By Thomas Foster
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School workers strike and picket in a number of local fights

It shows there's an appetite for hard-hitting action
Issue 2908
Around 60 workers were at the Little Heath school picket after school worker strike

Around 60 workers were at the Little Heath school picket (Picture: Ben Morris)

NEU union members are fighting back at several schools in the run-up to the general election. Neither the Tories nor Labour are offering any answers to the funding crisis, so workers are taking action to win their demands. Around 180 school workers at Little Heath and Hatton, two special schools in Redbridge in east London struck this week.

They’re fighting against inadequate and unsafe provision for their students with special educational needs and disabilities (Send). This comes after years of seeing rising student numbers crammed into increasingly inadequate space.

Ben, an NEU member, told Socialist Worker they’re striking over “inadequate plans for school expansion”. “Schools with overcrowding have suffered,” he said. “People as suffered as Send children have been put under great stress.”

He slammed Tory cuts, saying that “spending has been severely reduced”. “Instead of building new schools, children are being placed at separate sites,” he explained. “There’s no room available.” Ben argued that “this is a national fight”. But school workers are striking in Redbridge because “the local authority has not listened enough on how this is impacting teachers and students”.

At Little Heath school, 60 people joined a picket on Tuesday and at Hatton school, 50 people joined a picket. Workers are set to strike on Wednesday of this week. And in a sign of how resistance builds unions, over 80 members have joined the NEU since January as anger has built over what they regard as inadequate plans to address this.

Around 20 workers at St Dominic’s primary school in Hackney, east London, struck on Tuesday and planned to strike on Wednesday over workload.

The NEU has so far successfully forced management to remove the plan for teaching assistants to become midday meal supervisors. This would have removed them from classrooms for almost six hours a week. But management is refusing to negotiate on wider workload issues and so workers were set to take hard-hitting action.

At St Benedict’s Independent School in west London, school workers are set to strike to defend their pensions after management attempted to slash their pension scheme. They are set to strike on 19, 20, 26, 27 June and 3, 4, 5 September.

The strike dates were chosen for maximum impact, such as on open evenings. And workers have set dates for September to show management that the fight doesn’t stop at the end of the summer term.

NEU education union members at Belmont Park School in Waltham Forest, east London are set to strike this week over working conditions.

Management has been employing and paying teachers on a casual basis. Staff have struggled not knowing whether they will be paid for permanent responsibilities. And so school workers are fighting to be paid properly as teachers want permanent teacher and learning responsibility (TLR) payments.

These are payments teachers receive for responsibilities they take up beyond their teaching commitments.

They are set to strike on Thursday of this week, Thursday and Friday of next week, 17, 18, 19, 24, 25, 26, 27 June.

School workers at Balham and Eastwood nursery schools in south London continued their strike this week, as they struck on Tuesday and are planning on striking on Wednesday and Thursday.

They are on strike over proposed cuts that would leave many redundant. Bosses are threatening staff with compulsory redundancy amid plans to reduce the number of nursery places for children.

The nurseries take a high proportion of—and provide a wide range of provision for—children with special educational needs and disabilities (Send). But cuts would drastically reduce learning opportunities and the provisions offered.

The loss of those provisions would be devastating to children who need additional support.

Workers at Byron Court school in Brent, west London, struck on Tuesday and are planning to strike on Wednesday and Thursday. They are fighting privatisation plans that would see the community school join the Harris Federation academy chain.

Academisation began after Ofsted inspectors downgraded the school from “outstanding” to “inadequate” last November. A school teacher in Brent told Socialist Worker, “Harris Federation is a nastier prospect than other academy chains.

“There’s been a lot of press around how Harris Federation treats their staff, how awful employers they are and how bad their practices are. Ofsted has been used as a tool for academisation. It has told lies and smeared the school staff”.

Ballot for strikes in a number of schools

NEU education union members at four schools in Hastings, all part of the University of Brighton Academies Trust (UBAT) are formally balloting for strikes against job losses and cuts that will seriously harm education for local children.

While other academy trusts take typically between 5 and 8 percent of the annual funding grant for schools to pay for central services, UBAT takes for more—about 13 percent, and in some cases more than 20 percent.

Workers are angry that not enough money is reaching schools on the ground, leading to cuts in jobs and services and increased workload for remaining staff.

If the ballots are successful, strikes will take place at The Hastings Academy, The St Leonard’s Academy, The Baird Primary Academy and Robsack Wood Primary Academy.

Over 200 school workers in eight Catholic schools in west London have moved to a formal ballot after the Westminster Diocese—a religious district—signaled it wants to turn all of the schools under its control into academies.

St Anselm’s school, St Vincent’s school, Our Lady of the Visitation school, The Holy Family school, St Joseph’s school, St Gregory’s school, St John Fisher school and The Cardinal Wiseman school all voted overwhelmingly in indicative ballots to strike.

All members want better guarantees to protect their terms and conditions, while the Westminster Diocese is refusing to give anything.

At Villiers High School in west London, over 70 NEU education union members have moved to a formal ballot over poor management practices, workload and victimisation of the school rep.

NEU union members voted overwhelmingly to strike to defend the school rep when she faced malicious disciplinary charges. In the latest indicative ballot, there was a Yes vote of 87 percent and a 94 percent turnout.

Workers at Chingford Foundation School and South Chingford Foundation School in east London are formally balloting over workload, fixed term contracts and increases to teachers’ contact time. 

And workers at the Connaught for School For Girls in east London are moving to a formal ballot over increased workload, TLR payments and lack of consultation of teachers in the decision-making process.

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