NUT union general secretary Kevin Courtney has congratulated pickets at Forest Hill School for striking over cuts – and urged them to keep fighting.
NUT members at the school in south east London were on strike today, Tuesday, for the ninth time. They are fighting the impact of a £1.3 million cuts package drawn up by school bosses and Lewisham council. A three-day strike is set to begin on Tuesday of next week.
Courtney told pickets, “We don’t want you to strike next week. But we think you should strike if management doesn’t budge because you are defending children’s education.”
Workers previously withdrew planned strikes while the main exam period took place. But they said they had no choice but to restart the walkouts.
Striker Sharon told Socialist Worker, “We’ve tried to negotiate with the head but nothing’s changed. He isn’t willing to compromise.
“The head is insisting the cuts are not going to have an impact – of course they will have an impact.”
Some 23 teachers have resigned and will not return in September. Five teachers have been made redundant and three temporary contracts haven’t been renewed.
The NUT said that, combined with support staff, over 50 workers will have left the school this year.
Joe, the NUT rep at the school, told Socialist Worker, “This isn’t sustainable or realistic. I teach a lot of A-Levels. You have to set essays and mark them quickly.
“They’ve set up a group to look at workload. But I’m not going to not mark essays because it doesn’t fit with the workload charter. We need to be given the time to do it.”
Sharon agreed. “We had five non-contact periods, where we have time for marking and preparation, and they want to cut it to three,” she explained. “The workload will be enormous and it’s going to be really stressful.
“Teaching is hard – you need preparation time.”
Management says cuts are needed to repay a deficit. But that deficit is fuelled by a PFI deal that sees the school paying over £1 million every year to a private firm. And Lewisham council has refused to intervene.
Joe said, “The council seems completely uninterested. It’s upsetting.”
The NUT has also pointed out that school budget forecasts include £100,000 for “contingency”. Workers want assurances over workloads. They also want more teachers and support staff, not less.
Courtney stressed that there is a potential to beat the cuts, particularly after the Tories suffered a disastrous general election. “They are under tremendous pressure,” he told Socialist Worker.
“Lots of heads have had resignations from teachers and haven’t filled the posts because of the cuts. The government needs to make clear now that more money will be coming into schools.”
He added, “I think there will be a big demonstration in London against education cuts on 16 July. And I think the there will be a big turnout on the education section of the People’s Assembly protest on 1 July.”