Socialist Worker

Don’t let the bosses sack Simon O’Hara

by Sadie Robinson
Issue No. 2533

Simon OHara, sacked former NUT union rep

Simon O'Hara, sacked former NUT union rep (Pic: Guy Smallman)

Bosses at Birmingham’s Small Heath School have sacked former NUT union rep Simon O’Hara. They disciplined Simon after he helped to lead several strikes at the school.

Three days later school management announced they had a sponsor to turn the school into an academy.

The national union needs to urgently throw its weight behind the fight to defend Simon and trade union rights.

NUT union members are voting in an indicative ballot on strikes to demand Simon is reinstated. Birmingham NUT is urging a yes vote.

Teachers held 11 days of strikes against plans to turn the school into an academy and forced bosses to withdraw them. They escalated to weekly three-day strikes after Simon was suspended in January.

Unfortunately the national union refused to agree to strikers’ calls for the walkouts to be escalated further, then called off the action altogether.

But at a recent union meeting, workers voted unanimously in favour of strikes in the event of Simon’s dismissal.


Bosses originally suspended Simon on vague gross misconduct charges.

NUT general secretary Kevin Courtney told Socialist Worker at the time, “Management suspended him in what we can only see as an act of trade union victimisation.”

Bosses then lifted the suspension—only to suspend him again on new grounds.

Now Simon has been told that there has been an “irretrievable breakdown of trust”.

Strikes can stop victimisation. An all-out strike by PCS union members at the National Gallery last year won the reinstatement of union rep Candy Udwin.

A month later bosses at London’s School of Oriental and African Studies suspended Unison union rep Sandy Nicoll. An unofficial walkout by Unison and UCU union members won his reinstatement.

And earlier that year, a vote for strikes by NUJ union members stopped the victimisation of union rep Phil Turner.

The Small Heath ballot ends on Friday of next week.

It must deliver an overwhelming vote for strikes and stand up for trade union rights and against academies.

Victory as academy trust halted

Campaigners in South Gloucestershire have succeeded in stopping one academy trust from taking over their schools.

Oasis was one of the trusts in the running to take over Winterbourne Academy and Yate Academy.

The Ridings Trust, which previously ran the schools, collapsed earlier this year.

But Oasis has now withdrawn its offer to run the schools.

The climbdown follows a 400-strong protest by parents, teachers and students, and a 300-strong public meeting.

Parents and students had raged about secrecy and lack of accountability.

This success shows that fighting back can win.

Slay assessment monster

Some 300 people attended the More Than A Score conference last Saturday.

The conference is the result of an alliance between the National Union of Teachers, academics and parents’ groups.

It is a response to the increasingly chaotic and damaging over-testing of children in primary schools.

Parent Gemma Haley spoke about how stressed her six-year old son is with school. She said, “My son doesn’t like school because of the testing.”.

Headteacher Siobhan Collngwood said, “There is a monster stalking our schools and that monster is assessment.”

Children’s author and professor of children’s literature Michael Rosen ridiculed the spelling and grammar tests that children sit in Year Six.

“The only reason we have the Spag grammar test is because Michael Gove wanted something with right/wrong answers,” he said.

“The problem is, that it’s not true.”

These tests were used to judge teachers and schools rather than advance learning.

Professor Wynne Harlen said that teachers were in favour of assessment.

But she added that this should be focused on forms that take children’s learning forward.

It should not be based on methods that are simply snapshots of what children may know at a particular time.

Parent and teacher activists pointed out that it was necessary to follow the conference with real action against this year’s Sats tests—including a possible boycott.

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