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Stratford: parents support teachers' action
Lois Austin, Stratford Academy parent
"I don't know what democracy is", was the flippant reply by a deputy head at Stratford Academy in east London when parent Niall Mulholland asked why senior management had refused to meet parents to discuss an ongoing teachers' strike at the school.
Such management arrogance has fuelled the anger of teachers at Stratford, who began another three-day strike on Tuesday 20 November. Members of the NUT and NASUWT teaching unions had already taken six days of strike action.
The strikes began after the head teacher insisted teachers agree they would not take part in national action (short-of-strike) jointly launched by the two teaching unions. All teachers refusing to accept the demand started to have 15% docked from their pay.
A packed public meeting called by Stratford Academy Concerned Parents on 15 November discussed the teachers' action. Kevin Courtney, Deputy General Secretary of the NUT, the NASUWT Deputy General Secretary Dr Patrick Roche, and parent and Newham Socialist Party member, Niall Mulholland, addressed parents and people from the local community. The school governors contemptuously refused to send a speaker.
A motion condemning the head and governors for provoking a strike by their "aggressive and irresponsible actions, causing classes to be cancelled and imposing great practical difficulties on parents and pupils" was unanimously agreed.
The meeting demanded the employers "immediately withdraw cuts to teachers' pay, to allow teachers to carry out their lawful trade union actions, and to ensure that Stratford Academy is free of management bullying or threats towards teachers and all staff, and pupils and parents."
In the run up to the meeting, parents held street stalls, successfully persuaded many local shop keepers to display meeting posters, lobbied an emergency meeting of the governors and joined teachers' picket lines.
The combined actions of the teachers' determined strike and the successful parents' meeting clearly shook management. The Head suddenly announced "a meeting for parents" for 20 November.
Stratford Academy Concerned Parents will do all they can to ensure the facts of the dispute are put to the meeting and the teachers' just case.
Parents' anger with senior management, who they blame for forcing teachers to strike and for putting the welfare and safety of their children in danger, is intensifying. Two pupils were mugged on separate occasions while leaving school alone, following senior management demands that pupils must attend the rare classes that go ahead on strike days.
Stratford Academy teachers and parents have the opportunity to press home a victory, which will also be a warning to all other Academy heads who might like to emulate Stratford.
Please send messages of support to NUT rep, Steve Charles, on SteveC4151@aol.com
In The Socialist 21 November 2012: