Socialist Worker

Students and teachers unite to topple their head

by Sadie Robinson and Nick Grant
Issue No. 2239

On the picket line at Villiers High School in December (Pic: Raymie Kiernan)

On the picket line at Villiers High School in December (Pic: Raymie Kiernan)

Headteacher Juliet Strang has been removed from Villiers High School after a student strike and mass protests.

It is a great victory. To the joyous relief of everyone, her reign ended with an announcement to the teachers by the chair of governors on Tuesday morning.

Hundreds of students protested twice outside the school against the sacking of the school’s NUT union rep, Amerjit Virdee.

Amerjit has taught at the school for 28 years and is head of maths. Many see his sacking as an attack on the union.

A magnificent 4-hour strike by students on Tuesday of last week closed the school and was the key moment in the dispute.

Strang’s response was incredible. She locked out whole years of students. The police backed her up, refusing them access to the school.

“I tried to get into school today,” one student told Socialist Worker on Wednesday.

“But they had police there to tell us ‘no’. So now I’m trying to go to school but I’m not allowed? It’s crazy.”

Another added, “Yesterday was big. They’re trying to stop us doing it again. But what about our rights? We have a right to protest if we want to.”

Years 10 and 11 were not allowed to enter the school on Wednesday of last week. Years nine and 11 were banned the next day. Then, on Friday, years nine and 10 weren’t allowed to go to school and this ominous message appeared on the school’s website:

“Year 11 students MUST have a signed note in their diaries from their parent/carer stating: ‘My child is attending school today and will not participate in any protests or disruptive behaviour.’”

Parents were enraged. A 300-strong community meeting on Sunday of last week unanimously agreed a motion calling for Strang’s departure and the reinstatement of Amerjit.

Around 70 percent of the workers presented a motion of no confidence in the head to council officers and the chair of governors.

Teachers at the school struck against management bullying in December.They called off a planned two-day strike for this week on hearing that Strang would go on gardening leave.

Amerjit will appeal against his sacking after half term.

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Article information

Tue 15 Feb 2011, 18:48 GMT
Issue No. 2239
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