Please find below the minutes of our June meeting. Our next meeting will be held on Wednesday 1 July at 7.30 p.m., in the library room upstairs at the CB2 Bistro, Norfolk Street, Cambridge CB1 2LD.
Cambridge People's Assembly, 3 June 2015
- Secretary's report
- Treasurer's report
- Stop Baseline Testing campaign
- People's Question Time in Cambridge, 11 June
- Transport to national demonstration, 20 June
- Housing campaign by Cambridge Unite Community
- TTIP campaign
- Other business and announcements
- Next meeting
The venue was the CB2 Bistro library, at 7.30 p.m. Present were Anna, Hilary (acting chair), Martin B., Maud (minute taker), Neil, Richard M., and Tom. Names may have been changed.
Apologies were received from Jon, Kamila, Olivier, Simon, and Steve.
The minutes were approved.
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Richard had submitted a motion to Unite for a donation of £300.
Anna was invited to the Cambridge People's Assembly (CPA) to present the National Union of Teachers (NUT) campaign against baseline testing. Anna is not a representative of the NUT but campaigns as a parent.
The government has decided to assess children within their first six weeks at primary school (age 4–5 years old). This test will then be used as a baseline by the school.
Baseline testing is not national yet but a pilot will begin in September. Schools which decide to be part of the pilot will receive money for their participation.
Anna emphasized that baseline testing was also an opportunity to introduce private actors in education: six private companies are currently bidding for the tests, and they include for-profit as well as not-for-profit organizations. Each company has produced a test (often on a tablet computer, responses being processed automatically). It is expected that the company will offer up-sold products, such as activities for children to prepare for the test or data analysis, etc.
The results of the test will follow the children across their years at school. The focus being on their performance to the test, children's daily activities are skewed and no importance is given to other types of development and knowledge. Furthermore, it introduces a lot of pressure at a very young age and emphasizes formal learning.
The NUT campaigns to resist and boycott the tests, and to involve parents like Anna. In general, people are not aware of baseline testing but they are horrified as soon as they know. A meeting has been organized on 7 June at 7 p.m. on this matter.
What is currently unknown is the number of schools that have signed up for the pilot. The NUT and the parents who have joined the campaign planned to ring schools in September to gain a better picture of the pilot of baseline testing in Cambridge.
It is also important to note that the Head Teachers Association has expressed its opposition to the policy.
The next steps of the campaign could include a petition, a Facebook group, etc. This is currently being discussed.
Following Anna's presentation, Tom informed us that the County Council unanimously adopted a motion to have a debate on baseline testing. He also insisted on the fact that test scores will follow children until their A-levels, although this is initially to evaluate schools rather than pupils. The policy will also trigger a lot of re-tests.
The speakers confirmed are Clare Solomon (People's Assembly), Rufus Hound (comedian and National Health Action Party activist), and Margaret Ridley (Cambridge Keep Our NHS Public).
Following Anna's presentation we agreed that it would be good to have someone to represent the NUT and to talk about Baseline Testing. Tom contacted Paula Champion who agreed to be part of the panel. Simon would go ahead with planning and arranging a separate meeting on climate change, with a view to involving other environmentalists such as Cambridge Friends of the Earth.
Candy Udwin (the Public and Commercial Services union representative sacked in the course of outsourcing staff at the National Gallery) had been invited but could not attend. It had also been suggested at a previous meeting to invite a representative of the Focus E15 housing campaign, but nobody present could confirm their answer. It was agreed that if the Focus E15 campaign was not represented we could ask John Marais to be on the panel and talk about the housing crisis.
We then discussed who would chair the meeting, and how we would take questions. We agreed to ask Olivier to chair, and that questions will be taken from the floor.
Action: Maud to create an event on Eventbrite and Facebook, and to bring a pot for a collection; Hilary to e-mail Steve about the Focus E15 campaign.
Around 80 people have booked seats. Neil is merging the Eventbrite bookings and those received through e-mail.
Thanks to the NUT contribution we will be able to fund two coaches. The Trades Coucil will fund another one: although this cannot be covered by their usual budget, they are currently raising money and are confident that this will cover the costs.
The coaches will leave from the Backs, and one of them might stop at the Park and Ride. In London the demo will go from the Bank of England to Parliament Square.
Three coaches require a good organization. Neil will try to have the names of all the people who booked a seat; however this is complicated because on Eventbrite it is possible to book several seats under a single name.
The day of the demo, we will not necessarily know where the coaches will park to leave London. Maud reminded us that last year she took everybody's phone number and sent a text to indicate where the coach was parked. Tom alerted us that the network might not work if we are very numerous at the demo, so it would be good to have a meeting point from where we could direct people to the coaches. Everybody agreed it could work but requires us to have several stewards guiding people from the meeting to the coaches. We agreed we would need two stewards per coach.
Based on the booking, Neil will allocate people to the coaches. During the trip, stewards will take their phone numbers, and after the demo the stewards will be able to guide people.
Maud enquired if the coaches would be accessible to disabled people. As Steve handled the booking but was not there, nobody could answer.
We agreed to have a preparatory meeting on 15 June to discuss the organization in detail.
Unite is leading a campaign in Cambridge for affordable housing. They had organized several demonstrations around letting agencies (Belvoir, etc.).
We agreed that we should support the local housing campaign and should invite them to one of our meetings after the summer.
Tom mentioned that Defend Council Housing had organized a national meeting on 13 June. Generation Rent would be present.
Maud said that the date of the next international day of action was not known yet. She suggested holding a meeting focused on the actions we want to lead, to be able to plan. The discussion then moved on to broader aspects of the CPA's actions and goals.
Earlier in the evening Neil had spoken on behalf of the CPA as a guest at the Cambridgeshire NUT meeting. He suggested that we should work more closely with it and other unions, and should make contact with local branches in a more systematic way: the Fire Brigades Union, the county UNISON branch, Addenbrookes UNISON, Unite Community etc.
Olivier will be at Strawberry Fair. Richard also volunteered to go. Hilary will be at the Keep Our NHS Public stall but can help the CPA for an hour from 3 p.m. to 4 p.m.
Tom informed us that it might not be very useful to be there before 12 midday or after 4 p.m.
Maud would donate £10 to Richard Rose for the stall.
Martin announced the UK Pie Party's pie-throwing event, which aims to raise money for the East Anglia Children's Hospice charity (in the Eastern Bloco arena, 2 to 3 p.m.).
Privatization of the third floor of Cambridge Central Library
Hilary attended the committee meeting the previous day. She reported that seven councillors voted in favour of the privatisation, and six against it. She also learned that the County Council did not initiate the privatization but was approached by Kora. Since then, there had been 37 secret meetings between Kora and the County Council to negotiate the deal. There are robust arguments against the privatization, but no other options had been investigated.
Neil reported that Jon Duveen (Cambridgeshire NUT secretary) had asked if the NUT could name the CPA as a supporter in its publicity for an event with a well-known author planned in their campaign against baseline testing. We all agreed, and were very enthusiastic.
Accessibility of our meetings
Maud informed us that we had received several requests on Facebook to hold our meetings in venues that are accessible to disabled people. Everybody agreed on that point. One of those who had contacted us on Facebook had suggested several pubs. Based on our experience we agreed that meeting in a pub as we had in the past was not suitable (quiet one week, but noisy another time etc.). We identified a number of other options: Mill Road Baptist Church, Ross Street Community Centre, Chesterton Street, St Andrews Hall, St Philips, University Centre etc.
Action: Maud to look at these different venues (price, access, availability) and report at the next meeting.
Preparatory meeting for the 20 June demo: Monday 15 June, 7.30 p.m., CB2 Bistro.
Next monthly meeting: Wednesday 1 July, 7.30 p.m., CB2 Bistro.