Socialist Worker

‘The Harris Federation has no right to take over our school’ say Downhills strikers

Workers in a north London school are striking back against Tory plans to turn their school into an academy, reports Sadie Robinson

Issue No. 2308

workers from Downhills Primary School take their anti-academy message to Tory education secretary Michael Gove during their strike on Tuesday of this week (Pic: Smallman )

workers from Downhills Primary School take their anti-academy message to Tory education secretary Michael Gove during their strike on Tuesday of this week (Pic: Guy Smallman)

Workers at Downhills Primary School in north London struck on Tuesday of this week against government plans to privatise it.

For teachers in the NUT union at the Haringey school, it was their second strike against the plans. But this time workers in the Unison union joined them too.

Tory education secretary Michael Gove wants to force the school to become an academy because he claims it is “failing”.

Strikers disagree. Pam, a teaching assistant in Unison, has worked at Downhills for 26 years.

She told Socialist Worker, “They’ve moved the goalposts in inspections so we would fail. The government just wants to privatise everything. It’s not fair on the children.” The strike was solid and closed the school.

Meltem, another teaching assistant, said, “I came to this school and so did my two boys. I’ve lived in Tottenham all my life.

“The teachers, children and parents here are like a family. Why should the Harris Federation come and take us over? They’ve got no right.”

The Harris Federation is Gove’s preferred sponsor for the school if it becomes an academy. Three Harris employees are on the school’s interim executive board—which Gove imposed after sacking the governing body.

Paul, a teacher at the school, said, “There’s no evidence that the Harris Federation will improve education.

“I work with early years students and our results are really good. But Harris has already said it would change the way we teach.”

Like many strikers, Paul said the dispute at Downhills was part of a much bigger picture.

“So many schools are being forced to become academies,” he said. “It would be good if the NUT or another union could call some joint action or get us all to strike at once.”

Jane, another teacher, agreed. “The government wants to pick us off one by one,” she said. “We need more coordination. People want to feel part of something bigger.”

Teachers in the NUT union at nearby Noel Park Primary School are also facing a forced academy. They are set to ballot for strikes from Friday of this week after winning an “overwhelming” vote for action in an indicative ballot.

Parents, children and trade unionists joined pickets, and passersby tooted car horns giving strikers the thumbs up.

And around 50 joined a lobby of the Department for Education later on Tuesday morning.

“Things are very stressful,” said teaching assistant Derya. “But it’s refreshing how united we are.”

back story

  • There are 1,877 academies open in England, with 2,263 schools being processed for academy status
  • Some 204 academies opened in the first year of the coalition
  • Private companies that run academies can set their own curriculum
  • They don’t have to respect workers’ terms and conditions

Some names have been changed. Send messages of support to [email protected], [email protected] and [email protected]

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