The New Worker

The Weekly paper of the New Communist Party of Britain

Week commencing 28th October 2005

  Blair messes up the school system yet again!

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by Daphne Liddle

DEPUTY Prime Minister John Prescott last week surprised many by joining the ranks of critics of Tony Blair’s gallop to privatise everything he can lay his hands on before he loses his job.

Prescott voiced concerns that the proposals in the new White Paper on education are likely to discriminate against the poor and favour the middle classes.

 Prescott also cast doubt on whether the new semi-privatised city academies, that Blair wants to see multiplied around the country, really do raise academic standards.

 The DPM’s new stance is the latest in a series of divisions and retreats to emerge from within the Cabinet.

 A week ago pressure from the unions forced Trade and Industry Secretary Alan Johnson to retreat on Government plans to raise the retirement of public sector workers to 65.

 We have seen the Cabinet so divided over the extent of a ban on smoking in public places that the announcement of the policy was delayed by days of wrangling.

Then health sector unions and left Labour MPs forced the Health Secretary to drop plans to transfer hundreds of thousands of health service jobs into the private sector.

 This would have left primary care trusts reduced to mere administrative bodies, arranging contracts with various private companies to provide all non-hospital healthcare.

 The education White Paper, published last Tuesday, seeks to do much the same with education. It proposes the abolition of all local education authorities and giving schools the freedom to decide their own teaching and admissions policies.

 There will be many more schools run on the city academy principle – a private sector company, charity or religious group will put up a small proportion of the funding for the school and in exchange will gain control over the school’s teaching and admission policies. Parents will be encouraged to take an active role in managing their children’s school – and if they don’t like any of the local schools they are told they can club together and start their own.

 Education Secretary Ruth Kelly says this will result in a greater variety of schools and give parents wider choice. It will not, of course. The choice will go to the schools – they will choose which pupils they want and pupils with rich parents will be the most attractive, followed by those who might raise academic standards and exam league table performances.

 Pupils with learning difficulties from poor homes will be relegated to the under-funded sink schools that will have them. The result will be worse that the split between grammar and secondary modern schools introduced by the 1944 Education Act. That did at least give a handful of working class children access to higher education.

 The Government claims that by encouraging secondary schools to specialise they create further choice but in practice this is illogical. In theory children would have to decide at the age of 11 which areas they would like to specialise in.

Even then, if they choose to specialise in engineering but the local schools are specialising in ballet and business studies, they will have no choice at all.

The National Union of Teachers has strongly criticised the White Paper. NUT general secretary Steve Sinnott said: “This is an extraordinarily wrong-headed White Paper. The Education Secretary’s picture of legions of parents knocking on the door to control schools is not based in reality.

 “Parents do not want to control schools. They want to know they can turn to their head teacher or teacher if they have questions about their children’s education. They want to know their child is happy, safe and learning. Above all they want a good local school for their children.

 “The vision of so-called academy-style freedoms with a new, confused role for local authorities is hardly a recipe for stability and confidence amongst both teachers and parents.

 “Instead of democratic accountability through education authorities we have a confusing mishmash of trusts and parents’ councils, all with a say in the running of our schools.  This is a tangled web of responsibility rather than clear lines.”

 But there is hope that all this will not necessarily come to pass. Blair it seems is at last feeling the constraints of his smaller majority in Parliament. And there is growing opposition to his policies – both on privatisation and warmongering.

 Cracks are developing even in the hitherto slavishly loyal Cabinet and Ministers now seem more concerned with Blair’s successor. And that does not necessarily have to be Brown. There is obviously much jostling and wheeler-dealing going on behind the scenes.

 It is unlikely to result in anything we could describe as socialist but it should at least, and at last, get rid of Blair.


An injury to one is an injury to all

  LAST weekend’s reports of rioting and clashes between young Blacks and young Asians in the Lozells Road area of Birmingham, resulting in two deaths, was provoked by rumours that a Black girl had been raped by a number of Asian youths. Police say no rape has been reported to them but the alleged rape victim is said to have questionable immigration status and to be afraid that if she goes to the police, she will be deported.

 This is a tragedy on many levels and a product of the increasing climate of fear that is being fostered by the ruling class. Representatives of all the communities involved have been quick to dissociate themselves from the violence and point out that only a small minority of angry youths are involved. Police statements have backed this up.

 Some middle-class columnists and social pundits seem surprised at violence breaking out between Blacks and Asians – who are both traditionally seen in the role of victims of white racism. But prejudice, stupidity and racism are not the prerogative of any one particular skin colour – it would be racist to think that they were.

 These traits flourish in a climate of fear and suspicion which encourages ordinary working people not to trust each other, to see people from different backgrounds as a potential threat and to be ready to see the worst in each other.

 In America this climate of fear and suspicion has been developed much further and it undermines any kind of spontaneous friendliness. Now, in some states, you can shoot someone and enter a plea of not guilty on the grounds that you thought they were about to draw a gun and shoot you – even if you were mistaken in that thought.

 It mirror’s Bush’s claim to the right to bomb or invade other countries because of what he thinks they might be about to do – regardless of any evidence.

 In Britain now Scotland Yard has widened its own shoot-to-kill policy to include domestic violence and stalking cases.

 Most of all, this climate of fear and suspicion undermines working class solidarity. The ruling class want us all to be like frightened rabbits, hiding in our hutches – not talking, or sharing experiences. We might find out that it is not each other we have to fear but the growing powers of the bourgeois state.

 Divide and rule is a very old ploy but it still works well. It was used in the former Yugoslavia to set Bosnian against Serb, Serb against Croat and so on until the once proud socialist country was shattered into pieces. Even those who realised what was happening were drawn in, helplessly. When the hot-headed son of your former friendly neighbour gets a gun, and you and your family are the likely target, it is hard to remain neutral.

 Britain has used this ploy many times in its colonial history: setting Protestant against Catholic in Ireland, Muslim against Hindu in India, Turk against Greek in Cyprus and Masai against Kikuyu in Kenya.

 The mass media in Britain last week have even been trying to revive the oldest divide of all – between the sexes. There has been a rash of stories of celebrity chefs, advertising executives and so-called scientists claiming that women are useless at just about anything. And it has pressed all the right buttons, with indignant middle class women writers retaliating with equally silly insults about all men.

 But for the working class these old battles between men and women, between ethnic and religious groups are endless and sterile diversions from the real battle – the class war against exploitation, against bigotry and injustice.

 Workers, whatever our gender or race, are being cheated. Our living standards are under attack, our hard-won state welfare is being dismantled and our civil liberties are melting away faster than the Arctic glaciers.

 We must stand together, shoulder to shoulder and protect each other from racism, sexism or any other form of discrimination. We must educate our hot-headed young people to recognise the real enemy and to fight for freedom from capitalism – in other words for socialism.

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