Thursday, 12 July 2012

Worthing High School Strike - Wednesday 11th July

"Say it Loud, Say it Clear! We don't want an academy here!"

Today NUT and NASUWT members at Worthing High School held a well supported strike against the school becoming an academy. This process is marked by a lack of consultation with staff. The public support was fantastic, with a strong picket and protest outside the school gates attracting frequent honks from passing cars.

At the post-strike rally a long list of supportive messages from across the country was read out. The rally attracted a number of parents and supporters as well as teachers and showed the determination of all to continue and escalate the campaign through the summer and into the next term. I was particularly grateful for the hospitality of two campaigners, Liz and Terry, who provided us with coffee and sandwiches!

And BBC report of the strike:

Why Oppose Academies?

Tory Education Minister Michael Gove is ploughing ahead with plans to form as many academies as possible across Britain. Academies were introduced (under New Labour), and have now been put into overdrive by the present government. No new funding will be made available, instead  existing funds will be redirected away from other schools at a time when overall education budgets are taking place.

As an academy the school would no longer be accountable to the local authority but to its own board of governors with expanded powers for the Head. While democratic accountability of schools is not perfect at present the change to academy status is privatisation and many schools are now owned by large education companies. Academies also don't have to pay teachers on agreed terms and conditions and while largely successful it is a constant battle for the teaching union to maintain these agreements.

The government has tried to give impression that academies mean more freedom in an attempt to appeal to those who feel they don't have much say in the running of their local schools. However academies are a long stride in the direction of private companies running education in their own interests of making a profit, with education being only a secondary goal.

Across the country it is this profit motive that degrades staff terms and conditions, reduces hours and makes hundreds of thousands redundant. It is also this profit motive that sees endless corners cut, often harming service users. Greater accountability and democracy over the running of schools and children's education is an important campaign, alongside decent funding being made available within the school system, but this will not be achieved by mimicking the market or flirting with the private sector.

For more information on academies please read this article produced during the Varndean School Against Academies campaign in Brighton

(This campaign was ultimately successful – for now! The following article by an ex- Varndean Governor describes the victory:

Education Under Attack

On top of the campaign against academies there is the struggle not only against so-called pension 'reforms', but also workloads, pay cuts, Ofsted bullying and changes to capability assessments. While the mandate to strike over pensions remains in effect, the NUT has initiated another ballot on the workload and  pay described here Joint action with with other teaching unions was, last year a huge success. Voting 'yes, yes' to both 'strike and non-strike action' will be an important step in a potentially very strong campaign against all these attacks. 

The Fightback Continues

On June 16th over 100 NUT delegates met in Liverpool and to launch the Local Association Network, a response to disappointment with the failure of the NUT Executive majority to call further national action on pensions since November (see report here:

NUT still has a live ballot, and the initiative needs to be taken for further strike action which will be much more effective taken together with other unions. As a result the National Shop Stewards Network has taken the initiative to lobby the TUC conference on 9th September in Brighton calling on them to co-ordinate a 24 hour public and private sector strike against austerity.

We encourage every member, rep, branch and supporter to attend this lobby. So far the NSSN has lobbied the TUC every step of the way for a national demonstration against the cuts in 2010, for co-ordinated public sector strike action in 2011 and now for a national strike in 2012. Each lobby has helped channel the mood for action from millions of workers and encouraged and/or pressured the trade union leaderships to take further action.

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