As expected, academies and 'Free' Schools were much less likely to have closed on the November 30th strikes. This is the thin end of the wedge that ultimately is aimed at breaking teachers unions, scrapping national agreements, and moving to atomised local 'deals'.
In May 2010, when the current government were elected, there were 203 academies. As 2011 comes to close there's about 1,300. Academies are state sector schools run independent of local authority control and with a private sponsor. New Labour started all the academies business in 2000 - apparently there was some internal concerns that this was the sweeping hand of privatisation - 'NOT AT ALL!' cried New Labour and eleven years later, schools are now seriously expecting that, at the current exponential growth rate, they'll soon have no choice but to opt-out of local authority control, or be left behind.
On November 30th, the biggest strike in 75 years, a much larger proportion of academies and Free Schools were open compared to regular state schools (which are obliged to follow recognition agreements and national pay & conditions documents). 44% of academies were open, compared to 30% of 'normal' state schools.
In Free Schools the picture is even worse. Free Schools are also independent schools in the state sector, planned to be set up by local parents, teachers and voluntary groups. They would also be free to set their own pay & conditions for workers, and as predicted by critics, most involve a private sponsor - the 63 Free Schools already approved or planned for 2012-13, 23 are from existing schools, 2 are existing independent schools and 12 are being set up by faith groups, with many more being opened by charities that already run large 'chains' of academies; ARK, E-ACT, and the Harris Federation. 24 actually opened in September this year - and 19 of those were open on strike day. That's a whopping 80% of Free Schools open on the biggest strike in decades, with most other schools closed, and with all teaching unions, and support unions out except scab union Voice, and heads union ASCL.
The academies/Free Schools programme is entirely about finally slamming the coffin shut on the unions in schools. Once a threshold of schools are academies, and thus free to set their own pay and conditions, it will become more difficult for schools to remain without a private sponsor, and once and for all destroying national agreement with unions. The academies minister, Lord Hill, has already made this clear:
"We consider the ability to set the pay and conditions of staff to be one of the key freedoms of academy status. Consequently, the existence of any such agreement will be a significant factor in the assessment the secretary of state will make before deciding whether or not to enter into a funding agreement for an academy."
This is the government calling out unions and schools. To the unions it's 'we're gonna make sure you have no presence in schools again', to the schools it's 'soon you're not gonna have a choice but to become an academy... and when you do, don't even fucking THINK about recognising unions'.
Another kick in the balls to teachers unions is the plans to move toward regional pay bargaining in the next few years. In a whimper of ironic insignificance, Philip Parkin of scab union Voice wrote a wee letter into the TES:
"So much for the independence of pay review bodies. The well below inflation cap on public sector pay rises - following a two-year pay freeze and while asking public servants to pay more in pension contributions and work for longer - is inflammatory and unbelievable. This is a cruel slap in the face for public servants. Regional pay rates would be harmful and divisive, and discourage movement to more deprived or isolated areas of the country."
A slap in the face and then some. Parkin adds,
"Voice supports the current national system and will continue to work to ensure the best possible pay and conditions for its members."
So how will Parkin's union fight this? Given Voice are an ideological scab union, that refuse to strike, undermined the November 30th strike and are opposed in principal to doing pretty much anything that might actually threaten the status-quo, it'd be an exaggeration to even call his statement a fart in the wind.