Workers at three south east London schools are on strike against cuts today, Thursday. As the Tories plan to impose drastic cuts on schools across England, the workers are at the forefront of the battle to defend education.
NUT union members at Forest Hill School in Lewisham were out against the Labour-run council’s plan slash £1.3 million.
Teachers in the NUT were also on strike at Corelli College in Greenwich, where up to 17 jobs are threatend by the Labour-run council. At Plumstead Manor School in Greenwich, NUT members were joined on strike by GMB union members.
Some 29 support staff and one teacher face redundancy at Plumstead Manor. At least 50 people were on the picket line there, including parents who came to show support. Parent Yetunde told Socialist Worker, “I don’t think it’s fair. Everyone wants their kids to do well.
“Parents should support the strikers. They are doing this for our children—they are the future.”
Richard, another parent, is part of a local parent group opposing the cuts. He has children at Plumstead Manor and at Corelli College. “The money’s there – it’s about political will,” he told Socialist Worker.
“The council is building a new school in Greenwich. Why not put that money into this one?”
NUT striker Diana told Socialist Worker, “We’re here as we want a better future for our children. Children are going to lose really valuable staff that they know well. And teachers will be expected to do more. That means we’ll have less time to do extra things such as after school clubs.”
The reason for the cuts, as with the other schools, is a deficit. But strikers said the council could do much more to deal with this and to support community education.
NUT striker Leigh pointed out that the council has spent millions funding a new annexe for an academy in the borough. “They’re finding the money for that but they can’t find any money for us,” she said.
“At academy schools councils have written off debts. A lot of students will suffer because of the cuts but the deficit isn’t their fault.”
A GMB striker said she fears for the safety of children if the cuts go ahead. “I work in the special needs department,” she told Socialist Worker.
“The children need a lot of nurturing and a lot of help.”
Donna Spicer, a local GMB school support worker, joined the pickets. “My daughter came to this school,” she told Socialist Worker. “She would have left with no GCSEs had it not been for the support she had.”
“The school was her safe space.”
The cuts threaten learning mentors, librarians, admin workers and IT staff, among others. But there is strong resistance that has the potential to stop them.
GMB president for Greenwich Steve Oakes pointed out that workers had met the new tougher thresholds under the Tory Trade Union Act in order to strike. “It’s proof that it can be done,” he told Socialist Worker. “Don’t think you can’t meet the thresholds.”
The strikes come as the Tories plan to impose billions of cuts in schools across England. Delegates to the NUT union’s annual conference last weekend backed a plan to hold coordinated walkouts in response.
Kirstie Paton is assistant secretary of Greenwich NUT. She told Socialist Worker, “We need national action sooner rather than later.
“We want to see every school fighting the cuts.”