Comment: A budget of dispossession

A protest in London by disabled people against cuts in their benefitsIt’s time we stopped talking about ‘Austerity’. What we are really living through is a ruthless process of dispossession.

Behind the pretence of ‘balancing the books’ (endlessly deferred), Osborne’s real project is to boost the wealth of the hyper-rich. Public services have been bled dry while the richest doubled their wealth in just five years from £258 billion to £519 billion.

The bank bailout cost taxpayers £850 billion, and the current sale of a batch of RBS shares has been estimated to lose £22bn. Set alongside this the scandalous attempt to save £4bn on disability payments, stopped only because Duncan Smith belatedly discovered that cuts damage people’s lives.

Academies

On the surface it seems extraordinary to use a budget to announce that all schools will be forced to become academies. But isn’t this also too dispossession – the enforced removal of assets from public control… stealing the people’s schools.

Even while technically ‘not for profit’, academies offer substantial potential for creaming off money in the form of Chief Executives’ salaries and ‘consultants’ fees, but no doubt economists somewhere are calculating the profit to be made from selling on entire academy chains. The land alone is worth a fortune.

There is no educational justification for this policy of replacing local authorities with academy chains, as Chief Inspector Wilshaw’s letter to Nicky Morgan points out. Even the MPs select committee sees no advantage:

“We have sought but not found convincing evidence of the impact of academy status on attainment in primary schools.”

In fact the academies policy has never been based on educational evidence, but pursued from the start out of a dogmatic belief that business management is better than democratically elected local authorities. (See our guide to research about academies and free schools on this site.)

Closing down dissent

It must also be obvious that schools which are still not academies, despite all the incentives and threats of recent years, really don’t wish to go there. This makes the Government’s decision deeply undemocratic.

Attempts are being made to close down all legitimate avenues of disagreement:

The role of universities in training teachers is being eliminated. There is to be no room for teachers to think about the purpose of education – they are simply grey technicians producing ‘added value’. (See primary teacher and blogger Jane Manzone’s powerful argument in Schools Week Factory-farmed teachers will fail our children). 

The budget represents a continued offensive against the very principle of public services. As in the case of the sixth form college strike, the law is then used to try to prevent resistance.

The Government seems to think that trade unions are also a ‘thing of the past’, but fortunately teachers’ and doctors’ unions don’t seem to be listening.

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