Teachers at Islington Arts and Media School in north London struck today, Thursday, against management plans to impose compulsory redundancies on four workers.
The strike was impressive. Some forty people were there, a combination of strikers, teachers from other schools and parents. NUT union members had voted to strike by 90 percent in a recent ballot.
The school was closed to students. Many workers in other unions, such as Unison, made a point of standing on the picket line with teachers before going into work.
Strikers say the cuts result from bad management—and that they hit the most vulnerable children. Those facing redundancy run inclusion units that support children with emotional and behavioural problems, or with special educational needs.
Jermaine Carrington is one of them. “I don’t know how to put into words how I feel about this,” he told Socialist Worker. “We seem to be paying for someone else’s mismanagement.
“Ofsted said our school was good with outstanding qualities. The outstanding aspects were our Special Educational Needs support and our support department. Now they’re gone—so they’ve taken away the things that were outstanding about the school.”
The inclusion workers teach children who aren’t coping in mainstream classes and provide support so that they can return to mainstream classes.
Another inclusion worker facing redundancy told Socialist Worker, “We support children with deep-seated problems and help them build up their confidence and self-esteem. We’ve had a lot of success.”
Many spoke of their unhappiness at the atmosphere in the school, but it was clear that striking together was lifting people’s confidence.
The head originally wanted to impose nine compulsory redundancies. This dropped to four after some workers took early retirement and others left.
Strikers say the head is justifying the cuts on the grounds of falling student numbers. Some say they agree that there should be cutbacks but say it should have been done differently.
“They’ve known about the problems for three years,” said one. “They could have planned and managed any changes that we needed using natural wastage. There’s no need for compulsory redundancies.”
Others say there should be no cuts—and that the real reason for the redundancies is money.
One teacher pointed to a recent advertisement in a national newspaper for an ICT job at the school. “But one of our ICT teachers was in the original nine threatened with compulsory redundancy and he ended up leaving,” she said. “Why are they advertising for jobs they are sacking people from now?”
Many believe that the school wants to get rid of experienced teachers and bring in newer, cheaper replacements.
Alex Kenny, NUT executive member for inner London, came to show his support to pickets. “We have a choice,” he told them. “We can say ok we have to make some cuts or we can say we’ll fight and do whatever we can to stop them.
“More and more people are saying we will make a stand.”