Teachers strike to defend student safety
Teachers at St Aloysius comprehensive school in Islington, north London, were set to begin a two-day strike on Wednesday of this week.
The NUT members are in dispute over the safety of new school buildings, built by private company Balfour Beatty. They struck for four days in the summer after an overwhelming vote for action.
Campaigners have already won support from parents, students and other trade unionists.
Now teachers say conditions have got worse.
Students are being taught in unsuitable rooms and there are problems with storage. The art room has no natural light and the technology room is L-shaped—meaning that teachers can’t safely supervise students.
An independent inspection of the school in the summer confirmed teachers’ concerns.
It flagged up the dangers of students using tools in classrooms where teachers couldn’t see them, a lack of space in the technicians’ room, and “inadequate” storage space.
Teachers, parents and the local MP Jeremy Corbyn were told that old buildings could not be retained because Balfour Beatty would then be entitled to huge penalty payments.
Yet a freedom of information request has since shown that no payments were payable—adding to the fury of workers, students and parents.
Education workers employed by Central Services in Islington, north London, have voted for strikes against job cuts.
But their NUT union will not sanction the action because it says the vote was weak.
The turnout was around 30 percent. Some 13 workers voted for strikes and eight against—or just under 62 percent.
It is true that the vote could have been stronger—but it remains a vote for strikes. Socialist Worker supporters in the union are arguing that the strike should have gone ahead.
A large and angry meeting of Haringey NUT members last week voted to ask the union’s action committee to sanction a ballot of teachers to defend jobs in the north London borough.
Up to 51 teachers, mostly NUT members who are centrally employed by Haringey council, face compulsory redundancy.
These teachers provide training and support for schools in subjects including maths and information and communication technology (ICT). They also provide vital support for raising the achievement of ethnic minority pupils.
There have been no compulsory redundancies among teachers in Haringey since 1965 and the local association is determined to maintain this proud record.
Teachers from both secondary and primary schools spoke in defence of their colleagues’ jobs.
Many talked of a mood of anger in schools at the government’s cuts.
Haringey council is planning £50 million of cuts this year, which could result in massive job losses.
The association voted to coordinate its action as far as possible with teachers in other boroughs facing redundancies and with other local unions.
David Gilchrist, ICT Coordinator, Noel Park Primary School