Teachers at Birmingham’s Small Heath School began a three-day strike today, Tuesday, in an increasingly bitter dispute with school bosses.
A big turnout from supporters from outside the school boosted picket lines while a stream of vehicles tooted their horns in solidarity.
NUT union members are striking in defence of victimised union rep Simon O’Hara. They plan two further three-day strikes in the two weeks after next week’s half term.
One striker told Socialist Worker, “The NUT is going strong and our members are out in full force today. There’s nobody wavering. Simon’s a very hardworking and dedicated teacher. He’s got lots of support.
“I taught a lesson yesterday and the kids were all asking about him. They all say he’s a really good teacher.”
One teacher joined the NUT the day before the strike so they could join the action. Another filled out their NUT membership form on the picket line.
As one teacher told Socialist Worker, “The NUT has grown during this dispute. Strikers are completely united and strong.”
A series of escalating strikes forced bosses to back down at the end of last month over plans to turn the school into an academy. They also retreated on plans to push through 71 job cuts. And two members of the interim executive board that runs the school resigned.
But bosses then suspended another NUT member at the school. One striker said this had “strengthened the resolve of the NUT”.
Simon has won support from parents, students, local campaigners and the wider trade union movement. Parents have joined picket lines several times to show their support.
Parent Shabina said she knew teachers were fighting to protect education “for my children”.
Teachers handed in a petition against his suspension, signed by workers in the school, to the local education authority last week.
But one striker said, “It’s clear the school is backed by the authority. And the school’s position seems to be, ‘You can strike as much as you want’.
“Management is not trying to resolve this dispute.”
Workers’ action has caused a crisis for the bosses—but more pressure needs to be piled onto bosses for workers to win.
As one teacher told Socialist Worker, “If teachers and other workers are going to oppose cuts, we need to have strong union branches. Management here is trying to undermine that.
“The national union and the broader trade union movement must look at what more can be done to support this dispute. This is now a test for the union movement.”
Small Heath was one of the schools targeted by the “Trojan Horse” hoax letter, which claimed Muslims were trying to take over schools. Several other schools targeted have since being turned into academies.
Small Heath strikers have told of damaging changes being brought in at the new academies.
Bosses clearly hope to break the unions at Small Heath and privatise it too.
NASUWT and ATL union members at Small Heath have struck previously. Unfortunately they are not on strike this week. And bosses have told them they should step in to cover strikers’ work.
If bosses get away with their attacks then all workers—and students—will be worse off.
Workers have shown they can push bosses back. All union members at the school should stick together and unite to beat them.