[IMC-UK-Features] [Feature Proposal Teachers 'Tent City' Occupation Defends Wembley Sports Ground From Privatisation

maqui maqui at syndicate.org.uk
Wed Jul 16 15:18:16 PDT 2008


Hello

I propose the feature below for the UK, London, Education and Free 
Spaces middle columns. There are quite a few report on the wire about 
this,, some of which contain substantial research about the story, and 
which I have used for the Content as "Background Story"

I haven't got time now to add all the links and html, but i intend to 
do it tomorrow at some point and publish it by the evening if there are 
no objections.

Cheers
maqui


FEATURE:
========

TITLE:
Teachers 'Tent City' Occupation Defends Wembley Sports Ground From 
Privatisation
(or something shorter if someone proposes an alternative title :-)

ABSTRACT:

The Wembley Tent City Occupation located on Wembley Park Sports Ground, 
is opposed to the plans for a privatised Wembley Park Academy school to 
be built on one of the few remaining green areas accessible to the 
local community for sports training. The campaign is in keeping with 
the wave of resistance to new school academies up and down the country. 
The Wembley Ark Academy is an American and British educational charity 
sponsored and run by a group of millionaire merchant bankers and 
currency speculators, led by french/swiss and multimillionaire Arpad 
Busson. The Ark Academy is estimated to cost around £30 million of 
public money yet it would be privately run.

The re-establisment of the 'Tent City' started on the 30th of June, 
following last year's previous permanent occupation of the site that 
lasted six months, and which saw tree houses being built. The site was 
then only vacated when the protestors won a year’s extension on the 
lease. Wembley teachers and their local supporters argue that after 
more than two years of campaigning to keep the community sports grounds 
out of the private sector, they are not going to give in now without a 
fight, as the building of the planned Wembley Academy is part of 
Brent's council drive to privatise schools, turning education into a 
profit making business instead of a basic human right beyond the 
'logic' of the market.

On Wedneday 16th, teachers and local people continued the occupation 
despite renewed threats of forced eviction and possible arrests. They 
took permanent positions on the roofs of the building next to the 
sports grounds, with at least one protestor locking on to the main 
mast. An earlier eviction had been set for Tuesday 15th, when around 50 
local people turned up to show support. It is now expected that the 
eviction will happen soon and 'by surprise' in the the early morning, 
and so they call for urgent solidarity and for people to go up there 
and show their support.


CONTENT:

BACKGROUND STORY:

The Wembley Tent City Occupation, located on Wembley Park Sports Ground 
next to Wembley-Park tube station (Metropolitan Line), is opposed to 
the Wembley Park Academy school which Brent Council is yet to give full 
approval to. The campaign is in keeping with the wave of resistance to 
new school academies up and down the country. The Wembley Ark Academy 
is an American and British educational charity sponsored and run by a 
group of millionaire merchant bankers and currency speculators, led by 
french/swiss and multimillionaire Arpad Busson. Arpad "Arki" Busson is 
senior partner of EIM fund management company (with assets reported as 
ranging from £5 billion to £10 billion). The Ark Academy is estimated 
to cost around £30 million of public money yet would be privately run. 
Unlike PFI in the NHS, the taxpayer puts up virtually all of the 
initial capital cost. It is not clear whether Busson himself declares 
non domicile tax eile status, and so, pays no tax in the UK himself.

The occupation is also in defence of a recreation ground with 2 
football pitches and the Sunflower childrens nursery as well as other 
small businesses also on the site. The sports ground, in the shadow of 
the arch of the new Wembley stadium, is used by several hundred 
different youngsters and teenagers from the local area who are 
comprised of a wide range of ethnic diversity, some of whom come from 
the local Chalk-Hill estate, who pay as little as £1 per training 
session. Though Brent Council have guranteed that access to play on the 
football pitches will remain for the next two years, ARK have so far 
not made any commitment to either keep the football pitches nor retain 
the local young community's affordable access to this local recreation 
facility.

On 03 June 2008 Brent Town Council approved the child charity Ark 
proposal to begin the initial construction of temporary housing for 200 
school pupils in huts as a forerunner for the new Wembley Academy 
School. That planning meeting approved this scheme, seemingly unaware 
of the fact that once planning approval is granted for the entire 
school academy project, it's construction on the site over the next two 
years will put children in these temporary classrooms in danger with 
cranes overhanging the portacabins and temporary accommodation.

Ark and the wider push for private investors involvement in state 
education:
"Creating Academies involves the transfer of publicly funded assets to 
the control of an unaccountable sponsoring body, set up as a company 
limited by guarantee. Sponsors receive the entire school budget 
directly from the Government. Where state schools are turned into 
Academies, this effectively means that multi millionaires gain control 
of a multi million pound asset, whose building and running costs are 
funded overwhelmingly by us the taxpayers, and they cough up a 
comparative pittance." (source: NUT's document 'ACADEMIES: LOOKING 
BEYOND THE SPIN').

Ark is set to run 12 Academy schools throughout the UK, six of which 
will be opened by September 2008. One reason the Wembley Academy 
opening date was moved forward from September 2009 to 2008 was because 
local opposition against the Academy and the privatisation of UK 
education has been so massive in Brent, Ark thought that advancing the 
school start date would crush the resistance.

Connections are being made with the Battersea Crane Disaster Group, the 
Construction Safety Campaign and the Pimlico school teachers who are 
also fighting the privatisation of their school by venture capitalist, 
and Tory party funder, John Nash and his company Sovereign Capital.

Other criticisms about Academies:
Source: NUT's document 'ACADEMIES: LOOKING BEYOND THE SPIN':
The Government has said that Academies, “can combine a greater 
flexibility over the curriculum with the sponsorship and expertise of 
religious, private or voluntary sector contributors...” The curriculum 
in Academies is therefore likely to be susceptible to being influenced 
by the ethos of the sponsoring bodies.

The facility to give priority to children of a particular faith 
additionally means that it is possible for Academies to refuse places 
to local pupils.

Academies, as independent schools, can operate outside the School 
Teachers’ Pay and Conditions Document. It is the responsibility of the 
Academy to agree levels of pay and conditions of service with its 
employees and to employ appropriate staff numbers. Whilst teachers in 
Academies which replace existing schools have their conditions 
protected on transfer, newly appointed teachers are often placed on 
separate contracts that involve longer working hours and less 
favourable working conditions. Having teachers working on different 
contracts can lead to a divided, two-tier workforce.

Elected councillors have no responsibility for academies, making it 
difficult for parents to make representations or seek advice on 
educational issues from their councillors.


The Tent City Occupation:
Last year, teachers protesting against the academy occupied the site 
for six months. The site was vacated when the protestors secured a 
year's extension for all leaseholders on the site. However, Brent 
Council reneged on this promise by issuing notice to all businesses on 
the site to leave by 31st July. This high handed threat was after the 
council had promised in writing to help with ensuring all businesses 
would be relocated yet have done nothing, including the Sunflower 
nursery children.

Brent Council have pushed for an immediate eviction order on the Tent 
City on the Wembley Sports Ground, Bridge Road, so the construction of 
temporary accomodation for the first 60 pupils can start. They will 
either be in portacabins on the sports fields or housed in the sports 
hall, a leaking dilapidated building that needs some serious work. 
Meanwhile, evidence has emerged that local primary schools have not 
filled their places for reception classes in September whilst the 
council actively encouraged parents to change their school selection 
preferences in favour of the new school as it has pushed ahead with 
this 'pre-academy' development. Just two schools shortfall (Wembley 
Primary and Preston Park - both very near the proposed school) nearly 
make up the 60 places to be offered in the temporary academy buildings 
proposed to open in September 08. Brent Council have acted to undermine 
their own state schools, leaving them in a worrying financial 
situation, by getting parents to apply for the academy reception places 
after they had already applied for local schools.

The portocabins will be fully funded by the local taxpayer and not by 
Ark, the private investor in the Wembley Academy school.

The academy scheme itself is largely financed the UK taxpayer, which 
the private investors are then able to make a profit from.

Brent NUT & ATL Secretary Hank Roberts said on Friday 11 July, that 
they will resist the eviction, non-violently, in any way they can and 
asked for people to join him. Non-violent direct action tactics will be 
used.









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