Top salaries of £200k plus in academies sector in England – schools crumbling due to lack of funding

“Unjustifiably high salaries use public money that could be better spent improving children’s education and supporting frontline teaching staff.” This warning came from the cross-party House of Commons Public Accounts Committee (PAC) in 2018. These salaries are far higher than headteachers and local authority directors of children’s services were paid before the existence of multi-academy trusts. Between 2017 and 2019 the Government made some attempts to deal with these exceptionally high salaries but this did not last. In 2021/2022, 13 of England’s largest trusts paid at least £200,000, with an average top pay of £223,000, a 12% rise in four years. It hardly needs pointing out that those at the chalkface are struggling to manage on their salaries and are leaving the profession in record numbers.

Meanwhile, to our shame, the number of schools with structural issues, leaks, boarded-up windows, broken heating and poorly-functioning lighting has risen. In December 2022 the Department for Education (DfE) raised the risk level of a number of school buildings collapsing from “critical – likely” to “critical – very likely”. Astonishingly, the Government does not know which schools are at risk. Schools with asbestos have had the asbestos sealed in rather than removed, but the seals are beginning to crumble. Some subjects cannot be taught because of ageing equipment and outbreaks of mould. NEU Health and Safety reps do what they can and achieve some positive results, but there is not enough funding. As one rep pointed out: “MPs wouldn’t sit in House of Commons if there was water dripping down on them”.

Care4calais restores human dignity but is up against the Government’s hate-filled rhetoric

It is rarely reported that attacks on our refugees are increasing in some of our towns and cities. They have been chased by gangs and physically attacked, sometimes so seriously that they have needed hospital treatment. There has been verbal abuse, filming and general harassment, including in school. Clare Moseley, founder of Care4Calais, commented, “There is general hostility, suspicion and wariness for which this Government’s hateful rhetoric must be held responsible”.

When Suella Braverman and others use words such as ‘invasion’, imply that refugees are criminals, by constantly using the term ‘illegals’, and demonstrate callous indifference when they drown in the English Channel, they fuel distrust and antipathy. But, Clare Moseley adds, “There is a strange double standard; Ukrainian refugees are ‘real’ refugees, genuinely deserving of our sympathy and help”.

Refugees have often been “ostracised, vilified and dehumanised, be that through persecution or imprisonment and torture”. Care4Calais aims to restore human dignity and helps people feel human again, often contributing in little ways that make a difference and help people to feel welcome and that they are treated just like anyone else.

Instead of cruel abusive rhetoric our Government should at least ensure refugees have safe passage, provide them with decent accommodation, reduce the backlog in asylum claims and allow asylum seekers to work, so that they don’t have to exist on the paltry sums they are allocated. Their pittance was increased to £45 a week in December 2022, and this tiny rise, to a sum that no one in this country can survive on, only came about because the High Court ordered Suella Braverman to make an immediate increase. Even without her substantial additional wealth, Braverman has a salary which provides her with a weekly sum of £2,996.48.

Windrush – a historic injustice makes headline news – and even the BBC speaks out

“Hundreds of long-term sick and mentally ill people from the Windrush generation were sent back to the Caribbean in what has been described as a ‘historic injustice’,” the BBC has found.

Unusually for the cautious BBC, the scandalous treatment of some of the Windrush generation has made their news headlines. Perhaps they are less concerned about criticising a government that was in charge of the country decades ago than they are about risking rocking the boat today.

Documents from the National Archives, which have remained classified until very recently, have now been released and reveal that at least 411 people were sent back to the Caribbean during the 1950s and 1960s. However, the record-keeping at the time was poor, and the numbers concerned may well have been higher. It was claimed that the scheme was a voluntary one, but families were separated and in some cases never saw their loved ones again. It is likely that this was unlawful, as many of those involved may been extremely vulnerable and not have had the mental capacity to agree to leave.

The Windrush generation was invited to the UK, and this year marks the 75th anniversary of their arrival. These people, who generally arrived with a sense of hope and optimism, and their descendants have had appalling treatment for the most part since their arrival up to the present day. Jacqueline McKenzie, the immigration lawyer who represented many of the the victims of the scandal in 2018, has remarked: “It’s absolutely shocking that this was happening. Lives have been destroyed. The state now owes it to the descendants of people to provide them with answers and some sort of redress”.

But BBC aids climate deniers

Environmentalist website DeSmog reports that, despite the science consensus on the climate emergency, the BBC continues to air unchallenged views by climate sceptics. On Monday 19th June Today included a section featuring ‘energy consultant’ Kathryn Porter who spoke about how our growing reliance on renewable energy for electricity would increase the risk of blackouts due to the intermittency of wind (a favourite denier talking point), in a segment on the National Grid’s ‘demand flexibility service’ scheme. Her views were unchallenged as she was the sole interviewee. Her affiliations to the gas sector and track record working in finance with fossil fuel companies remained unmentioned. The Beeb also failed to raise Porter’s track record of publicly casting doubt on established science on human-caused climate change, or her highly critical stance on renewable energy. It is still a case of profit before people, even as extreme weather events intensify and there may be no people left from whom to make a profit.

At least 41 women die, burned, shot or stabbed in Honduras prison

A riot in Tamara prison has left at least 41 women prisoners dead, and a stash of pistols, knives and machetes were found after the riot. Most of the women were burned, but some were stabbed or shot. It is not known how the weapons were smuggled into the prison, but it is believed that the riot was planned by the street gangs or ‘maras’, specifically a gang called Barrio 18, who had made threats for some time before the disturbance began. It appears that the authorities were aware that it was planned. This incident was thought to be a response to government attempts to deal with corruption and illegal activity in prisons, where the gangs exercise a great deal of power. Honduras has a history of deadly prison incidents, and, in 2012, 361 inmates died in a fire at the Comayagua Penitentiary.

Latin American prisons have become well known for violence, usually connected with gang rivalry. At least seven prisoners were killed in a gang fight in a prison in Quetzaltenango, Guatemala. Most of them were beheaded. Just under two years ago, 118 prisoners were killed in gang violence in the Litoral prison in Ecuador.

Prisons where inmates can easily access guns and grenades and other weapons are clearly failing to function. However, it is likely that the prison reforms being discussed in some Latin American countries, such as detaining rival gangs in separate prisons, will not solve the problems. This is not to say that prison reform is not urgently required. The kind of prisoner violence that exists is organised and systemic and surely reflects the violence between different gangs outside prison. This is where reform is most needed but is likely to be almost impossible to implement. For these are not temporary or poorly-organised street gangs but are institutionalised and have become more serious criminal enterprises.

Water shortages in Uruguay

Uruguay has declared a water emergency in response to severe drinking water shortages, reports the North American Congress in Latin America (NACLA), after months of drought and what critics say is a failure to prioritise the public good over corporate interests. The Washington Post reports that, in order to counter the unprecedented drought, central authorities are allowing chloride and sodium to be added to tap water, giving it the taste of untreated salt water.

Life in prison for exposing war crimes?

Julian Assange has been subject to psychological torture while incarcerated in Belmarsh prison since 2019. He has been detained in one way or another in the UK since 2010. He exposed war crimes and corruption and has had false evidence used against him. The CIA plotted to assassinate him. If he is extradited to the US, he faces a 175-year prison sentence.

A small but determined rally took place in Parliament Square on 24th June. A life-size sculpture of Assange with the whistleblowers Edward Snowden and Chelsea Manning standing on chairs and an empty chair was unveiled. The empty chair was for members of the public to stand on and speak if they wished. The sculpture was created by Davide Dormino. Speakers included Apsana Begum, John McDonnell and Stella Assange, Julian’s wife. We are approaching the last chance for Julian as his final appeal is imminent and a further day of action is planned for 8th July. He deserves our support. He has already paid a high price so that we could learn the truth. As Stella Assange explained: “Julian’s case is the most righteous case in the freedom of speech this century”.

Looking back in time – Algeria 61 years ago

The French ruled Algeria as a colony for 132 years from 1830, when they invaded the capital, Algiers, until after the brutal war for independence which lasted for eight years. This war came to an end when the Evian Accords were signed in March 1962. Between 1954 and 1962, approximately 1.5 million Algerians are estimated to have died. The French engaged in savage repression, especially of the mujahideen, who were fighting for independence. Independence from France was achieved on 5th July 1962.

Many writers on Algeria have concentrated on the later years of French colonial rule in Algeria, but there is evidence of the increasingly systematic use of violence against unarmed civilians from the outset by the Armée d’Afrique, the term used for the troops which were stationed in North Africa from 1830 until the end of the Algerian War in 1962. Algeria was largely under military administration until 1870, but, when this came to an end, the situation did not improve. Confiscating cultivable land and crushing resistance, so typical of colonisation, took place on a large scale. This continued until Algerian peasants moved to marginal lands and forests. One of the long-term effects of this displacement was widespread environmental degradation. And of course Algeria has had to deal with multiple problems inherited from a colonial past. In 2017 Macron acknowledged that the colonisation of Algeria was “a crime against humanity”.

European colonialism has now been recognised as never being benevolent. It was entirely motived by self-interest and marked by repression, genocide, domination, displacement, exploitation, plunder and other accompanying evils. The Europeans rewrote the history of the parts of the world they conquered, and the colonial legacy has made it virtually impossible for nations to change the character of inherited colonial economies, so that the majority of citizens can benefit. Economic decolonisation did not take place at independence, and, despicably, the corporate world and financial institutions such as the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund (IMF), and the World Trade Organisation have ensured that the exploitation continues to this day.

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