harlem.jpg  Students Protesting the Expansion of Canada's Harlem Charter Schools Geoffrey Canada - Barack Obama's education guru has told the UK government that the the teaching unions are the 'biggest threat' to reform The new right wing government in the UK wants to increase the atomisation of public education by bringing in so-called 'free' schools - run by private individuals and which can be administered by education for-profit corporations like GEMS and EDISON. The teaching unions are opposed to this because it will lead to increasing segregation in schools where some parents - with the time, know how and contacts - can get a better funded education for their children than others. Such schools would be outside the democratic control of local authorities and would not need to recognise teaching unions. In one high profile case in London a well known journalist - Toby Young - wants to start a school where Latin would be compulsory for the first three years, where he would be the chair of governors and where the curriculum would be decided by an unaccountable group of parents. The funding for this school would come out of the public purse in a borough where there are surplus school places - thus depressing the funding for other schools in the area.  Geoffrey Canada has told the UK ruling conservative party conference that teaching unions are 'killing the innovation needed to change children's lives' . He quotes charter schools in the US and in his own case he says: "Our charter schools were not unionised. My contract with my teachers is fair, and is two pages. The union contract is 200 pages. You cannot manage your business when you cannot make any decision without going back to 200 pages worth of stuff." In fact charter schools in the US have a very patchy record - even in terms of the government's own yardstick - SAT's results - with many performing worse than their local authority equivalents. Canada goes on to say: "Until the unions come up with a real plan for improving schools that have failed – that doesn't do what they have done [in the past] – I think they don't have a really strong argument why they should be in this conversation in terms of what the future is going to be." In fact of course the UK unions do produce quantities of research into the way education should be improved which is all ignored by government. But without doubt the main break on education improvement is the chronic underfunding of schools - which is set to get a lot worse in the UK and elsewhere and of course the increasing gap between rich and poor in the UK - where grinding poverty and increasing unemployment or precarious work are causing despair and dislocation amongst many communities. Just as in the Global South where teachers are some of the few people struggling aginast unimaginible odds to help children in poverty realise their potential and yet are held responsible for the dire state of education (see http://www.teachersolidarity.com/blog/world-bank-blames-teachers-and-their-unions-for-mdg-failures/#more-680) - so neo-liberal education spokespeople like Geoffrey Canada blame teaching unions for years of underfunding and social dislocation. To read Geforrey Canada's speech in more deatil go to: http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2010/oct/05/geoffrey-canada-education-unions