Socialist Worker

Small Heath School teachers step up strikes and defend victimised union rep

by Sadie Robinson in Birmingham
Issue No. 2487

Striking teachers on the picket line this morning

Striking teachers on the picket line this morning (Pic: Socialist Worker)


Teachers gathered outside Birmingham's Small Heath School today, Tuesday, as NUT union members began a three-day strike following similar action last week.

They are furious at school bosses' refusal to guarantee that the school will not be turned into an academy. Bosses' provocative suspension of NUT rep Simon O'Hara earlier this month has poured fuel on the fire.

Strikers met today and unanimously voted to hold a national demonstration over Simon’s victimisation in Birmingham next month. The protest is backed by Birmingham NUT.

One striker told Socialist Worker, "We are 110 percent more angry now they have suspended Simon. That's added something to the strikes—Simon has a lot of support because he goes above and beyond for people."

Another added, "The suspension of Simon was uncalled for. They did it deliberately to try and undermine us, but we will not let them target anyone."

More teachers are volunteering to speak about the dispute at union meetings, despite never having done so before.

Jeremy Paige, Birmingham NUT vice president, told Socialist Worker that Simon's suspension had had "entirely the opposite effect" to what bosses had hoped.

"This is winnable," he added.

NUT national executive member Roger King agreed. "We have to put the maximum pressure on management," he told Socialist Worker. "Victimisation is totally unacceptable and we will take the fight to management."

Strikers won support from parents, other trade unionists and passers-by who tooted their horns in solidarity. Students in particular waved to Simon as he stood on the picket line.

One striker said, "We had a parents' evening last night. Lots of parents were saying, 'We support your right to strike'."

Another added, "We had teachers from other schools here before 7.30am to show support. They know what privatisation will mean in schools and that the battle is really important."

Parent Shabina was one of those who joined the picket lines. "I'm standing with the teachers," she told Socialist Worker. "I've got one daughter here and two more children will be coming in later years.

Academy 

"What the teachers are doing is for my children. Nobody wants an academy—it's bad for children and for parents."

Teachers are furious at bosses' attempts to portray them as "wrecking" children's education by striking. As one pointed out, "They wouldn't even agree to go to the Acas conciliation service to talk to the union."

Bosses are escalating their attacks. Unions have been told that management wants 71 redundancies—out of around 200 staff.

One teacher told Socialist Worker, "Their line is that we don't care about the children. But how can you run a school with that many redundancies? How can you say you care?"

A strike ballot over Simon's victimisation is due to end on Friday of this week.

NUT members plan a third three-day strike from Tuesday of next week. ATL union members at the school were due to join the strike this Thursday, and plan to strike next week too. NASUWT union members struck last week and could be out again next week.

Bosses are on the offensive—workers should be too. This is a fight against the privatisation of education and the victimisation of union reps.

Every trade unionist across Britain should get behind it.


Trojan Horse privatisation 

Small Heath was one of the schools targeted in the “Trojan Horse” hoax letter, which claimed Muslims were trying to take over Birmingham schools.

The Ofsted inspectorate visited schools in the wake of the hoax and put several into "special measures".

Small Heath was put into special measures last January—following five consecutive Ofsted ratings of "outstanding".

One teacher told Socialist Worker, "The Department for Education sent a hit squad to Birmingham around two years ago. They said the academy programme in Birmingham wasn't swift enough.

"Then Trojan Horse happened. And now some of the schools implicated have been turned into academies."


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