why is there class in the classroom?

Dave Spencer explores the reasons for working-class under-achievement in the British education system.

There is an iron law in the sociology of education which states that the working class in Britain do badly in the education system. A recent study by the Sutton Trust should therefore come as no surprise. It found that over 2007-9 five elite private schools sent 946 students to Oxbridge whereas 2,000 comprehensives sent 927  between them. No surprise too at the recent UCU survey of educational attainment in various parliamentary constituencies. They found that  12.1% of people have no qualifications and 29% have degree level or above.  But this varied considerably from area to area with some working-class areas having over 30% with no qualifications.

prison warder: for many a classist education system is a trial

The basic question of course is – why do the working class do so badly?  At one time there was a straightforward argument between Nature and Nurture, genetics or environment.  It is difficult to argue these days, as some psychologists did in the 1960s, that the reason women and blacks did badly in the education system and society in general is because they are less intelligent. But many people still assume that the reason working class children do badly in the education system is because genetically they do not have the ability. Elitism or the idea that the people at the top of our class hierarchy are there because they are more intelligent is still alive and well. Just look at the smug buggers on the Coalition front bench! Continue reading “why is there class in the classroom?”

nick clegg scared off school visit by strike

From Anti-academies alliance/TMP Online

The overwhelming majority of teaching staff at Crest Boys Academy were on strike to on Wednesday, 21st April. A planned visit to the school by Nick Clegg was cancelled.

The strike was taking place because E-Act (previously Edutrust) are making staff redundant despite recent reports of their Chief Executive, Sir Bruce Liddington, having a salary and bonuses approaching £300,000 per year and also lavish expenditure by top executives on luxury £300+ suites in hotels, mini-bar tabs and £250 pound taxi rides – all at taxpayer’s expense. Lord Bhatia, Chair of Trustees of E-Act, in its previous incarnation as Edutrust, resigned after allegations of financial irregularities. Continue reading “nick clegg scared off school visit by strike”

radical education reading group

A small group of us have been meeting once a month to make some time to think about the links between education and social change. Last year we had some really interesting discussions on adult literacy, privatisation, Marxism and education, Freirian pedagogy, and deschooling, but we want to get bigger. If you are someone interested or involved in education and like the sound of manageable amounts of reading, informal conversation, and hopefully some stimulating ideas, come and join us. We meet on the first Thursday of the month between 7-9pm in Bethnal Green.

The next meeting is on Thursday 4th February (use email below for the venue details), and will be a discussion on the ideas of A.S. Neill as embodied in his Free-School, Summerhill.

Email radicaleducationforum@gmail.com for readings and more information. Hope to see you there.

why such scope for union-busting in schools?

by Florence Mensah

There are a number of reasons why I have found it difficult to write about union-busting politics in my workplace. (i) I have been working too hard to consider that I might take time to reflect on it all. (ii) I, like many other workers, am intimidated by the threat of losing my job. (iii) It is sometimes hard to know what good will come from having a great big moan, and it can make you feel even worse!

However, I was encouraged to write about what has been going on in my school by a fellow comrade. Why? Because we are a community of workers, whatever our jobs, whatever our unions. Unless we can problematize the very insidious tactics that managements put in place daily to undermine our agency and threaten our security and mental well-being, we will not be confident in recognising how best to tackle them. Continue reading “why such scope for union-busting in schools?”

an alternative view of the classroom

by a primary school teacher in Tower Hamlets

When I was at school I worked hard, did what I was told and got good results. When I was at university I hoped an under graduate degree in education would shed some light on the true potential education has to make a better world. I studied philosophy and sociology of education at a university for whom the faculty of education, its roots in vocational training, was a slightly embarrassing poor relation, best kept at arms length and occasionally derided. The message was sometimes enlightening, the medium certainly was not. I embarked on a PGCE at the Institute of Education where I lost all hope that our education system held any radical elements that might actually cut through the elitist bureaucracy of government policy; clearly it was up to the individual to find the tiny cracks around the edges of the system wherever they could and fill them with something that felt more like being alive than a standards-driven agenda of mind-reducing mundanity.  The real tragedy being that the vast majority of people didn’t seem to realise that there was any need to look for the cracks, let alone feel able to start to think what mind-expanding possibilities you might be able to fill them with.

And then I found a place that was one big crack, through which sun-light streamed. A place that had been built on the solid principles of child-centred, class conscious principles, and by in large stuck to them in both its theory and practice. The place isn’t perfect, but is a place with more integrity than any other educational institution I’ve been involved with. So here are a few things that our ordinary state funded community primary school is and does that shows us that you can. Continue reading “an alternative view of the classroom”

building from below: the ideas of paulo freire

by Dave Spencer

The Brazilian educationist Paulo Freire (1921-1997) is regarded internationally as the guru of adult education.  Since we are concerned as communists with educating ourselves and with “raising consciousness” among the working class, then it would seem useful to look at Freire’s ideas.


As luck would have it Freire’s classic textbook Pedagogy of the Oppressed (1972) is not only a statement of the principles on which to practise adult education, it is also a handbook on how to build a revolutionary party.  There are many references to liberation and revolutionary leadership throughout the book.  One of the reasons for this is that in the 1960s in Brazil when Freire was organising Adult Literacy classes on a mass scale, his activity was very radical because only literate people could vote in Brazil.  In 1964 after the coup Freire was jailed and then exiled for his efforts.  He went to Chile and then to UNESCO where he influenced Literacy programmes throughout the Third World. Continue reading “building from below: the ideas of paulo freire”

how we fought to defend education in tamworth

by Rob Marsden

Starting out

It is 16 months since Staffordshire County Council announced its plans to restructure education in Tamworth and 14 months since we launched an active and vibrant campaign in opposition to this.


Hands Off Tamworth Schools was born after a wave of outrage swept the town at plans to turn one of our five High Schools into an Academy, close one school completely and remove all Sixth Form provision from the remaining four schools and concentrate it on a single site, entirely in the hands of the Academy. Continue reading “how we fought to defend education in tamworth”

exposed: soas unison, rmt and unite cleaner activists in the pay of the bosses

by Chris Kane

According to shocking information obtained by The Commune, union activists, with cleaning companies organised with UNISON (SOAS), RMT (LUL) and UNITE (Mitie and Lancaster) – are in the pay of the bosses!

This is of course a pack of lies, nevertheless it is a disgusting lie being officially circulated, in writing by a senior full-time official of UNITE, Jose Vallejo Villa un-elected organiser responsible for cleaners. Continue reading “exposed: soas unison, rmt and unite cleaner activists in the pay of the bosses”

the lewisham bridge primary school occupation

by Joe Thorne

Parents of pupils at Lewisham Bridge Primary School, together with supporters, have been in occupation of the school roof since 23rd April, in opposition to Lewisham Council’s plans to demolish the school building, and replace it with a school run by a shadowy guild of wealthy businessmen known as the Worshipful Company of Leather Sellers, which dates back to the beginning of mercantile capitalism in the 14th Century.

Lewisham Bridge Occupation

Continue reading “the lewisham bridge primary school occupation”

the commune issue 3 – out now!

The March 2009 issue of The Commune is now on sale. £1 a copy, email uncaptiveminds@gmail.com to order. Click here for pdf.


The new paper features the following articles:

Don’t moan, organise! – editorial on the recession

Factory occupation in Ukraine – by a comrade in Kyiv

Unions and left parties let down Greek youth uprising – by Valia Kaimaki

Lessons of the oil refinery wildcat strikes – by Gregor Gall

The impossibility of class struggle in the mind of the BBC – by Joe Thorne

Occupations for Gaza: activism goes back to university – by Taimour Lay

More arrests in Iran – by Sam Parsa

School students get organised – interview with Tali Janner-Klausner

Lassalle’s state socialism – from Hal Draper’s Karl Marx’s Theory of Revolution

Self-management and the environment – by Steve Ryan

school students get organised

Tali Janner-Klausner spoke to us about the new London School Students’ Union

How did LSSU come into existence?

A group of school student activists from Edinburgh had already set up a group, and a loose group of school students down in London discussed the idea and agreed that it will be increasingly important for school students to organise in the next few years. We held a meeting in early February to discuss the need for a School Students’ Union and what issues we should be campaigning on. We also had a member of the Edinburgh School Students’ Union come down to talk about their group and campaigns, and about the student movements in Europe.

Continue reading “school students get organised”