Socialist Worker

Fight against academisation heats up in east London

by Miriam Scharf
Issue No. 2691

Strikers rallying in Newham, east London, last week

Strikers rallying in Newham, east London, last week (Pic: NEU)

Workers at St Michael’s, a small primary school in Newham, east London, struck for the seventh time on Thursday of last week.

They are fighting plans to turn their school into an academy.

The NEU union members planned two more days of strikes this week, followed by three days next week.

The strikes follow a victory at nearby St Angela’s school in January.

There, the governing body agreed not to consider academisation in the next five years following strikes.

Now other schools in Newham are trying to halt plans by the Brentwood Diocese to create a giant Catholic Multi Academy Trust (MAT) across five boroughs.

Teachers at St Michael’s have organised leafletting, petitioning, and held meetings with parents.

The school’s governing body rejected the teachers’ offer to participate in a working party looking into all alternatives for the school’s future.

St Michael’s teachers were joined last week by St Bonaventure’s NEU members taking the first of their six agreed strike days.

Union representatives, after a “positive” discussion, held hopes the governing body and head would back down, but were told a few days later, “We’re not signing anything.”

At the strike rally last week the rep said his colleagues worked incredibly hard and cared about the children and education, and that he didn’t want to work for a business.

The two schools are set to be joined in future strikes by workers at St Bede’s, another small primary in the sights of the MAT.

Their ballot result of 74 percent for strikes on a 90 percent turnout came in last week.

Louise Cuffaro, Newham NEU Joint Secretary, reported the MAT had employed a project manager and a firm of solicitors.

Their intentions to proceed with academisation of this “second wave” of schools was clear.

Dominic Byrne from the union’s national executive committee argued that more strike days would bring the employer to see sense.

In the Diocese of Westminster, which had a similar plan in 2016, schools that opposed academisation have stayed with the local authority.

Threat of strikes scores a pay victory in Coventry schools

Coventry NEU union has used collective power to win significant pay increases.

Most of the authority’s schools have been paying some staff at lower rates than the national pay scales.

Our reps have organised meetings, and collectively challenged managements.

Jodie, a primary rep, called a meeting after she had a member in tears when she realised that the school were underpaying her. She spoke to the headteacher first, who refused to budge, claiming all Coventry schools pay this rate.

Her members meeting was packed, they passed a model motion calling on the Governors and the Head to reverse their decision and within 24 hours they had won.

With the threat of strikes where schools do not back down, nearly every employer has moved to the correct rate.

We have won hundreds of thousands of pounds for NEU members and strengthened organisation.

As Jodie said, "This was definitely a victory for collectivism. We made it clear that as union members we would support each other unconditionally"

There are still two schools that have refused to budge, but they are in our sights and our reps won’t cease until we win for all our members.

Chris Denson

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