Socialist Worker

Workers feel ‘powerful’ after strike threats at The Village School win some retreats

by Sadie Robinson
Issue No. 2604

Workers at The Village School on strike earlier this year

Workers at The Village School on strike earlier this year (Pic: Guy Smallman)


Workers at The Village School in Brent,north west London, called off a planned strike last week after winning a series of promises from the head teacher. But they could strike again if these promises aren’t kept.

NEU union members have struck against a plan to turn the school into an academy as part of a Multi Academy Trust (MAT) with Woodfield School.

The Department for Education approved the MAT plan last week. But union members are still fighting to defend their conditions.

Jenny Cooper is the joint NEU rep at the school. She told Socialist Worker, “We said we wanted all our terms and conditions put into what’s called ‘reserved matters’.

“This means that it’s harder for governing bodies or the trustees to make changes to them. When we found that not all of our conditions were covered, we said we would strike again.

“Straight away, the head called an extraordinary meeting of governors to propose that everything would be put into reserved matters.”

Jenny explained that workers have now been promised a “five-way lock” to protect their conditions. This puts in place a number of rules that schools would have to meet in order to make any changes. It makes it harder for bosses to drive through attacks on workers.

Powerful

Jenny said, “We feel quite powerful at the moment. Just the threat of a strike meant we were promised lots of things.They really want to avoid more strikes.”

Governing bodies at both schools are set to meet next week.The union has put in notice of a further strike on 23 May if governors don’t make the decisions they want.

“The sword of Damocles is hanging over their heads,” explained Jenny.

The five-way lock goes further than a similar protection, known as the triple-lock, in some other academies. For instance, it says that 80 percent of all governing bodies and trustees in the MAT have to agree any changes, whereas in other agreements it is 70 percent of trustees alone without any elected staff vote.

Workers at The Village school are now reballoting for strikes as their current ballot is due to expire. And NEU members at Woodfield school are also set to ballot for walkouts after overwhelmingly voting for strikes in an indicative ballot.

Jenny hopes that the struggle in Brent can set a precedent for school workers fighting academisation elsewhere. “It’s like every bit of action you threaten gets you a bit more,” she said. “So even where you lose and end up in a MAT, you can still win big changes.”


Strike campaign for higher pay at Connaught school grows

NEU union members at Connaught school in north east London struck last Wednesday and Thursday in an ongoing fight over pay.

Workers have now taken 12 days of strikes in a battle to win Inner London pay rates as an Outer London school.

NEU rep Paul told Socialist Worker, “We’ve been round to lots of other schools leafletting and had a really good response.

“One group of teachers asked if we could come in and talk to them about the campaign.”

More than 100 people attended a public meeting, including parents and local trade unionists, on the pay campaign last week.

Paul said, “The mood among our members after the meeting was electric. They can see all the work we are doing is paying off.”

A parents’ support group has been set up.


Teachers across five schools in East Sussex struck for higher pay last Tuesday.

Around 20 angry and determined NEU union members were on the picket line outside Priory school.

Uckfield Community Technology College, St Catherine’s College Eastbourne, Peacehaven Community School and Seaford Head School also struck. As ballots take place in another eight schools in East Sussex, the struggle could grow in the future.

Nicholas Watts


Walkouts against academy chains in Ealing and Barnsley

Workers at Acton High school in Ealing, west London, struck for two days last week.

The action by NEU union members is against a planned takeover by the Ark academy chain, bullying allegations and management’s response to behaviour issues.

Ealing NEU (NUT section) divisional secretary Stefan told Socialist Worker, “The mood is very strong, despite the fact that it’s exam season.”

Stefan said a meeting with Ark and the local authority last Friday was “unproductive in answering members’ concerns”.

The NEU has called a three-day strike from next Tuesday and a further three-day walkout from Tuesday 5 June.


Teaching staff at St Helen’s Primary Academy in Barnsley held their sixth and seventh days of strikes last Wednesday and Thursday.

The NEU union members were angry that the Academies Enterprise Trust (AET) had refused to accept the Acas conciliation service’s recommendation for an independent inquiry into their complaints.

The strikes are set to resume in early June after the Sats tests. A meeting for parents was organised for this Tuesday. The vast majority of parents are very supportive of the action.

One parent on the picket line told strikers, “It’s not if you win—because you will win.”

Parents have demanded the removal of AET from the school because of the mismanagement of resources and treatment of staff.

George Arthur


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