The Mysterious Case of the Disappearing Schools. Or “Of Course It’s Bloody Privatisation”

This week, Nicky “I’m not Michael Gove, Honest” Morgan and her chum George “I’m not Satan, Honest” Osborne, announced that every school in England would be forced to become an academy by 2022. This has proved, to put it mildly, a little controversial. Opponents of academization, both forced and unforced, have generated a petition of more than 100,000 signatures already, while unions, teachers, politicians and Mumsnet(!) have united in fairly vitriolic opposition. Even Tristram Hunt and David Blunkett came out against this, which tells a remarkable story in itself. However, the “Glob“, as Francis Gilbert termed the very vocal and influential minority who actively support Gove’s privatisation agenda, has been predictably active too. More chaff has been thrown out by supporters of this policy in the last week than the RAF chucked out of its bombers over Germany in 1944, and all with the same intent: to obscure the real target. I’m here to clear the chaff away, hopefully.

hercules4“Calling G for Gove, Calling G for Gove : Jerry’s spotted our plans. Launch “academies making profits” distraction chaff.”

 

Chaff : strips of metal foil released in the air to obstruct radar detection, OR Govian supporters trying to direct parents’ eyes away from what is actually proposed

The two main distraction lines appearing have been that (1) academies can’t make profits, so this can’t be privatisation; and (2) that academies are only a small procedural change from maintained schools, so what’s the fuss about?  Some Govians (granted, mostly politicians, because even Govian educationalists get a bit embarrassed with total barefaced lies) have even repeated words like “autonomy” and “independence”, but we’ll discount that because no-one’s stupid enough to believe academization represents either of those things any more. It has been remarkable watching this machine of obfuscation and distraction swing into action.

And here’s the thing – they’re right. Academies can’t, yet, make profits, and for a maintained school, the switch to standalone academy status will result in rather less change than both proponents and opponents can sometimes imply (although I certainly would not make quite so little of the change as Laura McInerney did in her Guardian article which could easily have been titled “Nothing to worry about. Nothing to see here. Move along.”).

Before any of my normal readership thinks I’m having a stroke, agreeing with Govians, let me be clear : this White Paper absolutely DOES represent the future privatisation of the state school system. It is also a huge change which will more radically alter the relationship of our schools with our communities, parents and teachers than anything seen since the 1944 Education Act. It’s just that the Glob has rather successfully steered the conversation and debate up a blind alley. The debate is largely focusing on the rights/wrongs/faults/benefits of being a stand-alone Academy. But, dear reader, none of the sixteen thousand or so overwhelmingly primary schools about to be stripped from the public sector are intended to become stand-alone Academies. They’re supposed to enter Multi-Academy Trusts (MATs).

There are some devious weasel words in the White Paper about the prospect of schools being forced to become a stand-alone Academy, as opposed to being forced into a MAT. It’s possible to read these words as suggesting that some “successful and sustainable” schools might still go it alone. However, it’s also possible to read the same words as simply a nod to existing stand-alone Academies that they won’t be forced into MATs yet, while everyone else will. Coming from a White Paper which has coined the phrase “supported autonomy” to mean “your school’s very identity will be abolished and you’ll have no autonomy at all”, I tend to lean towards the latter interpretation. Moreover, those who have heard Regional Schools Commissioners speak recently, or have had contact with the DFE, will know that, as far as the government is concerned, all roads lead to MATsville.

So what is a Multi-Academy Trust, and what will life be like for our schools once they are forced into one ? Well, most importantly, Multi-Academy Trusts are not groups of separate schools. When your children’s school is forced from the public sector, it will not only be handed over to private hands, but it will legally cease to exist. One of the greatest weapons the privatisers have is that this is fiendishly complex and tedious, and indeed the language the Government and its supporters use is so misleading that even some governors and heads who are joining MATs already, don’t actually understand what their own MAT is. Many people get very confused between what a MAT is and can do, and what it chooses to do. My purpose here is to try and clear some of the chaff and lay out clearly what the future is for our schools.

An Educational Acid-Bath

3e_AcidBath_3hoursPlease, come and join our Multi-Academy Trust. Just step right in….

 

A Multi-Academy Trust is not a club of independent schools working together for greater harmony, happy children skipping through daisies drinking coke, and the chance to teach the world to sing. This is a very common misconception. Some people will swear blind that their schools retain power and independence within their MAT. They’re wrong. They don’t actually even retain their own identity. No, a MAT is more of an acid bath of schools. The individual schools go in, but they don’t retain their identity once in there. The MAT your school will be forced to join IS the ONLY legal entity. Your school effectively ceases to exist.

Now before I get huffy Govians coming here throwing more chaff around, let me clarify. The buildings are still there. The staff who aren’t sacked by the MAT will still be there. The school name may even remain (although some MATs owners do prefer it if all the schools are modestly named after themselves – see the Harris MAT). It may retain a bank account, a PTA and that wooden board in the foyer with the names of all the previous Head Boys and Girls which the last Head thought made the school look more like Hogwarts. But your school isn’t your school any more. Your school is now legally a local branch of the MAT. Imagine you have a local independent coffee shop, and it’s taken over by Starbucks. That’s getting close to what we have when your school disappears into a MAT.

The MAT has control over :

  • Budget – all funding goes to the MAT, and it is not hypothecated to individual schools
  • Staffing – staff are employed by the MAT – not your ex-school
  • Governance – your Local Governing Body has all the freedom the MAT allows. Or doesn’t.
  • School policies – Ever wondered why all the Harris uniforms look so similar…?

There’s a lot of misinformation out there, and some people will say “Our MAT isn’t like that. Our schools keep these powers within the MAT”. I’ll deal with that a bit more at the end. But unfortunately, some people are mistaking what the MAT is currently choosing to allow with what the ex-schools have the power to insist upon. It may be true that the MAT is currently allowing individual ex-schools to maintain an illusion of independence. It may not interfere in budget allocations once it has decided how much to delegate to its local branches; it may not insist on appointing all senior staff itself yet; it may allow discretion on matters such as school uniform; and it may even allow the continued existence of a local governing body for each of its ex-schools. Lovely. But it doesn’t have to do any of these things. Indeed, it actually has several duties and interests which clash with such a hands-off position.

The MAT’s duties actually discourage them from allowing local autonomy

Take funding, for example. The MAT Board is in charge of funding – not the ex-school’s local governing body. MAT Directors have a legal duty to allocate funding in the best interests of all their students as they perceive those interests. Note : “their” students, not the “school’s” students. So if one of the other ex-schools down the road hits a financial bump, then not only can the MAT board simply remove funds from your ex-school to meet the other ex-school’s needs, but they actually have a legal duty to do so.

Or take staffing. Staff are employed by the MAT. Another ex-school has a staffing problem. The MAT board can simply order Ms Superteacher out of your child’s class and into the other ex-school down the road. A lot of schools currently considering entering MATs are promising their staff that they won’t be transferred against their will to a different MAT school. This is misleading – the MAT, when created, has no obligation to honour promises made by an ex-school which legally no longer exists. Schools can promise staff they won’t force them elsewhere in the company, but they can also promise unlimited chocolate and double non-contact time. They won’t be around to be held to those promises. You can try to get a clause written into your new contract with the MAT that they will never transfer you to another school, of course. Good luck with that. But your existing school cannot commit the MAT to that, whatever they say.

 

He’s wrong. It’s not like that, I tell you!

mr-wrongThe front cover of all Policy Exchange Reports

Apologies to anyone genuinely ranting at the screen saying “He’s wrong, He’s wrong! Our MAT isn’t like that!”. What’s going on there is that some very well-intentioned people are confusing the legal position with what you might call the “people” position. The legal position is very clear – when your school is absorbed into a MAT, it ceases to exist as a separate entity, and has no independent control over its own budget, its own staffing or its own governance other than that which the MAT chooses to grant you, and can remove at any time without your consent. The MAT can force the ex-school to do pretty much anything from sacking all its staff, to teaching wacky subjects, to wearing St Trinians uniforms. In other words, an ex-school in a MAT has all the freedoms of a prisoner in a high-security prison : you can smoke, walk around outside your cell, do the laundry and stick pictures of Kylie Minogue on your cell wall, right up until the point when the Governor says you can’t any more. And then you can’t. You’re not really free, and you don’t really have any power. Just the illusion of it.

The fact that the MATs haven’t yet ordered you to tear down those Kylie posters is simply because, in the case of the MATs people are keen to defend, the people in charge don’t choose to do so. Yet.

In other words, your MAT isn’t currently stiffing you because the people in charge of your MAT are choosing not to stiff you. Well done you. And them.  However, have you any guarantees that you’re not just a few key personnel changes away from a Harris-style Gulag ?

I’m afraid not.

Who will own and run our ex-schools in the new corporate MAT-world?

Which does rather bring us to governance, because ultimately, the degree to which the ex-schools absorbed into the corporate MAT can continue to pretend to be separate, depends entirely on who is making the decisions. And who does make the decision in the MAT ? Here we enter a ridiculously opaque world of “Members” and “Trustees”, “Directors”, “Chief Executives” and “Business Managers”. Please stay awake – I’ll try to keep this short.

 

  • The Members are at the top of the tree and, in the words of the NCTL guidance document explaining this, are “akin to the shareholders in a company”. They can appoint Trustees and have “ultimate control” over the MAT.

 

  • The Trustees are responsible for the operation of the MAT. The MAT is a company (albeit charitable), and the Trustees are company directors, responsible for “holding headteachers to account”, “setting the direction” of the MAT, and managing the finances.

 

  • Trustees can be Members. So the guys in charge can be holding, err, themselves, to account. But they don’t have to be. Clear?

 

  • There can be a Local Governing Body for each ex-school, if the MAT so chooses. There doesn’t have to be. You can have an “advisory body” chosen by the MAT. Which, as you can imagine, would be a hotbed of independence. Or, in future, you can have nothing at all, because how silly is it to have a local governing body which doesn’t govern, because the school it’s the governing body of, doesn’t exist?  Still with me ?The main reason why Local Governing Bodies have survived thus far might well be because there’s a current legal requirement that at least two parents from each ex-school sit on either the MAT Board of Trustees, or on the Local Governing Body. As I suspect few big MAT Directors want parents anywhere near them, it’s been handy to keep a Local Governing Body (or “Pointless Symbolic Talking Shop”, as it’s henceforth to be known) for the purpose. Handily, you’ll have noted that in the White Paper the Government has chosen to remove this pesky hangover from the days when we used to pretend that parents should have a say in the ownership and direction of their children’s schools.

 

As an aside, note that your school will become part of a company, with symbolic “shareholders” and a Board of Directors who control the money, none of whom have to be connected to the school’s parents or staff in any way (or even live or work in the same town!). I can’t think why people talk about privatisation, can you ? Sorry. Digressing again. More on that later.

Anyway, let’s look at who the Members and Trustees are. The answer is, that they’re what we used to call a “self-perpetuating oligarchy”. The Members are whoever the Members decide to be when the MAT is formed. There is no requirement for any to be elected by either staff or parents. There is no requirement for any sort of open application process. Basically, you need to know the right people (you can sort of see why Tories like this system so much – it’s their natural habitat).

In terms of getting rid of Members, It’s actually remarkably hard to work out how they can be removed at all. I suspect that somewhere the Secretary of State retains the power to remove them, but one thing is clear – you, dear parent, have no power to do so at all. Once they’re in, they’re in. And when they decide to retire, or just find there’s space at the trough, they can appoint whoever they like. The Members, in other words, control the appointment and recruitment of, er, the Members. I seem to recall Oliver Cromwell getting rid of the Rump Parliament when it tried this, because even as a de-facto military dictator, he felt that was a bit corrupt. But there you go.

Freemasons-Lodge-London-300x225The MAT Members meet to consider who to appoint as a new Member

 

You’re exaggerating

I wish I were. But I’m not. Anyway, if you don’t believe me, William Stewart has enough quotes from the horses’ mouths in here to satisfy even the most sceptical of readers. There is a greater difference between a standalone academy and an academy in a MAT, than there is between a standalone Academy and a maintained LEA school. Which is why I got a bit wound up when reading articles about how the shift to full academization was relatively insignificant. You could, if you squinted and deliberately didn’t notice some stuff, feasibly argue that, if it were about forced movement to stand-alone academies, but that isn’t the plan, so that argument is irrelevantly reassuring chaff.

 

This can’t get worse, can it?

Sorry, yes. You see, once in, there’s no way out. Your ex-school can never again become its own school. As it ceases to exist as a separate entity, it cannot choose to ever leave its MAT. Because it doesn’t exist, and institutions which don’t exist can’t choose anything. I saw some defender of this policy claiming earlier today that there were ways out of the MAT for schools. He was right. The MAT can trade your particular ex-school franchise to another MAT, a bit like Sainsbury’s selling a site to Waitrose. Your ex-school will of course have no choice whatsoever in this. The parents and teachers would be simple bystanders watching the corporate suits sort it out amongst themselves. The other option – if the MAT you’ve been absorbed into is deemed to be not very good by the DFE – is that your ex-school can be transferred to a different MAT on the order of the Secretary of State. Once again, parents and staff will have no influence at all.

You will never again be an autonomous school run by a governing body representing your school’s community, either as an academy or a maintained LEA school. It’s a one way street. An ex-school can’t choose to divorce its partners in a MAT, but it can be hacked off and transplanted onto another MAT. Such transplants will, like the real thing, only occur after some sort of catastrophe, and it’s fairly unlikely to be a matter of choice for the organ being transplanted, so it isn’t really very reassuring, is it?

blockeddoorSome ex-school Governors find the way out of the MAT

 

Is this privatisation ?

I’ve seen a fair few Govians telling folks that this isn’t privatisation because standalone academies don’t make profits. Or because some quango has a helpfully restrictive definition of privatisation which suits their agenda. Can I suggest to those good people that they perhaps shouldn’t teach economics? Or politics? Of course it’s bloody privatisation.

Our schools are going to be stripped from the public sector, and from any form of local accountability to voters, parents or staff, and handed over to private companies managed by Directors who need have no connection at all to your school or your community. Your school, part of the glue which holds your community together, is to become a local franchise of an edubusiness. Noting the charitable status of the edubusiness is a red herring: charities are not public sector bodies; Eton is, after all, a charity.

Similarly misleading is talk of being accountable through having to produce financial accounts – that’s a bit like saying Google isn’t a private company because it has to publish its accounts (occasionally, after a good lunch with a senior Treasury official, obviously).

The only remaining thread of accountability left anywhere in the system is to the Secretary of State in Whitehall, who retains the powers to order franchise swaps and theoretically remove Members. That’s right – a couple of hundred civil servants at the DFE are going to monitor and regulate potentially a couple of thousand otherwise unaccountable edubusinesses on our behalf. What could go wrong ?

Of course this is privatisation. Noting the link-of-last-resort between MATs and the Secretary of State is a bit like saying that the Water and Power companies aren’t privatised because the Government regulates them. It’s disingenuous guff, designed to obfuscate the real purpose behind these reforms, which is to privatise the schools system without ever saying the word “privatisation” for fear of scaring the horses. And as for those people who think that the only way for individuals and companies to make money from such opportunities is to record something called “profit” on a set of MAT accounts, then I refer you to my earlier comment – don’t, for the love of God, ever teach economics.

Still not convinced ?

There will still be people reading this who say “Our MAT has delivered great benefits”. I would merely make the comment thus : “What does your MAT do, in terms of collaboration between schools, which it couldn’t have done as collaboration between still-existing autonomous schools?” By which I don’t mean give me a list of things it’s doing now which it didn’t do before. I mean what’s it doing which it could not have done before, with a little effort on the part of the pre-existing schools? Because when I was fighting my own school’s attempt to dissolve itself into a MAT, I asked that precise question, and there was literally nothing which was suggested which we couldn’t have actually arranged to do without being part of a MAT. So what do you do now which you legally could not do before dissolving your school into a MAT ? I’m interested.

As noted above, there will be others saying : “”This isn’t what our MAT is like”. I am sure you’re right. I am certain that there are MATs out there – particularly the small local ones not called ‘Harris’ – where the people in charge are dedicated to their ex-schools and their communities, and wouldn’t dream of paying their friend’s recently-created edu-consultancy company a huge bung from school budgets. But you need to be very clear – the only thing standing between your ex-school and a faceless corporate entity or private cashpoint for unscrupulous local crooks, is that you happen to be still owned by the well-meaning individuals who started off your MAT.

Now consider this : part of the White Paper describes how MATs will now be increasingly  “held to account” alongside individual schools (league tables etc). If the Secretary of State deems them ‘performing’ in any way she doesn’t like, she can theoretically remove your Members and replace them with whoever the hell she likes. Or indeed she can transfer your local ex-school franchise to another company, run by perhaps less well-intentioned, less local people. And there is absolutely nothing you can do about that. Because your school doesn’t exist any more. And even if she doesn’t, the pressure on those original Members is going to increase. Some might feel that they have to abandon early ideals. Some might give up the ghost, to be replaced by… well, someone you won’t have a say in choosing unless you’re a Member yourself.

polyp_cartoon_oligarchy

The application process for future Members of large MATs.

 

It’s backs to the wall time, folks.

Anyone who believes that schools should have a large degree of autonomy, and should be rooted in – and accountable to – their local communities, with checks and balances to prevent corruption or neglect, should be very scared. Indeed, anyone who believes that schooling is a key public service which is far too important to be privatised, should be fighting this with every ounce of their being.

If you love your children’s school, if you believe in public education, fight this. Or, like a school entering a MAT, state schooling in this country will simply cease to exist without most people realising it’s happened until there’s nothing they can do.

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99 thoughts on “The Mysterious Case of the Disappearing Schools. Or “Of Course It’s Bloody Privatisation”

  1. Should be compulsory reading for all governing bodies. Perhaps we could ask someone like Sam Freeman @Samfr to tell us where your analysis is wrong. From my perspective your analysis is spot on. Maybe we could encourage other politicians to wake up to what is happening instead of them repeating the party mantra. You have provided them with all the tools they need to pull apart this deception. You have given clarity to what my gut was telling me was wrong with these proposals. Thank you.

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    • You’re welcome. I looked into this issue in some detail when my previous Head first came up with his plan to become a MAT. The more I looked, the more horrified I was. I think schools, governors, Heads and others are sleepwalking into this, thinking that it’s ok because they are, themselves, good people.

      As the CEO of ARK admitted to the Education Select Committee a couple of years back : the Governors are often surprised to find that they no longer have the powers they thought they had.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. […] The Mysterious Case of the Disappearing Schools. Or “Of Course It’s Bloody Privatisation” | Disappointed Idealist https://disidealist.wordpress.com/2016/03/20/the-mysterious-case-of-the-disappearing-schools-how-sta… […]

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    • You’re not actually Jacob Rees Mogg, though, right ? I once bumped into him at Oxford. Even at 18 he was a very odd fish. I’d be quite surprised if he were (a) reading my blog, (b) correcting my phrases, and (c) disputing privatisation!

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    • I’m a teacher. Nobody gives a stuff what I think. I don’t write this blog to try and influence things, as the Glob, like all minority ideological cults, is impervious to external critique.

      I write it because if I don’t let this stuff out, my head will explode with rage. This will act as a pressure cooker release valve until the end of the year when I can walk away from teaching, and education, and will find it much easier to pretend I don’t care.

      Liked by 4 people

      • I blog on the Local Schools Network because I, too, would burst if I didn’t do so. I was retired but my anger at Gove’s ‘reforms’ woke me from my slumber. I even remember the date: 7 December 2010. That was when Gove ignored the OECD which had said the UK 2009 PISA results should not be compared with those from 2000 because the latter were faulty. But Gove disregarded this, put the flawed data in a press release and most of the media lapped it up.

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  3. Right on every point except one, that MATs cannot make a profit. Profit comes in all sorts of forms: Bonus payments to the oligarcs, oops sorry, directors…. selling off ‘surplus’ playing fields (oh for heaven’s sake our kids don’t have time for trivial things like sport), consultant fees…. often where te consultancy is a seperate company run by, well there’s a surpirse, the same directors, or members of the family of the directors of the MAT. Others buy in compulsory resources from parent companies, like the one that buys in an unusable curriculumpaying a fee per pupil to the American parent company. And finally there is the other company that has sole rights, bought for very little, to renting out school buildings. football pitches, wedding venues, gymnasium or weights rooms. Anyone who thinks the money goes back intothe individual school’s rescources is either nieve or, dare I say it, a chaff spreader.

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    • I was using the very strict limited definition of “profit” which was being used by supporters of the government as a straw man to argue this wasn’t privatisation.

      I’m well aware of just how many ways in which cash can be creamed off school budgets (and in some of the large academy MATs, we are talking budgets of hundreds of millions of pounds, so there’s a lot of cream there) for individuals. More and more of these cases will emerge as MATs become widespread.

      So I agree entirely with you. The reason I put that there is simply to burn their straw man before they can erect it.

      Hmm. Not sure if that phrase works as well as it did in my head….

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      • Academies are theoretically ‘independent’ schools. As such they can outsource their running to a for-profit education provider. Some academy trusts are merely charitable arms of for-profit companies: : The Learning Schools Trust operates academies on behalf of for-profit Kunskapsskolan, The Collaborative Academies Trust is sponsored by EdisonLearning and GEMS Learning Trust is the non-profit arm of GEMS Education Solutions. When such organisations become involved in education, it isn’t altruism but investment, Sam Freedman, ex-Gove adviser, told the Guardian (14 April 2008).

        And just in case there should be any doubt, Policy Exchange published ‘Blocking the Best’ shortly before the 2010 election. It advocated running schools for profit. Michael Gove was present at the launch and said he would let groups like Serco run schools. The link to the YouTube clip is here. http://www.localschoolsnetwork.org.uk/2011/10/gove-is-in-favour-of-profit-making-companies-running-state-schools/%23sthash.hzb5uyax.dpuf

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        • I have absolutely no doubt that this is the ultimate destination. First the system has to be fully privatised so that connected companies can cherry pick. Then profits can be made, either openly or through smoke and mirrors as they are at present.

          There are so many lies being bandied about by people who’ve got away with it for so long that I think they’ve started to believe their own propaganda.

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    • There is actually an accounting vehicle that is “profit” under a different term. Its called “reserves” and is basically profit sitting in the bank. Housing associations, and ALMO’s, use this method to show how financially stable they are, so that they can gain investment from outside sources now that (central government) grant is no longer available.

      Even if you have a MAT that is not a front for a profit making company, there will be the issue of MAT’s taking outside funding as CG cuts the funding for sixth forms, Etc…. MAT’s will have a simple choice, cross subsidise using the “school” kids funding to keep the sixth forms going, jettison them, or get outside funding which will be backed by the assets (the land and buildings). The issue then becomes who actually owns the schools and what is to stop the “lender” calling in the marker if insufficient returns are made and watching the (physical) assets vanish or being rented back to the MAT at vastly inflated rents and management fees – a kind of PFI on old buildings without actually having to do any pesky, or expensive, building.

      Oh and that also doesn’t take into account the fact that “depreciation” is a great way to remove profit, without actually removing a real profit. Some how all these hidden transfers of assets to the private sector are counted as depreciable assets… yet I often hear people say “but the schools and land still belong to us (the taxpayer), its just long (120 year) leases with pepper corn rents” (or words to that affect)… oh, there really is one born every second!

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  4. The conspiracy theorist in me wonders if the government is doing another one of their ‘outrageous suggestions’ after which there is much ranting and petitioning amongst the plebs. I predict they will then backtrack ever so slightly and we’ll all be ‘relieved’ that at least it wasn’t as bad as what they originally said.

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    • I don’t think so. It’s been a goal of the Tories to find ways of accessing the education budget for a long time now. They couldn’t when the LibDems were holding them back, but now the coast is clear.

      People often express disbelief at how chaotic, contradictory and downright mad a lot of Govian education policy has been. But if you take as your underlying thread the fact that the schools budget is one of the last remaining large public budgets which didn’t pass through private hands, and that 80+% of it was in salaries, then pretty much everything structural they’ve done becomes entirely consistent.

      Policies like PRP, destroying HE-based ITT, and enabling age/expense-related purging of older/more expensive teachers, reduce the wage bill, while MATs ensure that the budgets pass into private hands, some of which belong to arms attached to bodies who sit at the DfE top table.

      It’s about cash. It’s always been about cash. Follow the money: who gives it to whom, how can it be spent, who decides how to spend it, and who gets to watch what happens to it.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Yes, indeed. I can see that everything you say is probably true and certainly consistent with all the evidence. My speculation was only half-serious, based on previous government proposals. They get to do whatever they like in the end, regardless.

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  5. Great post, thank you! I’ve been wondering how much power these MATs will have – if, for example, a trust decided it was more cost effective to merge 3 schools into one, cramming the kids into portakabins on the playing fields, and sell off the other two sites, is there anything that could stop them? If they decided not to admit children with SEN, is that legally possible? It’s very worrying.

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    • I can sort of start to answer those questions, but can’t finish :

      The MAT needs to obey the law as it applies to stand-alone Academies, because the MAT is, in legal terms, effectively indistinguishable from a stand-alone Academy.

      Their responsibilities towards SEN students and admissions should be similar to a stand-alone academy. So whether they are selective, religious and so on, or not, will matter.

      Whether or not the MAT could sell off land is, in theory, subject to the same restrictions that the original schools would be subject to, if they had been stand-alone academies. So if the stand-alone academy had the right to dispose of its land and buildings pre-MAT, then the MAT should also be able to do so once it absorbed the previous school, in which case, yes, it should be able to close and sell one site, while moving the students to another.

      I’m deliberately not going deep into asset disposal and land ownership precisely because as soon as anyone tries to go there, others turn up saying the opposite, and I do not have the expertise to be able to comment with confidence on this very complex issue. As far as I know, there are significant differences depending on whether the precursor school(s) was a foundation school, and how the land is classified. There are also issues in the shadowy funding agreement process which established the relationship between DFE/EFA and the MAT. These can differ from MAT to MAT. It’s all very unclear.

      However, even if they couldn’t sell the site, they could still choose to concentrate all students on one site (subject to meeting H&S requirements), or they could choose to educate all SEN students on one site, and none on the other. Some MATs (including my favourites, Harris) are setting up selective education internally within the MAT, calling it a “Grammar School Stream”. Of course, they’re not allowed to set up new Grammar schools, but in theory they could establish a part of the MAT on one site which took streamed upper ability students, while the rest were educated elsewhere. Legally the same academy trust, so not breaking any laws. Cunning, hey?

      Any school worried that a MAT might have designs on disposing of its land should consult a lawyer, as it’s going to be a case by case thing.

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      • MATs can close schools – this nearly happened in Lincolnshire. West Grantham Academies Trust announced without consultation it was closing a small secondary academy in the village of Corby Glen. Parents were outraged. The Council wasn’t happy either – realising, rather belatedly, that their recommendation that all Lincolnshire schools become academies would make it impossible for them to manage school place supply. The academy was only saved when David Ross Educational Trust agreed to take it on.

        Re disposing of land. I think the Secretary of State has to agree. Nothing to stop her saying Yes though. And this raises the question of who gets any profit if the trust owns the freehold.

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        • The MAT isn’t closing a school, as such, because it IS the school. It is simply closing one of its sites which has maintained a distinctive name for branding/marketing purposes.

          I’m still going to stay away from land and assets disposals. I’m focussing on the central message – this is privatising our schools.

          I think the more we get drawn into technical issues – however important – the less impact that message will have.

          Like

    • That would be a yes.

      http://www.ilkestonadvertiser.co.uk/news/memories-of-bennerley-school-1-7697356

      They can also dump sixth form education and refuse to consult, supply information, or help the children affected.

      http://www.ilkestonadvertiser.co.uk/news/local/update-students-abandoned-as-ilkeston-sixth-form-to-close-1-7501667

      My impression from talking to parents was that even the school didn’t know it was going to happen and the decision was with the MAT (Multi Academy Trust) and was handed down from on high, with the school told to only give the official statement.

      The result was that the kids were told, you can stay on for the rest of the year and we’ll try to get some form of qualification, or sod off – your choice. (The kids were told before the parents had been informed, in an assembly!) To make matters worse, the teachers who would have taught the kids were jumping ship, so kids that stayed would have no one to actually, you know, teach, and the school was offering no help to the pupils as it was outside of their remit!

      The school just repeats its official statement.
      The MAT refuses to answer any questions.
      The LA says “nothing to do with us”
      The DfE says, its down to the trust.
      Ofsted says… Who knows, everyone had given up by this point.

      There also seems to be a new scandal emerging, that of no more higher education (even though the kids now have to be in education, work, or training, for longer). So disadvantaged kids have no option but to do a mickey mouse “apprenticeship” as a way of under cutting minimum wage, while the rich kids get to do A levels and university… as there will be no way to do A’s for the poor kids, unless they pay “fees” and then huge debts from university.

      And as if by magic, along comes another Academy that has decided to dump its sixth form…

      http://www.liverpoolecho.co.uk/news/liverpool-news/academies-accountability-schools-halewood-knowsley-11100105

      Like

  6. Agree with you on this and everything you say here echoes my own thoughts. Perhaps it is because we both have a background in business and have studied economics (although my economics knowledge is probably less than yours) that we can see through the smoke and mirrors. You’re probably quite surprised at this because I am a supporter of the new curriculum and, as you know, traditional education, so you’d probably think I’d be supportive of enforced academisation! However, I just think that what will be created will be corrupt, removed literally and metaphorically from the original purpose of educating and changing the lives of our youngest generation. Both you and I are angry at the prospect of funds being diverted to consultancies and middle men, for example. When I worked in finance, I knew of one school that paid 10K for a projector worth 1K, but the flow of money went via about 4 companies and out of the country before coming back in! Madness!

    My overwhelming feeling about this is one of powerlessness. I worry about how front line staff, teachers, are about to have their remaining rights stripped away and the misery that will ensue. Already we have talk of teachers never being able to qualify, and of course the downward pressure on wages that results from the transfer of power ‘up the foodchain’ so to speak, the endless one-year contracts, the fact that teachers in academies are having a worse time of it in terms of teaching, marking, assessment and planning burdens which stretch intro all the free time and consumes the soul of the teacher. The rhetoric of Teach First and government adverts for teacher training only obfuscates the reality which is that young, naive newbies will cling to their belief that they are ‘changing lives’ only to realise that, essentially, they are pawns, there to be used, burned out and then tossed aside to make way for the next wave of naive newbies.

    On this matter, I am entirely with you. There is nothing we can do though.

    Like

    • You assume I assume too much! As I’ve written before, I don’t buy the whole prog-trad argument, and I doubt any more than a tiny handful of teachers identify with one side or the other. As a result, I don’t assume that views on all educational issues come as a job lot.

      So it’s quite possible for someone who teaches like Wilshaw to object to Moynihan’s greed, and it’s also quite possible for someone who thinks the Ebacc is a terrible idea to back the enforced privatisation of the schools system.

      As a profession, we do ourselves no favours if we try to draw a line in the sand and believe everyone is one side or the other. Obviously you tend to get opinion “clustering”, because opinions usually emerge from a morass of personal values and bedrock beliefs. But some issues are so fundamental that they can cross the normal lines. Which, I guess, is why some Tory councils are objecting to this plan.

      It’s also why I get so frustrated when some commentators try to pass this off as a simple administrative act designed to tidy up a few bits here and there. It’s not: it’s a massive, fundamental shift in the very nature of education in this country, and whether schools should belong to, and ultimately be accountable to, their communities in the local public sector, or be sub-contracted to private companies by the national Government.

      Liked by 3 people

    • As I see it, there are three possible ways of defeating this.

      1) Pull back the curtain and ensure that the public see this for what it is – privatisation. We need to bang home that simple message again and again. Because the legacy of the pathetic last 6 years of opposition is that the privatisers have been successfully able to pretend that this is just some managerialist/legal/administrative change. They’ve basically been lying for years now. They are still lying. The White Paper, Osborne’s speech, and DFE press notices still talk of academies and “autonomy”. But there isn’t an informed soul left on either side of the argument who doesn’t know that schools in MATs have far less autonomy than LEA-maintained schools, and “removing schools from LEA ‘control'” is a lie! This obfuscation has been remarkably successful. Befuddle busy parents with guff about “curriculum freedoms”, “strong leadership” and so on, and few will dig in. Tell them that their beloved local school is going to be absorbed as a private franchise of a G4S subsidiary, and millions will be very upset indeed. The privatisation word is very important to public perception, which is why Govians are fighting very hard at the moment to pretend it is anything but what it is!

      2) Chaos – I don’t think the DFE has the capacity to do this. I know that current private Academy businesses don’t have the capacity to absorb these numbers. I doubt that the individual schools will have the capacity to do this, even if they wanted to, which they don’t, or they would have done already. I see the policy grinding to a halt in the face of systemic failure.

      3) Labour – if the Labour Party make a solid commitment thata future Labour Government would return all schools to a system of LMS under the aegis of local authorities, wiping out this disastrous and chaotic experiment in privatisation, then schools would be encouraged to delay as long as possible, hopefully till after 2020. If Labour equivocate, as Hunt did for all those years, then many schools will take the “better jump before we’re pushed” approach, because they’ll see this as inevitable. Labour needs to grow a pair and make a case for retaining locally accountable public education.

      Personally, though, I’m something of a pessimist. Of those, I think the most likely to happen is (2). I just don’t think Govians care about chaos, as long as they get their privatised school system.

      Like

      • To start with a disclosure/confession: up to about a week ago, I could see a sincere point in both the first generation Blair-Adonis academies (throw money and sparkle and flexibility at schools where not much else had worked) and the early Gove academies (if schools were working well, and wanted to do things with the freedoms, why not?). The last week or so has left me (as some sort of Tory, albeit a fairly wet one) thinking “stuff it… I’m not even going to try to defend this”. Putting nearly all English schools into MATs is an abomination, and the only saving grace is that, as you note, it’s never going to work.

        But I’m not convinced by the arguments I’m hearing against the plan… I wonder what you make of these;
        1. It’s not worth saying “This is bad, because it’s Privatisation”. It is, but that ship sailed long ago. More politically, the last Conservative to see Privatisation as a bad thing was probably Harold Macmillan. Seriously- the word “Privatisation” takes Conservatives back to a mid-80s Happy Place (other political worldviews are available).
        2. There might be a button-pushing argument about local monopolies. It’s bad enough at the moment if you are a parent or teacher in South London and think Harris are awful, or on the Isle of Wight and think AET are pointless. Running all the schools in an area is going to be easier managerially, attractive if you are a would-be oligarch, but ought to be hard to defend politically.
        3. I don’t see where the Poster-Free-Schools fit in this model. Whatever the rights and wrongs of the FS policy, it has allowed some individuals to create schools with a clear and distinctive direction which have added something worthwhile to discussion about teaching and learning. Some of these schools are much loved by Conservative politicians. Those schools simply aren’t going to happen in a system where- in effect- there’s a single huge institution spread over tens of sites.

        Not that I can see the policy changing. It feels like there’s too much of a zombie-system depending on a flow of fresh brains (sorry, academy system depending on a flow of fresh schools to convert) to be stopped. In the meantime, I’ll go back to preparing a bunker…

        Like

        • Taking each of your points in turn:

          1) Privatisation. I know that it’s not an argument to frighten many Tories, although actually I think even Tory voters have red lines over what should and shouldn’t be public services. Few of them will demand the renationalisation of Thomas Cook, but plenty would be horrified with privatisation of schools. Still, the argument that “yes, it is privatisation, and I don’t care because I believe private is always better than public” at least has the benefit of being honest and open, and while I disagree with it (obviously), I respect the right of the other person to be mistaken. What I can’t abide is that the Government are clearly designing a system which is, in every way, a privatised system of private companies subcontracted by the state to provide schools, while pretending that this is somehow just a minor adjustment of the dusty minutiae. It really isn’t. That position is dishonest, and I do not respect the lying liars pushing it. Anyway, I think a large majority of the electorate (of all persuasions) would be utterly opposed to privatising the schools system – it’s just they don’t yet understand it’s actually happening because of the lies. So I do think it’s worth banging this simple message home to try and pull back the curtain.

          2) This idea of monopolies gets Tories excited, but I guess it leaves me cold because I WANT a monopoly – a public sector one. The whole concept of competition between schools which draw from largely geographic catchment areas is so ridiculously flawed that my old economics professor would have bashed me about the head with a textbook if I hadn’t spotted a “natural” monopoly. It’s precisely because true competition is impossible (schools can’t expand easily or quickly, reality of distance/transport restricts choice, and so on) that one needs a benign monopoly with a public service ethos to run the system. Anyway, leaving that to one side, Harris, ARK and the like, if they achieve dominance in a given area (Harris have almost cornered large parts of South London) will be monopolists, and the history of private monopolists with little or no effective regulation is not a happy one. Again though, while you might consider that argument to gain traction with Tory politicians, I fear that I am much less idealistic than you. I think that a private monopoly raking in hundreds of millions of public pounds is precisely what the goal is, and always has been. The head honchos of the large chains are very closely connected to the top of the DFE and the Conservative Party. They know what they’re designing, and there have been market-theory-defying conflicts of interest ignored at every step of the way.

          3) In my opinion, Free Schools are largely an irrelevance to this issue. A dead-end policy created largely to allow Toby Young to set up a whiter-than-usual state school for his friends in an expensive enclave of West London. Gove then decided to do his Maoist chaos thing, and off we went. However, most Free Schools now being opened seem to be simple new branches of existing MATs, so the title has never been more inaccurate – they’re not schools, and they’re not free. The ones which already exist are just stand-alone academies at present. So for them, the issue is the same as for all other converter academies – will the Government force them into corporate brands alongside the remaining maintained schools.

          Fundamentally, I think your attack on this from the right is as pointless as my tribe’s attack on this from the left. You can criticise market failures, and the move away from autonomous competition, while my lot can criticise incoherence, democratic accountability and planning failures. Our common mistake is to think that the Government gives a stuff about either market ideology or effective provision of a public service. This policy is about where the money goes, who gets to control it, and who gets to see what they are doing with it. Daniel Moynihan’s salary is not a side-effect – it’s the planned result of this policy. There’s a lot more like that to come.

          Like

            • Yup. Just in case you think the coffin lid isn’t firmly nailed down yet, you might also consider that, while the Govian reforms have created hundreds of thousands of losers – teachers from the pay, T&C, and structural changes, and many lower ability children from the curriculum changes – they have also created a significant number of winners, who will publicly fight to protect their new privileges and wealth.

              Those winners are overwhelmingly drawn from the “leader” class (not just SLTs, but MAT and academy Directors, Trustees and Members), who have been showered not only with public praise bordering on the ridiculous, whether earned or otherwise, but have seen their pay packets grow much faster than their teachers, and have also been granted far more power than they wielded when under the real or notional eye of even the least active LEA.

              These people aren’t comic-book villains. They are on the whole normal people who happened to be in post when the opportunity knocked – just like the managers of previous public industries who suddenly found themselves recast as dynamic entrepreneurs in the new privatised world. But a lot of pockets and egos have been filled in education, and many have come to believe in their own Cult of the Leader. Many, as is the human tendency, see no reason why this untrammelled power and increased personal wealth is a bad thing for others.

              We’re all human; we’re all very capable of finding ways of assuring ourselves that what is best for us is also best for everyone else. Even when it isn’t. Some people are particularly good at such self-deception, and unfortunately they tend to correlate to a personality type which is often very ambitious and not wholly afflicted with a great capacity for self-reflection. They do have a tendency to turn up at the top of all organisations rather more often than other folks (read “Freakonomics” for some good examples of how dishonest or self-serving behaviour increases as one rises up through any organisation).

              So Dan Moynihan doesn’t sit in an underground bunker, stroking a fluffy white cat and laughing at the fools who allow him to pay himself £400k from school budgets. He doubtless thinks he’s worth every penny for his unique talents. Greg Martin isn’t suffering a crisis of conscience over the various ways in which he directed his school’s budget away from classrooms and into the pockets of himself and his friends; he will defend such action as entirely justifiable because of his “added value”. And so on.

              The irony is that really right-wing Govians often refer to the entire teaching profession as a “client group”, simply because it is in the public sector, and will argue that teachers’ self-interest naturally conflicts with the interests of the students. Teachers thus need, apparently, one of the most onerous ongoing monitoring and assessment systems in the world. Yet those same people are busy freeing their own very recently created client group of “leaders” from constraints such as having parents, teachers and LEAs with real power to monitor and question the actions of the people receiving and disbursing public money.

              We’ve done this before, in EAZs. I wrote about it elsewhere. It ended badly. Every single person in that system probably believed that they were adding value, helping children, and justifying their increase take from the school budgets. But frankly there was bugger-all evidence that was true. They still took from it though.

              I’ve already started to read reactive commentary from people in such positions, protesting loudly that accusations of self-interest are entirely misplaced, and nobody should ever question the people now in charge of MATs or Academies, or seek to return them to proper systems of scrutiny, because they’re all angelic souls working hard to help children. I’m sure many are. I’m sure many would not dream of using this opportunity to enrich themselves. Yet it will happen. It will happen a lot.

              We’ve already seen dozens of cases of graft, fraud and highly questionable purchasing policies come to light, in which MAT and Academy Trustees direct cash out of classrooms to themselves and their friends, and we haven’t even covered a quarter of schools with this system yet. I guarantee that there will be more such cases, and they will expand as MATs and academies expand. And every time, the other winners will argue that these were exceptional cases of bad apples.

              There will always be bad apples, but we probably shouldn’t build a rotten cart for the good ones.

              Like

            • Requires Improvement – one of my comments above gave a link to one of my Local Schools Network blog containing a link to a YouTube clip showing Michael Gove telling Policy Exchange he would let groups like Serco run schools. That was before the 2010 election. Funnily enough, that fact didn’t get much publicity during subsequent ‘reforms’.

              I think parents would be horrified at the thought of Serco running schools. Serco was publicly criticised by the Public Accounts Committee, it had to give up a contract to run Cornwall’s out-of-hours GP service amid allegations of fraud and bullying, and is causing chaos in Lincolnshire after being awarded a £71m to run the Council’s HR, finance and customer service (bills unpaid, wages incorrect, schools’ phones cut off because of non-payment; even sanitary bins being removed from schools’ toilets).

              When for-profit organisations become involved in education, it’s not altruism it’s investment. And if the investment doesn’t give a return, the company can withdraw as did JB Education in Sweden which suddenly closed its schools leaving hundreds of pupils without places. It’s even happened here (although to little publicity). Prospects Academies Trust, the charitable arm of Prospects Group, decided its involvement with academies was damaging its business model and wound up the trust. This left six academies in limbo.

              Link to the YouTube clip is here: http://www.localschoolsnetwork.org.uk/2011/10/gove-is-in-favour-of-profit-making-companies-running-state-schools/%23sthash.hzb5uyax.dpuf

              Like

      • disidealist,

        As a retired teacher on the other side of the world who spends far too much time on blogs, I’d like to comment on your point 2.

        24 years ago, Victorian education was thrown into chaos when the worst government of my lifetime was elected and started to import dumb ideas from England. Having been involved in politics as a former vice president of the Democratic Labor Party, an entity that disbanded in 1978, I joined the Australian Labor Party, worked on education policy development and campaigned to replace that government. The ALP won the 1999 election, commenced the long task of rebuilding education and won again in landslides in 2002 and 2006, partly because of its work in rebuilding education. It lost in 2010 allowing the Coalition to recommence the work of dismantling the education system, a system that 40 and 50 years ago, before it was taken over by the hard right, it supported. I kept working on policy and campaigning, and Labor won in 2014. This was the first time in 60 years that a Victorian government had been defeated after only one term. The new Labor government is well on the way to making Victorian the world leader in education. You may dismiss that as hyperbole. I don’t. Google should help you find Victorian Labor’s 2014 state election platform, which is being implemented. “Skills and Knowledge” is the education chapter. One example is that the government increased education spending by a record $3.9 billion over four years in its first budget. Another is the huge increase in special needs funding, with some schools in this state getting $1,000,000 more just this year. Another is the broadening of education targets beyond the basics of literacy and numeracy to the whole child. Another is the abandonment of the previous government’s idiotic performance rating system for teachers. Yet another is the abandonment of the previous government’s scheme to replace individual elected school councils with government-appointed district boards.

        I send links to articles on the disaster that is education in England to Labor policy-makers here so that they are well armed against further attempts to import idiocy from England to our prosperous land. This is no doubt no consolation to you. What ought to be consolation is that we are showing that bad ideas can be reversed. It just requires a few people who know what they are talking about to do more than whinge on the web and to take an active role in the political process. It will be frustrating. There will be disappointments. But determination can achieve wonders in the long run.

        I have no idea how the British Labour Party (or the any of the others) works, but I suggest a few teachers and parents find out and start working from the inside.

        Liked by 1 person

        • “It just requires a few people who know what they are talking about to do more than whinge on the web and to take an active role in the political process.”

          Ouch.

          I’m heartened by your success. I think it is essential to push this message more widely, because one of the greatest successes of the Govian “Glob” is to create the mood music that all this is “inevitable”. I’ve heard them repeatedly saying “well, of course, there’s no going back to the old system”, as if these GERM reforms are laws of physics, rather than political choices. So I agree with you there.

          Unfortunately, being able to do more than “whinge on the web” is quite tricky. Not least because for the last six years, Labour education policy has been fundamentally identical to Tory policy on this. Within the Labour Party, education policy has been firmly in the hands of Govians, most notably Twigg and Hunt. I’m uncertain as to where Powell’s sympathies lie, but my early impressions are that she passes herself off as “pragmatic”, which is usually a code word for “Govian who doesn’t want to openly admit it because her constituency aren’t”. It’s also worth bearing in mind that Labour politicians are just as prone as Tory ones to restricting their access to educationalists only to the “leader” class. And as I’ve noted elsewhere, the “leader” class have really done rather well out of Gove’s reforms, so even those who consider themselves traditionally Labour supporters are often rather more prone to support further privatisation and the resulting opportunities for “leaders” to obtain more power, status and cash, than average Labour teachers.

          I’m a Labour member, but getting access to Labour politicians on this is well nigh impossible, let alone influencing the actual policy.

          Like

          • Anonymous,

            I do not know enough of the personnel or the internal workings of the British Labour Party to give precise advice. The federal ALP has been susceptible to some Blairite ideas too, but the Victorian party has resisted them, and the states run education here. All I can say is that those who restrict their activities to whinging on the web need to find a productive avenue, and I don’t say it will be easy or quick. We are also more fortunate in that the Australian attitude is, “GFC! What GFC?” Victoria has run budget surpluses, usually of $1 billion-plus, continuously for the last 20 years, so it has resources that other jurisdictions do not.

            I have given a longer account at:
            https://community.tes.com/threads/don-t-give-up-the-eternal-battle.462500/.

            The Victorian Labor platform is at:
            http://www.viclabor.com.au/wp-content/uploads/2014/05/Victorian-Labor-Platform-2014.pdf.

            The Education State material is at:
            http://www.education.vic.gov.au/about/educationstate/Pages/default.aspx.

            Good luck!

            Like

          • Anonymous,

            I do not know enough of the personnel or the internal workings of the British Labour Party to give precise advice. The federal ALP has been susceptible to some Blairite ideas too, but the Victorian party has resisted them, and the states run education here. All I can say is that those who restrict their activities to whinging on the web need to find a productive avenue, and I don’t say it will be easy or quick. We are also more fortunate in that the Australian attitude is, “GFC! What GFC?” Victoria has run budget surpluses, usually of $1 billion-plus, continuously for the last 20 years, so it has resources that other jurisdictions do not.

            I have given a longer account at:
            https://community.tes.com/threads/don-t-give-up-the-eternal-battle.462500/.

            The Victorian Labor platform is at:
            http://www.viclabor.com.au/wp-content/uploads/2014/05/Victorian-Labor-Platform-2014.pdf

            Like

          • Anonymous,

            I do not know enough of the personnel or the internal workings of the British Labour Party to give precise advice. The federal ALP has been susceptible to some Blairite ideas too, but the Victorian party has resisted them, and the states run education here. All I can say is that those who restrict their activities to whinging on the web need to find a productive avenue, and I don’t say it will be easy or quick. We are also more fortunate in that the Australian attitude is, “GFC! What GFC?” Victoria has run budget surpluses, usually of $1 billion-plus, continuously for the last 20 years, so it has resources that other jurisdictions do not.

            Apparently I cannot post links, so I suggest you Google “Education State” and the “Victorian Department of Education and Training” for some details.

            Good luck!

            Liked by 1 person

            • As part of my evidence on what can be achieved by people wiling to make an effort, I will mention a few items from today’s Victorian budget. The government is predicting a $2.9 billion surplus, but it has still found an additional $1.1 billion to build, upgrade and maintain Victorian schools, including:
              $151 million for modernising, upgrading, and regenerating 39 schools,
              $287 million to acquire land to build or complete 23 new schools,
              $92 million to establish 10 cutting-edge Tech Schools at TAFEs and universities across Victoria,
              $68.5 million to upgrade 20 specialist schools in the poorest condition, including a $10 million boost to the Inclusive Schools Fund for students with a disability,
              $63.6 million for more modern relocatable classrooms to ease the pressure on growing Victorian schools
              $50 million for the new Shared Facilities Fund to help more schools become thriving community hubs
              $28 million to continue removing asbestos from school buildings
              $16 million for the new School Pride and Sports Fund to help strengthen community pride in schools and build sporting facilities for students
              $12 million to plan upgrades at 35 existing schools to accommodate growth and update old facilities.
              The Government is also spending $200 million to better maintain existing school facilities.
              There is also $10 million to build kindergartens and children’s centres in fast-growing areas.
              As well as capital expenditure, the government has found
              $87.3 million to support an extra 1750 students who are expected to be eligible for the Program for Students with Disability in 2017, and to increase the number of speech pathologists, language programs and language screener tools for students with autism and dyslexia
              $43.8 million for the Doctors in Secondary School program so that students can get the healthcare they need at school if and when required
              $21.3 million to support vocational education and training to prepare students for their future careers
              $9.3 million over two years to provide the latest digital education software for secondary students and teachers, covering both school computers and devices brought to school by students
              $35.7 million for English as an Additional Language (EAL) services to ensure that around 64,000 Victorian students get the most out of their education
              $4 million towards Community Language Schools who provide after-hours language education to students across Victoria
              $2.5 million to expand education programs for approximately 9000 refugee and asylum seeker students and their parents
              $1.5 million towards the Stephanie Alexander Kitchen Garden program, putting fresh produce and healthy eating on the table for Victorian students
              This is on top of the $754 million allocated over four years for special needs before the budget and past capital allocations for both government and non-government schools.

              You can find more by going to the 2016/17 Victorian budget website and the media releases:
              http://www.dtf.vic.gov.au/State-Budget/2016-17-State-Budget
              and
              http://www.dtf.vic.gov.au/State-Budget/2016-17-State-Budget/Budget-media-releases.

              All this good stuff is happening because people worked to make it happen, and it’s not the end of the mater either. Stay tuned.

              Like

            • As part of my evidence on what can be achieved by people willing to make an effort, I will mention a few items from today’s Victorian budget. The government is predicting a $2.9 billion surplus, but it has still found an additional $1.1 billion to build, upgrade and maintain Victorian schools, including:
              $151 million for modernising, upgrading, and regenerating 39 schools,
              $287 million to acquire land to build or complete 23 new schools,
              $92 million to establish 10 cutting-edge Tech Schools at TAFEs and universities across Victoria,
              $68.5 million to upgrade 20 specialist schools in the poorest condition, including a $10 million boost to the Inclusive Schools Fund for students with a disability,
              $63.6 million for more modern relocatable classrooms to ease the pressure on growing Victorian schools
              $50 million for the new Shared Facilities Fund to help more schools become thriving community hubs
              $28 million to continue removing asbestos from school buildings
              $16 million for the new School Pride and Sports Fund to help strengthen community pride in schools and build sporting facilities for students
              $12 million to plan upgrades at 35 existing schools to accommodate growth and update old facilities.
              The Government is also spending $200 million to better maintain existing school facilities.
              There is also $10 million to build kindergartens and children’s centres in fast-growing areas.
              As well as capital expenditure, the government has found
              $87.3 million to support an extra 1750 students who are expected to be eligible for the Program for Students with Disability in 2017, and to increase the number of speech pathologists, language programs and language screener tools for students with autism and dyslexia
              $43.8 million for the Doctors in Secondary School program so that students can get the healthcare they need at school if and when required
              $21.3 million to support vocational education and training to prepare students for their future careers
              $9.3 million over two years to provide the latest digital education software for secondary students and teachers, covering both school computers and devices brought to school by students
              $35.7 million for English as an Additional Language (EAL) services to ensure that around 64,000 Victorian students get the most out of their education
              $4 million towards Community Language Schools who provide after-hours language education to students across Victoria
              $2.5 million to expand education programs for approximately 9000 refugee and asylum seeker students and their parents
              $1.5 million towards the Stephanie Alexander Kitchen Garden program, putting fresh produce and healthy eating on the table for Victorian students
              This is on top of the $754 million allocated over four years for special needs before the budget and past capital allocations for both government and non-government schools.

              You can find more by going to the 2016/17 Victorian budget website and the media releases.

              All this good stuff is happening because people worked to make it happen, and it’s not the end of the mater either. Stay tuned.

              Like

              • To get a clear picture of how amazing Victoria’s investment is, you need to realise that the UK has 11 times its population and then convert the Ozzie dollar to pounds.

                On that basis, Victoria’s surplus is around £15 billion, its capital investment in schools this financial year is around £6 billion and its extra funding for disadvantaged students is around £4 billion over four years.

                Again, this and the other good things here are happening because people did not sit around typing their complaints into cyberspace. They acted.

                To provide some further insight, I add that the top salary for an unpromoted teacher in Victoria is c£47,000, and our pupil-teacher ratios, class sizes and teaching loads are lower than those in the UK. We don’t have OFSTED or anything like it. In fact, in my 33 years as a teacher I was never inspected or observed. I and my colleagues would have regarded such a thing as highly unprofessional. I am not trying to be boastful about things here because it’s not perfect. I’m just saying that the rubbish you put up with it is not necessary.

                I use the UK as evidence of what not to do. Perhaps some teachers there could start using Victoria as evidence of what to do.

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                • This is all fascinating stuff Chris. Unfortunately, you seem to be under the impression that our government gives a stuff about “evidence” or is open to persuasion.

                  We have a government of far right ideologues who take it as an article of faith that the private sector is always better at everything than the public sector. I don’t think their thinking goes much deeper than that. Hence their view is that if they can transfer all schools into private companies, then automatically all schools will “improve”.

                  Like all adherents of a faith, any evidence which contradicts such a belief (and we don’t need to go to Victoria for that – there’s plenty here), is simply ignored, or denied, or those who offer that evidence are derided and attacked.

                  I’d love to tell you that it was as simple as just stopping “sitting around typing our complaints into cyberspace”, but the bottom line here is that teachers in this country have argued against this for a decade now, have worked to rule, have taken strike action, and have taken every opportunity to try to create a more reality-based approach to schooling in this country. But we’re not in charge, and unfortunately, in a state as heavily centralised as England, we will not be able to do anything to change this until we get rid of the loons currently in charge of the government.

                  It’s notable that in Scotland and Wales, many of the more extreme examples of market philosophy trashing education have been avoided, because their governments have not been slaves to this neoliberal belief-system, and so have been generally more willing to work with teachers and evidence.

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                  • Also bot Scotland and Wales have systems of proportional representation.

                    In Victoria there are two houses, the upper house is elected by the single transferable vote, which is usually classed as a proportional system, and the lower house is elected by preferential voting which is usually regarded as an improvement on First past the post.

                    So for example, the Government of Victoria has a majority in the lower house based on actually getting a majority of the votes! Fancy that!

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                    • David Barry,

                      I used to nod my head in amazement at the weird remarks made about Australia’s voting system during the UK’s alternative vote referendum. There is no way that a party with 36 per cent of the vote could win a landslide here. It might start on 36 per cent, but it would have to get preferences to push it to near 50 per cent to actually win. On some occasions, a party with 49 per cent of the two-party preferred vote might beat the party with 51 per cent because of where the votes fell, but generally we can be confident that any government has the genuine support of the majority of the people. Additionally all bicameral jurisdictions here have at least one house elected by the single transferable vote method of proportional representation (which is the best voting system in the world), so almost every government usually faces one House that it does not control and has to negotiate with a range of third parties and independents to get legislation though; e.g., the governing party has controlled the Senate in only 12 of the past 60 years. Our Upper Houses are pretty much equal in power to our Lower Houses. We don’t have any hereditary House of Lords with the power just to delay stuff.

                      The Victorian government has 14 seats in the 40-seat Legislative Council, compared with 16 for the Coalition opposition and thus to pass legislation has to get at least seven more votes from the five Greens, the two Shooters and Fishers, the one Vote 1 Local Jobs, the one new DLP and the one Sex Party MLC. It seems to manage.

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                  • disidealist,

                    I have no doubt that the government you currently have is not amenable to reason. The one we had 20 years ago wasn’t either. What is required is to make sure that the alternate government is before it gets elected so that it will then reverse the madness that it inherits. The way to do that is to get involved in its decision-making process.

                    We here are painfully aware that some of the dumb ideas we have had to face come from British Labour, so a change of government may not mean the change of policy that you need.

                    I take your point about Wales and Scotland. Not all states here are the same. Even NSW, which has a National Party education minister, has not fallen for the neo-right agenda, so not all on the right of politics are susceptible to idiocy.

                    All I am really saying is that things do not have to be as bad as they are forever – as long as someone makes the effort to change them.

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  7. A great article. I noticed that you didn’t mention the land on which schools stand. From what I’ve read, all this is also transferred and can be partlally or wholly sold off for the profit of the shareholders.

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    • Like I said in an earlier comment, I tend to shy away from the issue of land ownership. That is fiendishly complex, and it’s so easy to make an assertion in good faith which is legally wrong, at which point those who want to push all this back under the carpet then descend to announce that EVERY argument opposing the privatisation is wrong. So I’m leaving the assets/land issue to those with greater expertise and thus security.

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      • It’s something that needs investigating, though. I’ve just contributed to the Education Select Committee’s call for evidence about MATs. One of the points I made concerned the ownership and value of land on which academies stand and whether it is a correct use of public money to donate freehold (or lay a charge on the MAT re the freehold – this is essentially a DfE loan to purchase the freehold) especially when MATs involved are subject to the Financial Notice to Improve.

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  8. hiya. thanks for such an informative article about this.

    i wondered if you have any idea how or if this will affect families like our who currently home educate children (currently with the approval of the LEA / education law)?

    cheers

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      • okay thanks for considering this.

        I’ve been sharing your article like mad. I genuinely had no idea it works like this, as the propaganda about academies is sooo different!

        You might be interested to know, we started home educating after our child labelled with ASD was pushed out of his mainstream local school using a Statement of SEN – just a term before it………. (you guessed it) became an academy.

        Activists like myself are worried sick this means the end of any semblance of inclusion in state schools (which admittedly has been quite imperfect in some schools anyway).

        The way I see it (which probably over simplifies things) is that some schools already have a poor record and poor levels of inclusion, they only give anything by force.. without that force coming from the LEA it’s may well be a lot worse.

        Decades of fighting for inclusion for everyone in our local communities seems about to go down the plughole.

        Will the special schools become academies too? I keep wondering that – not that I want them there, cos i believe in full inclusion. I can;t help wondering if this is intended to end up with all our kids back in special units – the specialisation of people with impairments makes a lot of money for a lot of businesses.

        In general with us adults there is a move back towards institutionalisation as they are removing our independence tools (eg, ILF, mobility, access to work, etc)

        Dennis

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  9. A thought after reading your excellent piece:

    In the emerging economic model where information is the principle commodity rather than assets or skills, those who hold systemic control over access to knowledge and the means of delivering knowledge (particularly in those key formative years) would be in a very strong position to bend that model to their will. I don’t think it’s any accident that this proposal massively centralises power directly in the DfE and with the SoS for Education.

    I completely agree that the end game is privatisation – but not in the sense of having a simple end goal of “making a profit” in financial terms. I think profiteering is likely to be an ugly bi-product of the disappearance of the most valuable kinds of knowledge behind paywalls (or pseudo-paywalls, e.g. unaffordable catchment areas), but the more I consider it the more I think that the covetous protection of knowledge – and tight political control over who gets access to it and who doesn’t – is the actual goal here.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Great article. What do you recommend to stand alone academies? That we stay stand alone as long as possible? My current school is a stand alone but wants to form a local MAT to stave off potential take over from larger MATS? The Regional.Schools Commissioners seem to have this discretionary power? Seems like we’re caught between a rock and a hard place.

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    • Find an Umbrella Trust, or form one if there isn’t one locally. These provide all the opportunities for collaboration which the Government claims is behind the move to MATs, but you retain your autonomy as a self-governing school. It won’t be complete protection, because the RSCs can still order you into a nearby handy MAT if they decide to, but it’ll be a much harder case for them to make that you are unsustainable and need “supported autonomy” if you’re already openly sharing resources and collaborating with other academies in such a structure.

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    • The direction of travel seems to be towards MATs – stand-alone academies can either risk remaining alone (this would only be likely to succeed if the academy is large, has an Ofsted rating of Good or better and strong results), join an existing MAT which risks giving up autonomy (if not now, then later) or become a MAT and swallow up other schools (thus reducing their autonomy).

      A stand-alone may become a MAT with the best intentions but trustees change (the requirement to have parent governors, for example, would be removed if the White Paper becomes law). And the temptation to enforce trustees’ own views on their client academies may be great (as is the temptation to raise CEO or executive principals’ salaries).

      Alternatively, form a group such as the Birmingham Education Partnership which is dedicated to the education of every child in a local area rather than just the children in one academy or multi-academy trust. http://www.bep.education/about/

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  11. I’m close to the end of my career and already suffering from schools’ budget constraints which lead to them employing NQTs over experienced (in my case, UPS3) teachers. I worry that there will be a lack of educationalists running the school and their budget. The comment regarding possibly funding one school favourably over another is disconcerting; yes, it may be to support a weak school but could just easily be directed to a school with the intention of it having a high profile.

    I’ve taught in a small independent school where the curriculum was very narrow; the MFL was not European, there was no Music on the curriculum nor a Technology subject. At one meeting, it was made clear by the Headteacher he did not need to appoint qualified teachers nor follow the National Curriculum ( like it or loathe it, the NC is there and serves a purpose). That may be ok in this school’s particular case but what voices will be able to argue for the appropriate curriculum for the pupils. A broad and balanced curriculum is essential but, from what has been said, it appears that these academies do not have to follow the National Curriculum.

    Aside from the educational concerns, I don’t understand how the education budget will work. Will our money be given to private insitutions?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Funny that. Almost as if we could all predict it.

      The DFE sometimes talks about “leaders” in schools as if they’re some sort of superior beings. In actual fact, they’re just people, and as in every occupation, there’s a tendency for certain personality types to be more prevalent at the top than in the rest of the structure: very ambitious, very self-confident, and often willing to place scruples to one side when self-interest clashes with them. That’s precisely why we need oversight at the top.

      The more power a person wields, and the more cash they have access to, the more oversight they need. At present, we have this principle completely the wrong way around in education, with onerous structures of oversight over classroom teachers, and huge opportunities for corruption, greed and incompetence at the top levels of academies and MATs.

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      • Perry Beeches joins the line of multi-academy trusts once highly-praised by Michael Gove which have since been criticised for their finances: Durand Academy Trust (head Sir Greg Martin was knighted for services to eduction), Barnfield Federation (headed by Sir Peter Birkett knighted for services to further education), Cuckoo Hall Academies Trust (head Patricia Sowter received a CBE for services to education; Gove was complicit in publicising Sowter’s misleading claim that she’d turned round Cuckoo Hall from Inadequate – not true, Cuckoo Hall had emerged from special measures in 1999, about three years before Sowter became head and the last Ofsted before she appeared said it was a good school).

        Gove set these academies and their superheads as examples which others should follow. If the others do tread the same path then we can expect a lot more of these kinds of stories.

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    • Liam Nolan, Perry Beeches’ head, director and Accounting Officer, was on the BBC before the critical reports were in the public domain (at least they weren’t on the DfE website). He claimed the criticisms were just a little confusion about company and employment law – these used to deal with by the LA before Perry Beeches became a multi-academy trust. ‘I’m not a businessman; I’m a headteacher,’ he said.

      But the two critical reports show things were rather more serious than Nolan claimed. It appears Nolan had enough business expertise to set up Liam Nolan Ltd, a private company with just one shareholder, which by a roundabout way provided Nolan with an extra income. See my blog here for further details: http://www.localschoolsnetwork.org.uk/2016/03/damning-reports-show-problems-at-perry-beeches-were-more-than-a-little-confusion-over-the-law

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  12. Thank you Disidealist for your superb analysis and deconstruction of the proposed policies. Thank you also Janet Downs for your illuminating contributions. May I buy you both a metaphorical drink while I consume a real one to your health.

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  13. A great piece, and sadly it confirms what others have said.

    I’m not a teacher (the wife is) but sadly I’ve worked in the existing, before 2010, model that the govt is now foisting on the compulsory sector. FE was ‘incorporated’ under the 1992 Act, and boy, it’s been an amazing journey! When I started we had ten pages of courses in our local rags, we had 100,000 students coming into our various sites, we struggled for cash, as all learning was now centrally funded, but we coped. Then, as so many Colleges have found, the money grew ever tighter, the courses were slashed (or dumbed down at Whitehall’s direction), the commitment to life long learning dumped (and our (e)mission statement became more ‘business friendly’ as a result), more and more tutors were made redundant, and the current generation are mainly P/T agency staff as Colleges shed F/T staff as quickly as they could from ’92 onwards.

    Now FE is an educational landscape over which tumbleweed can be seen blowing… Sites have vanished under redbrick, new sites house barely 30% of the student numbers, lecturer numbers are at an all time low, as are courses. Management are doing pretty darn fine, with hefty salaries, Byzantine mini empires, and no accountability to anyone, but hey this is Tory Britain!

    The only people who have come out of the Tories ‘Incorporation’ okay, are the senior managers. The students have lost out through declining standards (from govt), through drastically fewer courses, and through lecturers having less and less time to spend with them. Cover for students with disabilities has gone from top class to shocking, and being in the game still is due to stubbornness, not because you are enjoying it any more.

    This is what I predicted would happen to Compulsory Education under the Tories, and sadly, it’s all coming horribly true..

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  14. Disappointed:

    I have spent a long time myself getting to grips with the structures of MATS, and how their Governance works. (It has been a help to me that I have been a charity trustee.) I really liked your account which I am delighted to say, that from everything I know I can confirm. However there may be a nuance that (perhaps space constraints) you missed.
    Academy Trusts have to be “Companies not for profit limited by Guarantee “. which are then registered as charities. In fact almost all charities have this structure.

    Limited companies consist of members. In the case of a for profit company like Marks and Spencer, they are shareholders, who get a share of the profits in the form of a dividend. In the case of a not for profit company, the company consists of members, who are instead of shareholders, and do not get dividends.

    If a for profit company goes bust, the shares loose all their value, but the shareholders “liability” is limited to the value of their shares. If a not for profit goes bust, then the members are liable to pay a fixed sum towards the cost, usually a pound.

    So when you set up an academy trust, the original founders of the Trust, the ones who actually sign the form, are the members. From then on how new members get appointed is regulated by the particular rules the founding members agreed. Its is the members, meeting in a general meeting who appoint the Board, by a majority vote. Board members do not have to be members. Consequently if you have a majority of the members you control the whole thing.

    Two examples of how this works:-

    1.West London Free School is an MAT consisting of four schools, one secondary, three primaries.

    It has just four members, two of whom are Toby Young and his wife. As decisions by members require a majority vote, if the meeting has a full attendance of four, Toby Young and his wife, if they have an agreed position can veto any decision. If they have the agreement of only one other member they carry the day.

    It is this group that appoint the Board. Toby Young was the founding Chair of the Board, being elected to that position by a Board whose members he had had the decisive (with the help of his wife) role in appointing. In due course this Board, under his chairmanship decided to create the paid role of Chief Executive of the Trust. Also in due course the Board set about recruiting a suitable person to full this post. It turned out that, after careful consideration, the conclusion the Board came to, under Toby Young’s chairmanship, was that the best person for the paid job of Chief Executive was Toby Young. The appointment was duly made and on the morning of the day Toby Young became Chief Executive of the Trust, he resigned as Chair of the Board which had appointed him to this job.. Please note there is nothing illegal in this.

    You will see that the practical effect of this is that as CEO of the Trust, Toby Young is accountable to the Board, and the Board is accountable to the members, and Toby Young and his wife make up half the members.

    2. Bellevue Ltd is a for profit company which runs a number of for profit, fee paying schools. According to the company its shareholders consist of a number of families based in London and Switzerland. Bellevue Ltd has set up a MAT called “Bellevue Place” in collaboration with another for profit company Place Ltd. Place provide consultancy services to people setting up Free Schools. The members of this trust are the two limited companies. The Board they appoint and which runs the MAT consists half of paid employees of Bellevue and paid employees of Place.

    The MAT has so far set up seven Free Schools, at a capital cost to the taxpayer according to Bellevue of about 26 million pounds.The MAT buys in services when relevant from Bellevue and Place. Please note there is nothing illegal in this.

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    • This is a very interesting bit of research, David. Thank you for sharing it. There are some who are still claiming that the enforced privatisation of all our schools into such organisations is to do with “standards”, “autonomy” or even “innovation”.

      I think we all know it’s about the cash. For years now, I’ve been saying “follow the money”. We need a few more journalists (and Labour politicians) to start doing just that.

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  15. Yes of course the White Paper proposes the privatisation of schools. But answers sought on this: since the state has constructed and controls the ‘market’, is this better described as corporatism or a fascist economic mode? It does not look like nationalisation, as a number of commentators are suggesting.
    That aside, my study of education privatisation (https://www.tuc.org.uk/sites/default/files/Education_Not_For_Sale_Repor_Report.pdf) suggests the question of why the money people are getting involved in the English schools market in the absence of the possibility of profit. Currently, apart from inflated salaries for staff, the only potential is through related party transactions, which we can guess are far more common than yet discovered but as usually practised are unlawful, or through the lawful supply of ancillary services to ATs.
    Surely even the Tories are not mad enough to be planning to insert a clause (presumably at a late stage) into the promised Bill allowing ATs to make profit? This would involve unravelling their charitable status. My report also showed that prospects for edubusiness profits are poor in North America and Europe because spending by the state, the only source of income, is being squeezed. The smart money has moved towards expansion of private schools in faster growing economies.
    Thus the question remains, why? It does very much look like blind ideology rather than the real prospects for big bucks, enough to get private equity interested in a big way.

    Liked by 1 person

    • In law there’s nothing stopping academy trusts set up as charities from out-sourcing their operation to for-profit providers. Gove made that clear before the 2010 election when he said he would let groups like Serco run schools (see my comment above 21 March 4.08)

      Like

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