The Socialist 2 September 2008
‘Them and us’ economy hits the rocks
School and college students fighting back!
Six months before New Labour came to power in 1997, Blair famously claimed that his three main priorities for government were "education, education, education". This autumn the children born that year will be entering secondary school. What has happened during those years?
Kat Jayawant, Sussex Downs College International Socialist Resistance (ISR)
Education is now increasingly in the control of private businesses. But school students are angry. At the end of the last academic year, this spilled over into walkouts.
In Merseyside 800 students protested at St Aelred's Catholic Technology College to safeguard their education and against proposals for the school to be replaced by an academy.
In Cambridgeshire, at Neale-Wade Community College, overcrowded school dining facilities and short lunchtimes led to 250 students walking out. At Pontllanfraith school in Blackwood, Wales, more than 150 students walked out over teacher redundancies.
In Derbyshire, 60 students walked out on 23 April protesting against the victimisation of two NUT members who planned to join a national strike.
In France, faced with large numbers of education job cuts, students have united with education workers to fight back. 350,000 students, parents and education workers protested in Paris on 18 May.
In Germany, school education is being reduced from 13 to 12 years and there are overly large classes. In response, some students have become fiercely militant.
In Berlin, where a charge of €100 per child for schoolbooks has been introduced, there was a one-day school strike on 22 May, during which 8,000 took to the streets.
This was followed three weeks later by a national school strike during which 15,000 students marched in various locations. Socialist Students' sister organisation in Germany is playing an important role in this battle, being involved in the 'tear down the education blockades' campaign that has initiated the call for national walkouts on 12 November.
Issues that affect students on a day-to-day basis are things like bullying (especially homophobic and racist bullying), sexual health matters and for college students - the minimum wage of £3.40 per hour.
The Campaign to Defeat Fees (CDF) and Boost Our Pay campaigns have got a positive response from college students. One activity at my college in Lewes resulted in eight people applying to join ISR.
But it is not just day-to-day actions that school and college students are interested in. Hundreds of thousands of school students walked out in protest at the invasion of Iraq.
Unfortunately, college student union organisers tend to be apolitical, focusing on arranging social events, if they do anything at all, rather than campaigning in students' interests.
Also, people do not see politics as something relevant to them. And the three main parties all follow neo-liberal agendas, supporting cuts, privatisation and big business profits.
Socialist Students and ISR work together in schools and colleges, campaigning to defend and improve school and college students' rights and supporting struggles of workers against poor wages and conditions.
We oppose the privatisation of our education system. We present a clear socialist solution to the problems of war, racism, environmental destruction and capitalism. We'll be bringing this to schools and colleges across England and Wales throughout the year.
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Socialist Party editorial
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Socialist Party feature
International socialist news and analysis
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Socialist Party review
Socialist Party NHS campaign