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From The Socialist newspaper, 5 December 2012

Victory for teachers' strike

After revelations that the academies programme has run up a 1 billion overspend, which other schools are now being asked to pay for, anger against the government's flagship education policy is growing.

Academies allow private companies to take over the running of schools. A huge public robbery has taken place.

Billions of pounds worth of public assets - schools buildings, land and so on - have been handed to the private sector.

It is also increasingly evident that academies can be used to attack teachers' pay, working conditions and union rights.

But as this report from Stratford Academy in east London shows, education workers, with support from others affected and from communities, can win battles against academies.

After protracted strike action, teachers at Stratford Academy went back to the classroom with their heads held high, winning big concessions from the head teacher and governors.

The strike was triggered by the Academy management's outrageous demand that staff must individually promise not to take part in the NUT and NASUWT's joint action campaign against excessive workloads, or have 15% of their wages docked every month.

The staff refused to submit to these demands and took strike action on 25 October, followed by 8 more days of strikes over the next three weeks.

The strikes and parents' support for teachers left management with no option but to negotiate.

After talks on 27 November, the unions and school produced a joint one sentence statement: "Following constructive talks facilitated by ACAS, all sides have agreed to a process of further discussions to deal with outstanding issues".

The strike was suspended and teachers at Stratford will be reintroducing their unions' joint national action (short of strike action) in opposition to excessive workloads. Last week teachers' docked wages were returned.

The future

The striking teachers also demanded all threats of future wage cuts were dropped and that guarantees would be given about classroom observations and other workload issues.

Given the growing militancy of striking teachers, with parents' backing, it is clear that rank and file teachers would only suspend the strike if their main demands were met.

Although the teachers' dispute now appears to be getting resolved to teachers' satisfaction, areas of concern for both teachers and parents remain, in particular the heavy-handed management culture and unaccountable governors.

On 27 November, the chair of the governors, John Swallow, wrote to Niall Mulholland, co-ordinator of the Stratford Concerned Parents, stating the governors refuse to meet Niall.

Swallow alleged that Niall "disrupted" a parents meeting organised by the head. In truth, up to 200 parents revolted against the actions of the senior management that provoked the strike.

Swallow insulted other parents by asserting that he "would not want a repeat" of a meeting between a Concerned Parents' delegation and senior staff.

The governors' chair and the head, licking their wounds, have no intention of being held accountable to the parents.

But Stratford Academy Concerned Parents are committed to campaigning for real representation and accountability and working closely with the teachers' unions.

This will include resolute opposition to any attempts by management to victimise either parents or teachers.

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In The Socialist 5 December 2012:


 

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