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Newham: school strike solid as bosses barge through on academy status
James Ivens, East London Socialist Party
Avenue School was in near-total shutdown on 14 December, its second strike day in opposition to becoming a quasi-privatised 'academy'.
Dozens of teachers, learning support assistants (LSAs), parents and children filled the pavement outside the east London primary. The energy of strikers and campaigners shows no sign of flagging.
National Education Union (NEU) rep Louise Cuffaro, a member of the Socialist Party, is leading the action. NEU members in Newham have just elected her their new branch secretary.
Louise had been at recent negotiations with management. "We got the LSAs in the room, we won that. Management hadn't wanted them in there because they don't have negotiating rights. But we pointed out that there's not anything to negotiate on here. They want the school to become an academy. We don't. There's no middle ground."
Louise also reported that staff at other schools in the borough have contacted her. They are discussing joining the fight against forced academisation.
That evening staff and parents lobbied a meeting of the school's governors. A union delegation led by Louise went in to argue on behalf of the staff and parents. A consultation of staff and parents found well over 100 oppose academisation. The number in favour was in single digits.
Consultants for the 'Eko' academy trust claimed only a minority oppose academisation - because the turnout was under 50%! "This is a travesty of democracy," said Louise.
Opposition from parents and staff is overwhelming. Campaigners are demanding that governors put the decision to a ballot. But management seems determined to push the new status through.
A consultant for the academy chain even took this attitude to the demonstration outside the meeting. After peaceful protesters surrounded his enormous car, they witnessed him barging it into one of them. After the protester crumpled to the ground, the consultant got out and laughed, seeming to think the whole affair was a joke.
Action will continue in the new year.
This version of this article was first posted on the Socialist Party website on 21 December 2017 and may vary slightly from the version subsequently printed in The Socialist.