Socialist Worker

Solidarity boosts Valence Primary School strikers in east London

by Sam Ord
Issue No. 2763

Solidarity has boosted strikers confidence at Valence Primary School

LIvely picket lines at Valence Primary School (Pic: Amy Leather )


Valence Primary School teachers in Dagenham, east London, have escalated strikes over forced demotions and attacks on pay.

NEU education union members struck for two days last week and plan a three-day walkout from Tuesday.

The workers are fighting a broader restructuring plan, which will be implemented in 2024. Almost half of the teaching staff face pay cuts—and many more will suffer an increased workload.

Dominic Byrne, NEU secretary in Barking and Dagenham, told Socialist Worker that school bosses are encouraging “some support staff” to “break the strike”. “Teaching assistants were never envisioned to cover the classes of teachers who are taking industrial action,” he said.

“We have asked the council to be clear in their guidance, to say that they don't encourage strike-breaking. They just say the school is following Department for Education guidance and they're allowed to do it.

“You’d hope that the Labour-run council wouldn’t encourage and condone strike-breaking.”

It's a similar story for striking NEU members at Oaks Park school in the neighbouring east London borough, Redbridge.

The Labour-run council has backed management at every turn, rather than standing with victimised workers. Redbridge NEU has held a series of protests targeting the local authority’s role in the dispute.

Picket lines at Valence Primary School’s two sites have been lively, with more than 30 people including NEU joint general secretary Mary Bousted.

Confidence

Many of the workers have never been on strike before, but solidarity has boosted their confidence. Dominic said, “All parents remain supportive, engaging with the pickets. 

“Some staff have been teaching at the community school for 20 years, they are well-known and may have taught some of the parents.”

If the attacks aren't withdrawn, NEU union members plan more dates in September.

They say the lasting effects of the attacks will damage children's education. Dominic added, “No one wants to see children go uneducated, but what about the staff?

“The staff haven’t been treated nice and are demoralised. They have suffered attacks and are now standing firm.” 

Pay attacks at the school aren’t new. In 2019, 50 mostly women support staff suffered pay cuts, which went unopposed.

“What does that say for a Labour council?” Dominic added. “The lowest-paid workers had pay cuts on a huge scale. Perhaps management with their pay should take a look at themselves.”

Solidarity among school workers will be crucial to take on bosses’ restructuring plans.

Messages of support to [email protected]

Teachers in Derby fight restructure

Teachers at two schools in Derby were set to strike on Tuesday and Wednesday of this week.

Members of the NEU union at Merrill Academy and Lees Brook Community School are fighting a restructure by the Archway Learning Trust which runs them.

Archway bosses want to cut jobs and deskill teaching staff in order to employ cheaper teachers.

Teachers also claim that the Nottingham based Archway Learning Trust, which took over the schools in February, is too distant.

They say students’ education will suffer as cuts could affect certain lessons.

This week’s action follows a one-day strike on 1 July.


Teachers at Alleyn Court School in Southend, Essex were set to walk out for three days from Tuesday of this week.

They are fighting management’s attacks on their current pension scheme. The Alleyn Court Education Trust wants to scrap the existing scheme replacing it with an inferior one.

Workers say they will walk out again for three days next week if bosses don’t drop their plans.


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