Socialist Worker

Singing pickets in Small Heath defend their school and their rep

by Sadie Robinson
Issue No. 2486

The atmosphere on the picket line has been great, one striker said

'The atmosphere on the picket line has been great,' one striker said (Pic: Bridget Parsons)


Teachers at Birmingham’s Small Heath school began a three-day strike today, Tuesday, to stop their school becoming an academy.

The NUT union members plan weekly three-day strikes against plans to make the school an academy. They are also furious at bosses’ suspension of their union rep, Simon O’Hara.

Up to 60 strikers and supporters, joined the picket lines with banners, flags and “lots of singing going on”.

One striker told Socialist Worker, “The atmosphere on the picket line has been great. I hope management get the message.

“Academies don’t just shake a magic wand and improve schools – it’s often the opposite. They turn schools into businesses and children into robots.”

NASUWT union members at the school were set to join the action tomorrow, Wednesday. And ATL union members could join the strikes next week.

One striker said, “Non-striking staff came to the picket lines with signs saying, ‘Just practicing’ because they are joining us on strike tomorrow.”

Simon (right) on the picket line

Simon (right) on the picket line (Pic: Dave Gilchrist)


The suspension of Simon earlier this month has made workers more determined to fight. One striker said, “It shows the bosses’ level of arrogance.

Insulting

"They thought targeting Simon would make us nervous—it’s insulting. They underestimated how strong the feeling is among us.

“It’s a nuclear strategy. They aren’t looking for resolutions, they just hope we will crack. But their miscalculation has completely imploded on them.”

Another worker said, “Simon is a great teacher and has so much support in the school and outside. The children are missing him. Hundreds of parents have been among those signing petitions to support our strikes and his reinstatement.

“An injury to him is an injury to us all.”

Strikers were pleased to see NUT deputy general secretary Kevin Courtney joining their picket lines. They said it showed the union’s full support for their fight against academies and also for Simon.

Workers had organised a parents’ meeting on the first strike day to explain their case. They are angry at management for lying to parents about the dispute.

One teacher said, “They’ve told horrible lies to parents. They sent parents a letter saying that the unions won’t talk to them.

“But we have said we want to get conciliation service Acas involved since September. It took five strikes to get them to request discussions”

The NUT, NASUWT and ATL unions at the school staged five days of strikes before this week’s walkout. This action held back a planned consultation on academy status.

One striker said this “minor victory” showed that strikes get results. They added, “We are determined to keep fighting.”

Send messages of support to banut@btclick.com
Sign the petition to demand Simon’s reinstatement at chn.ge/1PnBgs1

'Outstanding' school rocked by witch-hunt

Small Heath school is currently run by an Interim Executive Board. It was investigated during the Trojan Horse scandal in 2014, where a hoax letter claimed Muslims were trying to take over Birmingham schools.

The Ofsted schools inspectorate rated Small Heath “outstanding” in the wake of the scandal in June 2014. It said the school’s leadership and management were “outstanding” and criticised the council for not doing “enough to help the school share its good practice”.

Yet in January 2015 the school was put into special measures. Unions say they have seen a letter written by Birmingham council’s director of education Sally Taylor detailing plans to convert it to an academy.


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