Shorefields Secondary Anti-academy Protest hits Chester.

Arriving at the University of Chester around 11.30 a.m this morning, the passengers on the  double decker bus from Shorefields Secondary School filed out and assembled. Yet another protest against the drive to make their school an academy.  I listened to many different voices – most of them said the same thing: “There was no consultation” and “Not one person wanted this”. What we are seeing now in our society, one protestor said – is ‘institutionalised corruption’. Children, parents, trade unionists,  teachers and classroom assistants showed a united front and had brought with them a petition which they handed over the to the Vice Chancellor of the University of Chester via the reception desk of the University.

Shorefields Liverpool comes to Chester. Anti-academy protest. University of Chester. Photograph Frances Laing.

NUT Banner. Shorefields Anti-academy protest University of Chester. Photograph Frances Laing.

Parents told me something about the school. A school with good Ofsted ratings. A school particularly reliant on community support, a community school – with double the national average of children with Special Educational Needs and five times the national average for free school meals.

A school where price rises for essentials like school uniform are a difficult challenge for many, especially those with more than one child at the school. Under the new academy regime I was told a blazer would cost £40 and an outdoor p.e. kit shirt alone would cost £25.  

Protests have been covered extensively in the Liverpool Echo and the Liver press, but this time protestors were on a ‘Day Out’ in the style of the playwright Willy Russell, to show Cestrians what the academies story really is and how Chester University is at the forefront of the push to privatise our schools.

I was told the protests have seen five resignations by governors at the school.

Shorefields Anti-academy protest comes to Chester. Photograph Frances Laing.

One of the major funding issues with special educational needs was that in contrast to a local authority school – in an academy special educational needs funding is not ring fenced. Therefore if the school finances go down, there is no financial back up for this provision.

Shorefields Anti Academy protest outside University of Chester. Photograph Frances Laing.

University of Chester officials attempted to stage-manage the protest in PR terms leaving the majority of protestors in an empty hall – with all the banners propped up against the tables.

A hot drink had been laid on by the University of Chester but these seasoned   protestors clearly had no intention of being bought out by tea and biscuits (come to think of it, in fact there weren’t even any biscuits). With a polystyrene cup of University tea  in hand I heard how  pro-academy forces-that-be had been slowly chipping away at the school’s reputation. A school that had been described as ‘good’ by Ofsted.

Shorefields Anti-Academy Protest University of Chester. Photograph Frances Laing.

 Afterwards I accompanied protestors on the coach from the University of Chester to Chester Cathedral. (They had asked the Bishop of Chester to meet them to discuss their concerns).

Shorefields community clearly cares about itself and Shorefields butties were shared on board. Here was a community which was together. Not some theoretical kind of Cameron-esque big society but a real, big-hearted community in action.

Our own Chester city chiefs like to make a show of offering hospitality to visitors and each bus load of visitors can access a tour guide. 

In contrast – the Shorefields Anti-Academy Protestors coach featured a police escort up front courtesy of Cheshire West and Chester Council.  

Protestors kept their sense of humour, I had lost mine, I was just ashamed of our city at that point. The official reception seemed so shabby.  It seemed our University never had any intention of listening to these parents, teachers and children – it was just seeing pound signs – just wanted them to shut up and go away. And seldom if ever do we hear about any of these things in our own local press.

Shorefields Anti-academy protest police escort. Photograph Frances Laing.

Undeterred, protestors left their double decker bus and headed confidently for Chester Town Hall Square steps singing a cleverly crafted anti-academy cover version of  “We’re all going on a summer holiday”. It was a day to remember…and I felt privileged to be there.

Shorefields Anti-Academy protest heads for Chester City Centre. Photograph Frances Laing.

Local union officials stood ready to greet protestors on the Town Hall steps together with a spokesperson from the National Union of Teachers.

 I believe the protest made the national news. 

Shorefields Anti-academy Protestors Chester Town Hall. Photograph by Frances Laing.

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4 responses to this post.

  1. […] parents about academies locally and writing about it. I spent a day in the company of parents from Shore fields Academy as they protested at the University of Chester and at Chester Town Hall. You’ll find an account of what they had to say on the blog mentioned above – I heard […]

    Reply

  2. Posted by Robbie on July 24, 2011 at 7:14 pm

    It was my idea to go in the first place

    Reply

  3. Posted by kelie on July 23, 2011 at 4:56 pm

    Frances thank you for this wonderful blog.. I was the parent that spoke with you in the car park & hall & like Paul I to would like to thank you on behalf of everyone involved in our campaign.. If you would like me to keep you updated on events re the campaign.you can get in touch with us at: dinglesos@hotmail.co.uk.
    We really appreciate the support you have shown to our campaign…
    Thanks again
    Kelie

    Reply

  4. Posted by Freddy on July 19, 2011 at 10:14 pm

    I spoke to you in the hall at Chester University today, you are spot on with your comments and may I on behalf of all the parents, children, teachers,classroom assisstants, admin workers and union reps who travelled to Chester today, thank you for your comments and support. Thank You. Paul

    Reply

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