Paul Couchman, Staines Socialist Party
No one who has seen the videos on social media, of the attack on a black schoolgirl outside Thomas Knyvett school in Ashford, in Surrey, could fail to be outraged. The racist attack was brutal and involved both adults and children.
There have been community protests at the school. Some arrests have been made, and an investigation has been promised, but tensions are running high.
Although Surrey is often considered a well-off county, there are many areas of poverty and deprivation. Thomas Knyvett school is in one of those places – left behind by the Tory council and Labour councillors.
Unions get organised
Some students and local residents have expressed anger at a perceived lack of action of some school staff. However, the demands for proper safeguarding and safety can only be guaranteed if there is strong trade union organisation, and a willingness to stand up against racism and be counted.
I raised, first through my Surrey County Unison union branch – which represents a number of support staff at the school – and then at a meeting of the Surrey County Council trade union group, the need for a robust trade union response to this horrific incident.
The education trade unions are in the best place to call for unity and to fight racism – in workplaces, schools and in the community. The Surrey council trade union group voted unanimously to write to the school asking for a joint union meeting with all the school staff – to hear their concerns, and to develop a united front against racism and discrimination.
Unfortunately, the school is part of an academy chain, the Howard Partnership, which does not recognise trade unions. It has proven to be reluctant to allow unions to organise within its schools.
If they refuse, then the trade unions should publicly shame them, and demand to be recognised. The Socialist Party demands the ending of academies and free schools. All schools should be brought back under direct local authority control.
The Socialist Party demands fully funded professional play and youth services, backed up with support services to provide for mental health, and wellbeing services for young people. And this area desperately needs well-built council housing to meet the demands of hundreds living in poor accommodation or on the waiting lists.
But most local politicians don’t support these policies, including the local Labour mayor of Spelthorne.
To fight for the demands that these school students need to keep them safe, to get rid of the conditions that allow racism to fester, we need ‘no-cuts’ councillors determined to fight for the resources we need.