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An inconvenient whistleblower

The TaxPayers’ Alliance has had a lot to say recently about public sector “fat cat” salaries and inflated bonuses. So when I read that a whistleblower had revealed how £1m of taxpayers’ money had been paid in bonuses to senior managers at Copland foundation school in Brent, I expected the TPA to be up in arms - especially when the whistleblower, geography teacher and union activist Hank Roberts, was suspended.

I searched the TPA website for a response - but found not a peep. The TPA didn’t even have anything to say when Roberts was reinstated - and the headteacher, his deputy and the school bursar were suspended while auditors investigated the payments.

Instead I found this, by TPA “policy analyst, public services” Ben Farrugia:

“...Tory plans for primary school academies are a step in the right direction, but only a step. Schools at every level must be freed from central control, but beyond that they need to experience the hard realities of the market. None of this has to mean an end to British state education, just an improvement to it…”

You don’t need a PhD - or even a grade G GCSE - to see the problem here. The TPA’s pro-market solutions will leave schools free to pay whatever bonuses they like and create more of the “public sector fat cats” they claim to despise. As Anthea Lipsett and Polly Curtis reported in the Guardian:

“Legal experts at the Association of School and College Leaders confirmed that laws regulating teachers pay and conditions mean that only private schools and academies are allowed to pay bonuses.

“Pay and bonuses linked to performance are increasingly common in academies, where governors can decide what they want to pay without the input of local authorities. PriceWaterhouseCoopers reported last year that academies were allowed flexibility to offer ‘incentive packages’ to raise standards. One senior academy source said bonuses were increasingly offered by academies and foundation schools.”

The TPA views the world through a prism where everything bad emanates from the public sector. So if we make the public sector more like the private sector (or, better still, hand it over to the private sector), then hey presto: problem solved. Perhaps the TPA missed some of those recent headlines about how private sector bonuses had reached sickening proportions and helped bring the global economy to its knees.

Hank Roberts, the Brent whistleblower, has a clearer understanding of the creeping influence of private sector culture on state education:

“The bonus culture has spread into schools. Taxpayers’ money is going increasingly to the distorting the whole values system of state-funded education. I’m putting my job on the line because it’s absolutely wrong to be giving these kinds of bonuses. The sickness of bonus culture has infected state-funded schools.”

Posted by Other TPA at 12:43pm on 20 May 2009
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More evidence that the so-called Taxpayers Alliance inhabit a distant planet.

The group is already exposed as a bunch of loony rightwing ideologues. But the idea to expose schools to “the hard realities of the market” is one of the loopiest of their characteristically crazed announcements.

One wonders where this crew have been these last thirty years, where the experiment in privatisation has brought, at best, only marginal improvement in services, and at worst sub-standard outcomes allied to rank profiteering?

Back on planet earth, our children’s education is too precious to be left to the private sector. It is as simple as that.

Posted by BenM at 02:45pm on 22 May 2009

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