I am used to being a lone voice fighting against the odds and I’ll admit I wondered whether a change of leadership would change anything. Well, the change in position on this subject pre and post May has already exceeded my expectations. It looks as if the neglect and dereliction of office by the previous administration will go to scrutiny. Perhaps now the questions some have been asking for the past two years will receive answers. Perhaps some of the public assets so egregiously ceded from Birmingham council tax payers might be, if not recovered, at least challenged by our elected members.

Ask Parents First

Tweets from observers at today’s Birmingham cabinet meeting suggest that Birmingham City Council intends to protect public assets from being transferred to private ownership as part of the academy conversion process, and that it intends to protect Birmingham schools from the profit-motive.

Birmingham cabinet was told that council land leased to academies won’t revert to council ownership if academies fold. There was reportedly a lot of concern that this amounts to an invitation to asset-strip, that Academies could be robbing public assets for future development;

The case of academy conversion for George Dixon School was discussed;

A blogpost from The Chamberlain Files today reports that this resulted in the cabinet deferring a decision on turning George Dixon School into an academy because of concerns about the freehold being handed over to private sponsors;

The Birmingham cabinet today deferred a decision on turning George Dixon Foundation School into an academy after…

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We live in strange times. Address disengagement in young adults by closing services supportive of their social, educational and employment needs. Address poverty in the sick and disabled by certifying them fit to work and pretending they don’t exist. Address the growing numbers of children requiring education by slashing school building programmes, axing child care, and driving teachers out of the profession. Address a perceived fall in academic standards by allowing removing the standards for teaching.
These actions are inverse, adverse and perverse.

Lifelong Learning Matters

The Department for Education announced on Friday that it was removing requirements for teachers working in academies to have Qualified Teacher Status (QTS). Danny Boyle provided an Olympic distraction from this news.

A spokesman for the Department for Education told the BBC (who had little time to broadcast or analyse it):

This policy will free up academies to employ professionals – like scientists, engineers, musicians, university professors, and experienced teachers and heads from overseas and the independent sector – who may be extremely well-qualified and are excellent teachers, but do not have QTS status.”

A teacher’s role is likely to include preparing young people for academic and /or vocational qualifications yet this move exempts them from having to take part in work-related professional preparation and assessment themselves. We might infer from the announcement that teaching doesn’t require specific expertise, knowledge or understanding or that subject specialists don’t value the relevant…

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Anybody care to remind me what happened the last time a tax like this was introduced. For example, just what was the level of compliance for paying the Community Charge? And can anyone tell me how much was left uncollected when it was dismantled.
So, if this is not about a workable system for funding local government, what is it?
Did I hear someone shout: “Just another bloody big stick to beat the poorest with, yet another means to criminalise those without the means to meet the cost?”
Of course, it is also there to demonise the evil Councillors – many of whom are of a leftish persuasion since May this year.

Birmingham Against The Cuts

Birmingham City Council yesterday said that due to cuts in central government funding for council tax benefit, it would have to find nearly £12m. Their preferred proposal for this would be to make claimants pay 20% of the council tax due on their property except disabled people and families with children under the age of 6. The ConDem coalition have already said that pensioners cannot have their council tax benefit cut.

This means that anyone who is unemployed or in low paid work will have to find £224 / year on an average property from April 2013. This will raise the £12m necessary to cover the shortfall. Unfortunately, the cuts are being implemented (and hidden) as part of a change to council tax benefit, localising the handling of payments. This new system will cost Birmingham City Council an additional £15m to administer, which wipes out any savings…

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Moving. Clearly his experience left a lasting impression on him.

Lifelong Learning Matters

Hooshyar attended a WEA Politics and Public Life course in Sheffield a few years ago. He wrote this poem about his experience of arriving in the UK as a refugee and translated it from Farsi himself. Listening to him reading this in the House of Commons some time ago left a lasting impression on me.

Robinson Crusoe
I approached a sorrowful sunset,
I was dead, and all that remained of me
Was my tiny name.
My tiny name,
Soaked frightened and tired,
Reached the shore.
searched deeply the island’s trees
The Island
Was tiny and nice.
The Island
Was huge and ugly.
The Island
Was the far end of the world.
My name,
It was only my mother, who knew it
And a kind friend,
Who was my childhood playmate.
But later, when we grew up a bit,
He pointed his gun at my face.
And the Island

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Appalling! Now following. Appalled that this facility remains operational.

Close Campsfield

TARIK ADAM RAHMA, a victim of torture under the current Khartoum regime has been on hunger strike for 56 days in protest against his indefinite detention. The UK Border Agency’s own guidelines explicitly state that victims of torture cannot be held in detention.

His condition, of deep concern to medical organisations, has worsened due to UKBA failing to provide him with regular attention from a doctor, despite extreme stomach pain and stabbing pains in his chest, as well as back pain from a pre-existing condition.

In his medical report, Medical Justice has stated “This failure to manage him appropriately is very concerning and puts the patient at significant risk.  In our opinion Tarik Rahma was not fit for detention at the time we saw him and we are certain that he had not been fit for detention for several days”.

As a non-Arab Darfuri, Tarik is classed by current case…

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Whither Kimberley School?

Here is the hyperlink to the “Save Kimberley School from Academy Status” blog.


There certainly seems to be a debate of sorts occurring here,

In February, the Governors voted to reject academy status for their school.
In June, discussion of academy status was again the subject of a Governing Body meeting.

A petition against conversion slowly gathering numbers and an email to a teacher union rep from a parent angry at the teaching staff for their industrial action.

What the current position at Kimberley School is not clear from this blog. What is evidenced is the disharmonising effect that this issue has had on the school and its community.

The story drags on, festering and poisoning. Wounds of this nature seldom heal quickly.

The most important thing about this letter is not in any promise of action, nor even in the content. What matters is that the position of Birmingham City Council has been discussed, re-evaluated and stated publicly; all this in response to public concern and reasoned, reasonable yet assertive, campaigning.

Ask Parents First

A report from the Alliance Against Birmingham Academies

Birmingham Labour Council says its principle is ‘Not to force schools down any route: Staying with current arrangements will remain an option for all schools.’

 This commitment is in a letter sent on 11th July by Brigid Jones, the Cabinet Member for Education, to all schools and teacher unions. It represents a significant change of policy from that of the previous administration. It means that every primary school under threat of forced academisation can now say NO to Gove and tell Briscoe, the DfE’s hitman in Birmingham, to get off the premises.

Gove will not give up on his forced academy programme without a fight. School communities – teachers, support staff, parents, governors – in alliance with the Local Authority need to be preparing now to fight back individually and collectively across Birmingham.

11 July 2012

Letter to all Birmingham Schools

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