Workers at The John Roan School in Greenwich, south east London, held a lively strike on Tuesday.
The action by NEU union members was the 15th day of strikes against plans to turn the school into an academy. Workers planned a further walkout on Thursday.
Greenwich council cabinet unanimously agreed to hand over the school to the United Learning Trust (ULT) earlier this month. Parent Vicky called the decision “disgraceful”.
“The council is run by Labour,” she told Socialist Worker on the picket line on Tuesday. “If Jeremy Corbyn wants votes from the public, Labour needs to do more for people.”
Terry travelled from north London to show support for the strikers. “I went to this school 60 years ago,” he told Socialist Worker. “I think the council has been completely spineless. Giving away a public asset to a private company is not socialist.”
Vicky has a child with special educational needs, and fears that a school run by ULT won’t meet them. “I’ve talked to parents who have had difficulties in other ULT schools,” she explained.
“They’ve had to fight to get the right support. But it shouldn’t be that way. You should give children the tools to learn and not discriminate against them if they are disabled.”
ULT is set to take over in September. But striker Geoff explained that its representatives are already shaping the school. “It’s psychological warfare,” he told Socialist Worker. “I’ve been told children will face four assessments every term.
“That’s one every sixth lesson – I think that’s excessive.”
Geoff added that assessment results will be put into a document that means children can be ranked. “It’s horrifying,” he said. “Students are literally becoming numbers on a spreadsheet.”
Workers are right to fear the impact of academisation at John Roan. NEU rep Kirstie told Socialist Worker, “The first thing they’ve done is cut courses – so much for the idea that academies improve education.”
ULT has also sent a letter to staff saying it will “review the staffing structure” which could lead to “reduction of roles or variation in roles, responsibilities or working hours”.
It also said that union recognition agreements currently in place “will cease to apply following the transfer date”.
Students are literally becoming numbers on a spreadsheet
“I experienced a similar thing at another school that was academised,” said striker Shah. “Kids lose out. Academies just want things cheap and cheerful. They want younger staff who they hope don’t have their own opinions about things, and they can mould in their own way.”
Geoff said, “They’ll try and drive out more experienced staff as it’s not cost-effective to keep them. And they will target groups like teaching assistants first. Once you’re on a ULT contract all of a sudden you’re working for a business. And business has one interest – to make money.”
Workers, parents and other campaigners planned to lobby the council on Wednesday evening, to demand it reverses the cabinet decision to go ahead with academisation. It the plan does go ahead, it’s clear there will be more battles in the future against ULT attacks on workers.
But it is possible to stop academies. “We started our campaign in March 2018 and were told that we would become an academy that September,” said Kirstie. “Over a year later, we are still fighting. And many other schools are too.
“Some have fought and lost, but others got academy orders revoked. The movement is growing.”