Teachers at Newham Sixth Form College (NewVic) in east London began strikes against academisation, bullying, restructuring and workload on Wednesday.
Around 35 people joined the lively picket line including former staff, local residents and strikers from Oaks Park High School in the neighbouring borough of Redbridge.
The NEU union members held banners and signs reading, “Save your child’s future” while they sang protest songs. NEU rep Rob Behan told Socialist Worker, “It’s been very difficult to work throughout the pandemic, there’s more pressure on staff than ever before.
“Over the last five years we’ve been doing more with less. We’re trying to help students catch up, and government cuts are making the situation much worse.
“We want the college to immediately drop any prospect of academisation. We want to be involved in negotiations, and not just be consulted about plans they have made.”
Many strikers who wished to remain anonymous described a “culture of top down bullying”.
“There’s a lot of discriminatory practices that makes us jump through hoops,” one said.
“Management usually gets new staff who aren’t yet in the union to do their dirty work. This adds to the excessive workload and the mental health effects it has.”
Striker J said, “Normally I just keep plodding on, but after Covid, back to back Zoom meetings and now this, I’ve had enough. Senior management have gone too far.
J argued that the college is vital for local people. “I’m fortunate to work alongside these people, they’re inspirational,” she said.
“Young local people are inspired by their teachers to return to the school later in life to work”
Half of children in Newham live in households in poverty. Strikers say a non-academised school that enrols 2,500 young people, providing a wide range of opportunities, is important to give them hope.
Rob added, “This is an important fight for education because it’s about how we go back to doing things after Covid.
Since the dispute started around 15 staff members have joined the NEU. According to union reps, 90 percent of NewVic staff are now unionised.
The strike disrupted lots of lessons. But when teachers informed students about why they won’t be working, they received lots of support and solidarity.
NEU president Daniel Kebede also gave solidarity to the pickets. He told Socialist Worker, “Workload, restructures and academisation—teachers don’t deserve these things and if management doesn’t listen to them there will be more action.”
Across education, managers are using the pandemic as a shield to push through more attacks on workers. This is coupled with the harsh austerity measures the Tory government imposes on the education sector.
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