London Indymedia

Teachers Occupation Defends Wembley Sports Ground From Privatisation

IMC-UK Features | 17.07.2008 20:52 | Education | Free Spaces | Social Struggles | London

Breaking News: Wembley Sports Ground Re-Occupied. Support Needed | Grass Roots Alliance for Social Spaces (GRASS) Call Out | Eviction Postponed for Wembley Sports Ground; New Threats.

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

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

On Tuesday 15th July Brent Council representatives sought a court order for the immediate eviction of the site, but by the afternoon around 50 local people had turned up to show support, and the eviction didn't take place. On Wednesday 16th, teachers and local people continued the occupation despite renewed threats of forced eviction and possible arrests. They took permanent positions on the roofs of the building next to the sports grounds, with at least one protestor locking on to the main mast. By then it was generally expected that the final eviction attempt would happen soon and 'by surprise, probably in the early morning, and so they renewed their call for urgent solidarity and for people to go up there and show their support. On the early morning of Friday 18th, the teachers and their supporters' expectations came true when specialised bailiffs turned up at 6.30am and finally removed the last protestor resisting on the roof, who had the support of the crowd that had gathered at the site's gate [Report and Video]

Reports and Photos of the Occupation: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4
Protestors Video Interviews and Coverage: 1 | 2

11-07-08: Supporters Gather At Wembley Tent City
11-07-08: Supporters Gather At Wembley Tent City

Background Story by Mark

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

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

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

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

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

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

Other criticisms about Academies:

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

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

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

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

The Tent City Occupation:

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

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

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

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

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

Join the Campaign Against Academisation. Support the teachers, businesses and residents of Wembley, oppose all UK school privatisation, oppose all education for profit.

Wembley Tent City Occupation, Bridge Road, Wembley:

Nearest Tube: Wembley Park (Metropolitan Line)
Turn left out the station, walk up the hill to main junction on Bridge Rd, turn left, walk 100 metres, turn left into the gate way to Wembley Park Sports Ground and you're there.

Buses: From Central London: 18 from Euston to Sudbury and then the 182 to Wembley Park Station (the N18 runs past Sudbury. Get off at Wembley triangle from which Bridge Road is a 15 minute walk past Wembley Arena). Other routes: 83 from Golders Green Stn, 302 from Kensal Rise Stn, 297 from Willesden Bus Garage.

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