Schools will strike against privatised services

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The Independent Online

Members of the biggest teachers' union voted for local strikes where members' jobs are threatened by privatisation.

The National Union of Teachers passed a motion at its annual conference condemning the Government's decision to give responsibility for running services in some local authorities to profit-making companies, and the role of companies in these "education action zones".

About 15 local authorities are threatened with privatisation of their services because of critical inspection reports. Ian Murch, a delegate from Bradford, a Labour-controlled council that has decided on the wholesale privatisation of its education services, said: "Why does a Labour government, assisted by a Labour council, seek to demolish public provision and abolish local democratic control?"

The ideological tide had to be turned, he added. "A powerful focus has to be created to reassert the values of public service and to challenge the unthinking mantra that public is bad, private is good."

Paul Atkin, a delegate from Islington, where education services have been privatised, said the changes had been made without consultation. "No examples were given of other countries where it has been a success. There is a simple reason why. There aren't any."

Nicole Bradley, a teacher from an infant school in Islington, said parents and teachers at her school had decided to opt out of the local education action zone, one of the public-private partnerships designed to raise standards in the inner cities. "Whenever private companies put themselves forward you have to ask what is in it for them. They see education as an open market."