School employees strike and participate in a number of local fights

It shows that there is a need for tough action

Tuesday June 4, 2024

Issue 2908

About 60 workers attended the school picket in Little Heath following the school workers' strikeAbout 60 workers attended the school picket in Little Heath following the school workers' strike

About 60 workers attended the picket at Little Heath school (Photo: Ben Morris)

NEU union members are fighting back at several schools ahead of the general election. Neither the Tories nor Labor offer answers to the funding crisis, so workers are taking action to meet their demands. Around 180 school workers in Little Heath and Hatton, two special schools in Redbridge, east London, struck this week.

They are fighting against the inadequate and unsafe provision for their pupils with special educational needs and disabilities (Send). This comes after years of cramming rising student numbers into increasingly inadequate space.

Ben, an NEU member, told Socialist Worker they were striking because of “inadequate school expansion plans”. “Schools with overcrowding have suffered,” he said. “People who have suffered as much as Send children have come under great pressure.”

He criticized Tory cuts, saying “spending has been severely reduced”. “Instead of building new schools, children are placed in separate locations,” he explained. “There is no space available.” Ben argued that “this is a national struggle.” But school staff in Redbridge are on strike because “the local authority has not listened enough to the impact this has on teachers and students”.

At Little Heath school, 60 people joined a picket on Tuesday and 50 people joined a picket at Hatton school. The workers will strike on Wednesday this week. And in a sign of how resistance builds unions, more than 80 members have joined the NEU since January as anger has grown over what they see as inadequate plans to tackle it.

About 20 workers at St. Dominic’s primary school in Hackney, east London, went on strike on Tuesday and planned to strike on Wednesday because of the workload.

The NEU has so far successfully forced management to scrap the plan for teaching assistants to oversee midday meals. This would have taken them out of the classroom almost six hours a week. But management refuses to negotiate on broader workload issues, so workers were poised for tough action.

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

The strike dates have been chosen for maximum impact, such as on open evenings. And workers have set dates for September to show management that the struggle does not stop at the end of the summer period.

Members of the NEU teaching union at Belmont Park School in Waltham Forest, east London, are to strike this week over working conditions.

Management has hired and paid teachers on a casual basis. Staff are struggling because they don’t know if they will be paid for ongoing responsibilities. And so school workers are fighting to get paid well because teachers want permanent teacher accountability payments (TLR).

These are payments that teachers receive for responsibilities they take on outside of their teaching obligations.

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

School staff at Balham and Eastwood nurseries in south London are continuing their strike this week, just as they struck on Tuesday and plan to strike on Wednesday and Thursday.

They are on strike because of the proposed cuts, which would make many redundant. Bosses are threatening staff with redundancies over plans to cut the number of nurseries.

Nurseries employ a large proportion of – and provide a wide range of provision for – children with special educational needs and disabilities (Send). But budget cuts would drastically reduce the learning opportunities and facilities offered.

The loss of these services would be devastating for children who need extra support.

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

The 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 meaner prospect than other academy chains.

“There has been a lot of focus on the way Harris Federation treats its staff, how terrible employers they are and how bad their practices are. Ofsted has been used as a tool for academisation. Lies have been told and the school staff smeared.”

Vote for strikes at a number of schools

Members of the NEU teaching union at four schools in Hastings, all part of the University of Brighton Academies Trust (UBAT), are formally voting to strike against job losses and cuts that will seriously damage education for local children.

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

Workers are angry that not enough money is reaching local schools, leading to cuts to jobs and services and an increased workload for remaining staff.

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

More than 200 school workers at eight Catholic schools in west London have taken a formal vote after the Diocese of Westminster – a religious district – signaled its intention to turn all 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 votes to strike.

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

At Villiers High School in west London, more than 70 members of the NEU teaching union have taken a formal vote on poor management practices, workload and victimization of the school representative.

NEU union members voted overwhelmingly to strike to defend the school representative as she faced malicious disciplinary charges. The last indicative vote saw a yes vote of 87 percent and a turnout of 94 percent.

Employees at Chingford Foundation School and South Chingford Foundation School in east London will formally vote on workloads, fixed-term contracts and increasing teacher contact time.

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