There was an exuberant mood on the picket line at Avenue primary school in Newham on Tuesday.
NEU union members were beginning a three-day strike against a plan to turn their school into an academy. It was their 14th strike day.
Strikers chanted, “We want a ballot and we want it now,” and, “Whose school? Our school!” Parents came to support strikers while passing drivers tooted their horns in solidarity.
Teaching assistant Azra told Socialist Worker, “We’ve always had community schools in Newham. Children do well in them.
“But I’ve heard from children hating their schools when they become academies. We don’t want a strict regime.”
Katerina is the equal opportunities officer for the NEU at the school. She said, “This is about privatising the education sector. It’s all about financial gain for the trust. The school will not benefit.”
NEU president Kiri Tunks spoke to strikers. “It’s brilliant to be here,” she said. “This campaign is really making waves, not just in London but outside as well.
“These schools are our schools—they do not belong to private companies.”
Many strikers said that the school had already changed in the run-up to the academisation plan.
“They expect there to be written work in Maths books every day—and for it to be marked the same day,” said Katerina. “You end up taking work home. My children keep telling me I’m not a teacher at home.”
Workers will begin a new ballot for strikes this week as their existing ballot mandate expires. Meanwhile NEU members at nearby Cumberland school were set to strike for two days from Wednesday. They are demanding a parent ballot.
Workers at both schools plan three-day strikes starting on Tuesday in each of the following two weeks.
The fight against academies has already won real victories. The Labour council has voted to oppose academisation and said there should be ballots of parents and workers on any academy plans.
And the high court has granted a group of parents’ permission for a judicial review on the consultation process to go ahead. This forced Avenue school to postpone the academisation process.
Azra said, “A lot has been going our way. Everything is possible.”