A brilliant turnout of lively, dancing, singing people saw over 50 strikers and supporters gather at Little Ilford School in Manor Park on Thursday morning.
NEU union members at the east London school are resisting the forcible expansion of the school from the present student population of 1,470 to 1,800.
Kate, one of the NEU reps, explained, “The Local Authority forced this expansion on our school against our wishes. The numbers out today shows staff are passionate about education and our kids.
“In 30 years’ teaching this is my first local strike. It feels brilliant, really empowering and it’s really brought people together.”
Dancing to their version of ‘We Are Family’, teachers waved posters reading, “Protect Little Ilford Family”. This rings true for a school where so many have taught for decades.
Kate echoed others when she said, “I am teaching the children of the kids I taught.” It is a real community school, with a very stable committed staff,and there is a determination to keep it that way.
Alison, a careers teacher, said, “It had been a long process trying to get management to take their concerns seriously, about the children and the school. But they hadn’t listened.”
Sean agreed, saying, “I didn’t think it would come to this, but we've got to be listened to.”
Ladi, like so many a first-time striker, told the rally after the picket line, “This isn’t about us, no one goes into education for the money. This is about the children in this area.”
Beth, another of the reps’ team, was excited about the turnout for the strike. She said, "We have got the backing of the students and this is a good opportunity to raise awareness in the local community who have not had a say.”
The Local Authority had been satisfied with only 12 parents responding to the “consultation”.
Parents were not given any information about staff opposition until they received notice of the strike this week. Even then, as one striker pointed out, they only told parents of the one day.
Some parents have already voiced support for the staff and workers hope to get many more parents involved in the struggle.
Workers were aware management would try and use divide and rule to weaken their resolve. Kate urged, “Let’s not lose this solidarity, this feeling of being together.”
NEU members voted by 96 percent for strikes on a 73 percent turnout. The union group has agreed a further five strike days.
They plan to walk out on Wednesday and Thursday next week, and again for three days from Tuesday 24 November if management don’t back down.