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Jean 1-4Earlier this year the UK government published its plans for school reform in England in a White Paper – Educational Excellence Everywhere (DfE, 2016). Within the UK education policy is a matter for individual nations and so policy paths differ significantly across England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.  England has long been considered as in the vanguard of the drive towards a privatised system of public education, and the White Paper seeks the acceleration of that process.

The school system in England highlights all the complexities of the contemporary privatisation agenda in public education systems. Private companies are seldom conspicuous in the system, and in law it is not possible for any part of the public system to be provided directly on a ‘for-profit’ basis.  However, in reality private companies are present in almost every aspect of the English public education system, and considerable, and increasing, amounts of public funds are being siphoned out of the system into private hands.

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This was first published on the ‘Unite for Quality Education‘ blogsite.


Jean 1The events of the last few days highlight the huge problems now faced in the European Union.  The UK has voted to withdraw from membership and this has triggered demands for similar referenda in France, Italy and Holland. Only time will tell if this is the type of problem that can be fixed in due course, or whether it represents a more existential crisis to the EU itself.

What is clear is that there is an ugly anti-politics emerging in which traditional political institutions, and in particular the European Union, are acting as the lightning rod for dissent and dissatisfaction. These problems are grounded in people’s experiences in the years since the economic crash.  Austerity has driven fierce cuts in public services, and in particular education.  Many are without work, but for those with work wages are at best stagnant, and often falling.  Employment is commonly short-term, casualised and precarious.  These are the conditions in which the free movement of labour, one of the great achievements of the EU, can be seen as a threat and the source of a developing hostility to migrants.

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This blog was first published on the ‘Unite for Quality Education‘ blogsite.

Jean 1-2Many official policy documents and academic papers make the case for ‘teacher voice’. They highlight the need to develop genuine collaborative cultures in schools where teachers can have a say in making decisions on professional issues. This may be so obvious as to be a ‘common sense’. However, the reality of teachers’ experience is often very different. In many parts of the world teachers experience a huge amount of top-down centralised control that fails to recognise their skills and professionalism. It is almost as though the more the global race in education intensifies the less teachers are trusted and the more they experience policy as imposition from above.

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Blog first published by Education International.

This article appeared in Schools Week the day of the NUT’s strike – 5th July 2016.

What is the NUT strike about and will it make a difference?’