A few regional stories wound me up this week. Great Yarmouth academy long days. Waltham Forest strike ballot. Islington academy axes free meals. University pulls unpaid job advertisement.


"The devil will make work for idle hands to do."

The idle hands in question? PRIMARY SCHOOL CHILDREN. Luckily brains-of-britain Gove, has a plan to keep these TERRORS off the streets so they don't grow up to be nasty ASBOs or some thing terrible like that. Keep them in school until 6pm everyday. Every fucking day. 6pm. Every day. Not punishment. Not detention. Just a normal school day proposed at Great Yarmouth's Greenacre Primary School under its academy plans.

Parents reacted with anger after a sham consultation over the plans. "A petition against the move has been signed by more than 130 parents, with criticism including that children will be so tired they are unable to concentrate. But Mr Gove has welcomed the plans, made possible by millionaire sponsor Theodore Agnew."

The school's headteacher Mr Holledge said  "consultation about the plans was open - with discussion at a coffee morning and information on the school website" but according to a parent of a pupil, nothing close to consultation actually happened - “I find it hard to believe that a consultation can take place at a coffee morning,” and apparently the school website was inaccessible until the day before 'consultation' closed.

No longer can parents use the excuse of 'having to nip out and pick up their kids from school' because, their kids will be in school almost ten hours a fucking day. So no excuses for not staying to do that bit of extra work to help 'the team' or to hit a 'target' in whatever shitty job we're working.

And what about the workers at these schools? I'm sure they're looking forward to contact time until 6pm and THEN having to do all the other marking, planning, bullshit elephant-in-the-room bureaucratic meetings. I'm sure the cleaners will love cleaning even more dirt accumulated in a longer day, until even later in the day.

This move extends the creche function of schools. Keeps kids busy so we can keep parents busy at work.

The devil will make work for idle hands to do, so keep everyone REALLY FUCKING BUSY.

Local press in Waltham Forest reports that "staff at Rush Croft Sports College in Chingford are expected to be balloted on industrial action over claims teachers and parents were not consulted on a move to merge with Chingford Foundation School under one academy trust."

Yet another in a long line of forced attempts to covert schools to academies, against the wishes of parents, staff, students and communities. The NUT rep says "We're pretty confident about the outcome of the ballot, it's likely we'll strike."

There's an interesting admission in the article that says a lot about the motivations for academy conversions. It comes from  the headteacher of Chingford Hall Primary School which converted this week - "'Pat Davies agreed that the spread of academies was limiting cash flow into other schools...She said: 'More schools are going down the academy route, which means there's less money for us. Parents are happy about it'."

So the promise of more money on one hand, is quite explicitly linked to the observable fact that money is being taken away with the other hand.

Seven months after converting to an academy, despite opposition from the local community, William Tyndale School has announced plans to axe free-school meals (FSM) for all pupils.

"Islington’s Labour council has a flagship policy to provide free school meals for all children regardless of income. The popular policy not only saves hard-up parents £300 a year, but ensures that poorer children do not feel stigmatised and so stops any class division in the classroom."

William Tyndale was one of three Islington primary schools that converted to an academy in 2011. The school now "has a hole in its budget and can no longer afford to pay for free school meals."

This is funny. Well no, funny at all, what's the word... ah that's it, really fucking depressing. But weren't all these schools converting to academies under the pretense of having MORE money? Wasn't that the carrot they were enticed with?

The freedom to control their own budgets as they see fit apparently doesn't extend to putting food in their pupils mouths regardless of their circumstances. The Anti-Academies Alliance commented on the decision - “They were warned this might happen. The academy system promises a pot of gold with no consequences and that has seduced headteachers and governors. It’s not the case and schools need to know that.”

Clearly the arse is falling out of this aspect of the trojan-horse project that is academies.

Remember the shame of Tesco when they had the brass to advertise the 40-hr per week unpaid shelf stacking nightshift jobs? The University of Birmingham has just pulled an ad for an unpaid research post in the psychology department following criticism that it was exploitative.

"The position, advertised last week on, required applicants to commit to working at least two days a week on a “voluntary basis” on a new clinical study of mental illness in Birmingham’s School of Psychology. The successful applicant was required to be an “excellent graduate” who was “keen to learn core research skills for clinical assessment” and had access to a car. They would be reimbursed for fuel and provided with office space and “regular supervision” by the study’s directors. "

Exploitative? Just a little bit like. All jobs are exploitative, by their nature. Unpaid work is hyper-exploitative. In the comments, Bad Science's Ben Goldacre seems to think media and politics are seeing a sea-change against unpaid work:

"unpaid internships are much more widely regarded as a corrupt means for the middle classes to ensure preferential treatment and career opportunities for their offspring."

I can't comment specifically, but I suspect this is wrong, and naive. While I'd agree with the latter part of his statement, I'm not aware that the practice is becoming increasingly frowned upon. Though I could of course be wrong on this but I know quite a few people that have 'interned' at media, art, webdesign places and another few that have done it at political parties. They all thought a job would come of it, they were almost universally wrong. To see attempts to extend it to universities is a disturbing trend.

Examples like this highlights the importance of fights like that against Workfare. The use of unpaid workers under the auspices of 'gaining experience', 'interning', 'building a CV' or whatever fresh buzzword, will continue to grow if it's not smashed. Call these things what they will, but it's all the same thing; unpaid work. Getting people to work for nothing, driving wages down, and keeping those in work under threat, while those out of work are desperate enough to do free labour on the off chance they might at some stage get some paid labour. But because they're so busy doing unpaid work, they won't have time to actually look for paid work.

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