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28 February 2018

Newham: teaching workers and parents determined to halt academies

Teachers and teaching assistants, with the active support of students and the public, have been taking strike action in the east London borough of Newham against the forced academisation of schools.

On 26 February a hundreds-strong noisy and vibrant demonstration, organised by the local National Education Union (NEU) branch, marched to the town hall in East Ham to demand support from the recalcitrant Labour council and mayor.

At the full council meeting following the march, Newham Labour council voted to reverse its long-held position of support for academisation.

Unfortunately many Labour councillors abstained or refused to accept the anti-academy motion.

Ian Pattison, East London Socialist Party

The mood at the NEU rally against academisation, held on 22 February, was electric as 90 people from three striking schools - Avenue, Cumberland, and Keir Hardie - crammed into Highway church after being on the schools' picket lines.

"If you don't fight, you don't win. If you lie down, they'll walk all over you. Fighting school by school is isolating, we want to unite together" said newly elected Newham NEU secretary and Avenue union rep, Louise Cuffaro, to ringing applause.

Louise, who chaired the rally, also read out a message of support from Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn, again to applause.

School governors in the east London borough are trying to impose academy status on the affected schools.

Hundreds of angry schools staff across the borough have joined the NEU in recent weeks - encouraged by the strike action.

Regional officials, regional NEU elected members and parents offered their full backing to the striking workforce.

On academisation, one person demanded to know: "Where are the compelling arguments?"

Many in the audience said parents and staff should be balloted to see whether they want academisation, a demand the Socialist Party supports.

In a limited survey by Avenue primary school 134 parents voted against losing control of their school, with only four in favour. Staff also overwhelmingly rejected academy status.

One parent said that the Labour Party couldn't continue to rely on their vote if they continued to act like this.

Louise said that if councillors want to truly show they oppose academisation, they must do so in deeds, not just words.

At the strike rally, one person reported that 14 of the 60 Labour councillors (there are no opposition councillors) have links with academy trusts.

Even Blairite mayor Robin Wales felt compelled to oppose academisation while he's under threat from deselection.

The Socialist Party will support Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC) anti-academy and no-cuts candidates in this May's elections against Blairites in Newham who refuse to accept the democratic demands of parents and staff.

If Robin Wales isn't replaced by somebody who genuinely opposes cuts and academisation in Labour's re-run mayoral selection process, then we'll push to stand against him too.

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