—meaning a worse education for children.

The Academies Commission found that academies use “covert selection” to improve their results. Despite this, it said results are not “markedly better” than other schools.

Half the schools in Britain’s biggest academy chain were found by Ofsted to be failing in 2014. This year Ofsted said almost half of students at the chain’s secondary schools are in schools that are “less than good”. 

Although academies are funded by the state, they are privately-run. Converting schools into academies involves a huge shift of wealth, in terms of land, buildings and resources, from public to private hands. They are about helping big business get its claws into the education system.

Academies are a bridge towards the privatisation of education with schools being run openly for profit. This means that parents, democratically elected councillors and others will have less say over children’s education.

Research from London’s Institute of Education in 2014 said academy trusts and their firms were grabbing “very large sums of public money”.

One paid nearly £500,000 into the private business interests of its trustees and executives over a three-year period.

Over 100,000 people signed a petition (https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/124747) in under four days opposing the academies’ plan and demanding a public inquiry into academies.

At their annual conference over the Easter weekend, the National Union of Teachers voted overwhelmingly for strikes against the impact of forced 
academies and funding cuts.

When the teachers strike, I would urge parents to support them. Join their picket lines and their demonstrations. They will be taking action to defend the education of your children.

Mick Mulcahy, Preston People’s Assembly Against Austerity

Bus commuters are losing out

Ten years ago we saw the birth of the Orbital Bus and I was the very first passenger.

Lots of consultation took place as to the route and bus stops and all councillors were involved.

This bus route has enabled passengers to work across the city, attend school out of their immediate area, and visit hospital more easily.

We encouraged people to use this and therefore expand their horizon.

Despite a cross-party meeting with Preston Bus, we were unable to persuade it to retain this service. The reasons given were heavy traffic, parked cars, and so on.

It would not listen to our arguments and is making the decision on commercial grounds.

The fact that this service has enabled people who live in Lea to work at Asda or the hospital or, as in the LEP report, a reader from Ribbleton to work at Lathams in Fulwood (LEP March 28), made no difference to their decision.

These workers no longer have a route to work without going into Preston centre.

The company opened up the idea of crossing Preston easily for employment and education and then took it away, without any consultation it appears.

It does not seem that Preston Bus consulted local representatives nor asked their opinion, it just went ahead and disbanded this bus service. Some people’s lives will be severely affected but, unfortunately, no amount of petitions will help.

Preston Bus has made its decision on purely commercial grounds and gave no thought for the commuters whose lives will be disrupted by the death of the Orbital Bus.

Coun Christine Abram, Lea Ward

Putting savings before children

The recent announcement by the Government of the need for further savings and the likely impact that will have on local authorities raises real concerns about services to children.

Our councils are already having to balance the needs of the most vulnerable children against a declining income base because of a cash squeeze from Westminster. Whilst understanding the need to balance the books, it’s time to say ‘enough is enough’.

Children’s Centres are under threat, support services face an uncertain future and fostering services are stretched to the limit. Our charities, Community Foster Care and Community Family Care, work with the most vulnerable children and the demand for our services shows no sign of reducing – quite the opposite.

So yes, let’s balance the books.

But let’s not forget that a child who gets crushed in a poorly resourced care system today risks becoming a greater burden on the public purse tomorrow. In the meantime, the demand for foster carers increases. We would encourage anyone who may be considering this most rewarding of careers, to come forward.

Hugh Pelham, Chief Executive, Community Foster Care, Lancaster