Unions vote to fight Gove over academies

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Unions have voted to fight Education Secretary Michael Gove's plans to bring in more academies and free schools.

Delegates at the TUC congress heard the government was trying to bring in back-door "privatisation" of the education system in England.

National Union of Teachers leader Christine Blower said schemes had been "rushed through" and hit the education of children from poor backgrounds.

But the government says the changes will raise standards for all.

Academies, started under Labour, are publicly funded schools which operate outside of local authority control.

The Conservative/Lib Dem coalition has expanded the scheme, allowing all schools to have the chance to become academies, including primary and special schools, as part of an "education revolution".

'Market'

Free schools are those set up by groups of parents, teachers, charities, trusts, religious and voluntary groups.

Unions argue that these and academies will benefit the most well-off neighbourhoods and leave those schools remaining under local authority control to be "second-best".

Ms Blower told the TUC congress in Manchester: "This coalition has rushed through the legislation to create new academies and free schools.

"Not since the Dangerous Dogs Act of 1991 has legislation been rushed through its Parliamentary stages in quite this fashion."

She added that schools run by local authorities were preferred by a majority of the public, and that the new system would create a "market" in education.

Mary Bousted, general secretary of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers, said: "If the government gets its way, the consequences, not only for those working in education but for parents and pupils, are dire."

She accused Mr Gove of being a "privateer", adding: "He wants to open doors to companies, and they are ready and waiting.

"These are state-funded schools but not state-controlled. These schools, paid for by our taxes, will become the property of the companies who run them."

The government argues that its changes will allow greater freedom for head teachers to drive up standards, narrowing the gap in provision between those in poor and affluent areas.

The TUC voted to lobby ministers to "re-integrate" academies and free schools within the state system and to establish a campaigning group to push for this.

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