Strikes at Birmingham’s Small Heath school have forced bosses to back off from academisation – and plunged them into crisis.
Two members of the school’s interim executive board, which runs the school, have resigned. Bosses have agreed to a moratorium on any plans to turn the school into an academy. And they have “parked” plans to impose 71 redundancies.
Yet bosses have refused to reinstate victimised NUT union rep Simon O’Hara. And at an NUT meeting on Friday of last week, workers agreed to nine more days of strikes to defend him.
Teachers at the school have been in dispute since May last year against plans to turn the school into an academy.
One teacher told Socialist Worker, “It is a remarkable achievement that management have backed down over academisation. It shows that when you fight, you can stop these monsters. But the battle isn’t over.”
Teachers held two three-day strikes against academisation last month. They called off a planned three-day strike for this week after bosses retreated. But NUT members are set to be out again next week after voting overwhelmingly for strikes to defend Simon O’Hara.
One teacher said, “The union meeting was massively attended, despite being called at short notice. There was a serious discussion about unofficial action. The meeting decided to call a three-day strike starting on Tuesday of next week, and two three-day strikes in the two weeks after half term.”
Teachers took a new petition around school this week demanding Simon’s reinstatement. They plan to hand it to the local authority.
Management has tried to pressure workers by claiming that parents oppose their action. Yet parents have joined strikers’ picket lines and a parents’ meeting on Thursday of last week saw big support for the action.
Doug Morgan is assistant secretary of Birmingham NUT. He told Socialist Worker, “Small Heath teachers are fighting back and they are confident. They’ve got support from parents because they are fighting to defend education.”
Everyone who wants to stop the privatisation of schools will be heartened by the result at Small Heath. And Simon’s reinstatement would send a message to workers everywhere that they can win. As Doug put it, “Activists across Britain are watching this dispute.”
Local activist Salma Yaqoob said she was “delighted” that the academy plans had been “shelved”. She said, “Now the local authority needs to step in and get the suspension of dedicated teacher and NUT rep Simon O’Hara lifted.
“It is obvious to parents and the community that he has been victimised for standing up for pupils and parents. We will campaign until he is back in the classroom.”