By Becky Crocker
The 2 March demonstration in Westminster against the Government's plans for schools, called by Ealing NUT, was about a hundred strong. Despite the poor turn out, activists from NUT, UNISON and other unions showed determination to defeat this bill.
The demonstration was followed by a rally at Westminster Central Hall, where a number of speakers called for an end to selection and demanded high quality, publicly-funded and accountable local schools.
The NUT's Deputy General Secretary Christine Blower advocated wholesale opposition to the bill, not a compromise with the government for concessions which leave private business involved in delivering education and operating outside of democratic control.
John McDonnell emphasised the scale of the backbench Labour rebellion against the bill, which it is very likely that the Government will only succeed in passing with Tory votes.
Melian Mansfield of the Campaign for State Education, Allen Jarman from Unison and Mark Serwotka from PCS also spoke. Mark Serwotka put the bill in the context of Blair’s agenda of privatising public services and the need for a public sector alliance to fight it.
The most stirring speech, however, came from Jill Russell of the Tyneside Anti-Academies Alliance in Blair’s Sedgefield contituency. She told how they lobbied Blair, blocking roads and council chamber doors to force politicians to listen. As popular support grew, the school under threat spoke out on their side and a potential private backer pulled out of the scheme. Jill finished by pointing out that “Parents don’t want a ‘choice’ between good and bad schools — they want good schools everywhere”.