Socialist Worker

More workers ready to join John Roan school strikes

Issue No. 2611

Strikers on the picket line at John Roan school on Tuesday

Strikers on the picket line at John Roan school on Tuesday (Pic: Guy Smallman)

Workers at John Roan school in Greenwich, south east London, struck on Tuesday of this week.

It was the fourth day of seven scheduled strikes against a plan for the school to join a new academy chain, the University Schools Trust (UST).

The action has already got a result—the planned conversion will now not go ahead in September as was planned.

NEU union members were set to strike again on Thursday of this week and on 11 and 12 July.

GMB union members at the school will also strike on 11 and 12 July. Workers say the joint walkout could involve 100 strikers.

A recent Ofsted inspection deemed the school inadequate.

NEU striker Gareth told Socialist Worker, “Ofsted’s impartiality has gone.

“The government has made it into the Department for Education’s hitman.

“Its mandate is to enforce the policy of forced academisation.”

He added that staff came to work at John Roan “because it’s an inclusive school”.

Many strikers fear that vulnerable children would be left behind if the academy goes ahead.

It’s one reason why many parents are backing the action.

Parent Annette explained that she was concerned about special educational needs funding under the UST.

Kirstie Paton, assistant secretary of Greenwich NEU, told Socialist Worker, “It is clear that parents aren’t going to let this academy go forward without a challenge.”

Miriam Scharf 

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Workers at Connaught School for Girls struck for the 13th time on Wednesday of last week.

NEU union members are demanding Inner London pay rates as an Outer London school.

A delegation of strikers lobbied the Department for Education.

Springfield teachers keep up their weekly walkouts

weekly three-day strikes by NEU union members at Springfield School in Birmingham are winning lots of support from parents.

And strikers have begun speaking to workers at other local schools to win more backing.

Workers are fighting a planned restructure that would lead to attacks on jobs, pay and conditions. They plan to strike between Tuesday and Thursday each week until the end of term.

The NEU agreed to talks while strikes continue. But academy chain REAch2, that plans to take over the school, has already begun filling posts on the planned new staff structure.

The chain has no funding agreement in place for the school.

A previous NEU letter to parents and carers said workers were taking action “to defend the quality of education provided”.

It said the restructure would cut the number of experienced teaching staff at the school and create “unreasonable workload pressures”.

Parent Sariyei Begum told a local newspaper why she was backing the strikes. “They have been replacing staff teachers with supply teachers,” she said.

“The supply teachers are being used because they cost less, but it’s not good for the kids.”

An Ofsted inspection in July 2016 found that 11 teachers had left the school since September 2015. Long-term supply teachers were providing cover in five classes.

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Threat of indefinite action forces some concessions

NEU union members at Langdon Park School in Tower Hamlets, east London, suspended walkouts planned for Wednesday and Thursday of last week.

The decision followed significant movement by management and the Labour-run council over an £800,000 cuts package at the school.

It threatened compulsory redundancies, pay cuts and attacks on pastoral support for vulnerable students.

Workers formulated four demands around these issues at regular mass meetings.

Following negotiations last Monday the school and council made a significantly improved offer, which met three of the demands in full.

They guaranteed no compulsory redundancies and agreed to restore posts for heads of year, who deal with pastoral care. They also withdrew all the pay cuts.

On the fourth demand—for an increase in overall staffing levels—the borough and school gave a written undertaking that they “intend” to do it.

They agreed that talks with unions will begin next week on how and when this will happen.

We persuaded the NEU action committee to go beyond the long-established pattern of only calling a maximum of three days of strike in any week. They authorised a potential five days a week.

This has significant implications for all future disputes. Our ballot remains in force for six months—and we will return to action if the talks do not produce what we hope.

Paul McGarr

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