Join the Socialist Party Join us today!

Printable version Printable version

Facebook   Twitter

Link to this page: https://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/859/20865

From The Socialist newspaper, 10 June 2015

Tories plan to block parents objecting but

Strikes and bold campaigning can beat academy plans

Sedgehill school students protest against academies in Lewisham, photo by Lewisham SP

Sedgehill school students protest against academies in Lewisham, photo by Lewisham SP   (Click to enlarge)

Martin Powell-Davies, secretary of Lewisham National Union of Teachers (NUT) branch and national executive member, explains how Lewisham's teachers, students and parents beat plans to make local schools into academies.

Successive governments have used the academies programme to fragment and divide education in England as part of a wider agenda to cut and privatise public services. Lewisham had largely resisted academisation, with only a handful of schools having converted so far.

However, last November, Lewisham NUT decided we had to act on rumours that several secondary schools could be under threat. If these became academies, there was a real danger that others could quickly follow

We said "don't wait until it's too late"! The NUT seized the initiative, calling a "No more academies" public meeting to explain why academisation would prove disastrous for parents, staff and students alike.

We set the tone that the academy steamroller could be stopped. We invited a speaker from Hove Park school, where a joint campaign by staff and parents had just successfully opposed academy conversion in Brighton. We were fighting to win in Lewisham too.

That meeting set up a joint 'Stop Academies in Lewisham' campaign uniting staff, parents and students. We produced a leaflet naming five schools that we understood were at threat. Now, after seven months of campaigning, none of those schools has been able to convert!

Collective strength

Our priority was to use our collective strength and organise strike action. At first, the campaign was mainly trade union based although a follow-up meeting quickly brought more parents and students on board too.

What better way to publicise the academy threat than to take strike action? As a parent explained: "Governors keep you in the dark, but when the unions strike, then we find out what's really happening."

We approached the NUT nationally to seek support for a strike ballot. The NUT's National Action Officers were supportive, seeing the threat of a change in employer to an academy trust as constituting a legal trade dispute. Until and unless that threat was lifted, we would take action to oppose it.

A first indicative NUT ballot across all five schools recorded a 98% 'yes' vote on a 73% turnout. This was followed by the legal ballot needed to call ongoing 'discontinuous' strikes. Four days of strike action were called in total, with school unions NASUWT and GMB joining the action too.

Early success

The campaign had an early success when governors at the first school to publicly consider academisation, Bonus Pastor, withdrew their plans. Sedgehill school then became the centre of attention.

We knew school students will mobilise to defend their education too. Determined to oppose threats that Lewisham's Labour council might turn their school into an academy, hundreds of Sedgehill students protested outside the town hall. For now, Sedgehill is also still a maintained school!

A delegation of students from the Prendergast Federation, three other schools where governors were considering academisation, joined Sedgehill students that evening and then played a key part in the campaign to 'Save Prendergast'.

They demanded that governors heard their concerns about staff turnover and worse education if the schools converted.

Actions included 'work-to-rules' in class, walkouts and their own student ballot which showed overwhelming opposition to the academy plans.

On strike days, strikers were encouraged to leaflet and build events to spread the message and were joined by students and parents too.

Governors were kept under pressure to think again through public meetings, two local demonstrations, press coverage, lobbies, leafleting and public campaign stalls.

A packed public debate between me and the Federation's Executive Headteacher showed how little community support there was for the academy plans and how unconvincing were their arguments.

That pressure must have worried the governors. However, the blow that finally forced them to retreat came from a legal challenge.

Parents found that the Department for Education and governors had ignored a regulation requiring a federated school to win the backing of parents and staff governors too. They hadn't and so, for now, the Prendergast plans have been withdrawn too.

This challenge must have been in Tory Education Secretary Nicky Morgan's mind when she announced that she was closing 'loopholes' blocking academy conversions.

In reality, opportunities for parents' objections to be heard have already been extremely limited. Even Thatcher thought parents should be balloted over schools' 'opting-out' in the 1990s, but this Tory government wants to legislate to try and rule out any opposition.

Political voice

The government may change the law but, as our battles showed, they cannot stop the opposition. If campaigns put the arguments firmly, then the academy programme's real aims are easily exposed.

However, the kind of firm strike action and bold campaigning seen in Lewisham will be needed to give that opposition real strength. The Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition's (TUSC) election campaign in Lewisham, which backed our fight against academisation, showed the way.

TUSC activists played an important role in building community support. Academies' opponents will need to build a political voice, representatives that call for the academy programme to be reversed, unlike the Labour Party!


Academies aren't working

Academies, started by Labour, are state-funded schools but run by trusts accountable only to the government, rather than local communities.

They control their own pupil admissions and exclusions policies and don't have to follow national pay and conditions for staff.

Academies don't improve education. A cross-party Education Select Committee concluded in January that "Current evidence does not prove that academies raise standards overall or for disadvantaged children".

Fragmentation and privatisation worsen public services instead of improving them.

The Tories want to force through the academy conversion of another 1,000 schools. Unless these plans are resisted they will result in chains of academies, run in the interests of their sponsoring businesses, totally replacing locally accountable maintained schools.

Why not click here to join the Socialist Party, or click here to donate to the Socialist Party.


In The Socialist 10 June 2015:


Socialist Party news and analysis

7K rise for MPs... Peanuts for us!

Strikes and bold campaigning can beat academy plans

Coulson case collapses amid stench of hypocrisy

Fifa scandals - a rottenness based on corporate greed

Fight devastating spending cuts

Royal Mail sell-off: Public service, not private profit

Can Corbyn's left challenge succeed?

Them & Us


International socialist news and analysis

Greece: Crunch time for Syriza?

900 attend rally to re-elect Kshama Sawant!


Socialist Party feature

No to a capitalist EU, Yes to a socialist Europe!


Socialist Party workplace news

Fight austerity! Fight anti-union laws!

Council cancels facility time to pave way for cuts

Gains for left in Unison elections

'Clear fighting strategy' needed for council workers

RMT strikes for unfairly sacked train guard

Bakers' union debates political representation

Striking porters 'a hundred times stronger'

Workplace news in brief


Socialist Party reports and campaigns

'Promising futures' wasted by cuts

Join TUSC on the march against austerity

Newcastle demo sets a striking tone

Leeds TUSC calls for not-for-profit letting agency

Protesters tell Labour councils to fight Tory cuts

Warrington TUSC


Readers' comments and reviews

This Skype is the limit!

1945 - when Britain said no to Churchill

'Socialism is the only way to stop austerity and poverty'


 

Home   |   The Socialist 10 June 2015   |   Join the Socialist Party

Subscribe   |   Donate   |   PDF  |   ebook






Related links:

Lewisham:

triangleSave Our Schools

triangleHuddersfield campaigners keep their powder dry

triangleGoldsmiths Socialist Students: Build a movement against racism

triangleLewisham: binning the rates rise

triangleCatford campaign against regeneration

Academies:

triangleBlairites plan to expand their very own academy chain

triangleSchool students in solitary: for full funding, not exclusion!

triangleWaltham Forest Socialist Party: Building the movement for socialism this autumn

triangleVictory: how school strike beat 'academy' privatisers

Tories:

triangle'Tories out' demo

triangleMay facing Brexit vote catastrophe

triangleDerby Socialist Party: Tories out! End austerity

Parents:

triangleGrimethorpe dinner ladies stage all-out strike against redundancy

triangleWorking families 50 a week short of paying for kids

Schools:

triangle30% of English secondaries in deficit

Students:

triangleSocialist Students LJMU victory

Strike:

triangleHundreds join Manc RMT picket line in solidarity after far-right attack

Education:

triangleUCU: Vote Yes and Yes in the higher education pay and equality ballot

NUT:

triangleGovernment fails to deliver on funding and teachers' pay - demand action to win 5%

Government:

triangleThe 1979 'Winter of Discontent'

Teachers:

triangleIndefinite dinner ladies' and teaching assistants' strike

Public services:

triangleInterserve debts

TUSC:

triangleNew twist in Derby TUSC election agent case

Martin Powell-Davies:

triangleNewham academy strikes spread to Cumberland school

News and socialist analysis

News and socialist analysis

16/1/19

Schools

30% of English secondaries in deficit

16/1/19

Universal Credit

Robbing the working class

16/1/19

Them & Us

Them & Us

16/1/19

Grenfell Tower

After Grenfell, thousands still in high-rise firetrap blocks

15/1/19

Brexit

May facing Brexit vote catastrophe

9/1/19

Brexit

For a socialist alternative to the Tory deal and bosses' EU

9/1/19

Austerity

Javid's migrant 'emergency'

9/1/19

Wealth

'Fat Cat Friday' shows where all the money's gone

9/1/19

What we saw

What we saw

9/1/19

Them & Us

Them & Us

9/1/19

Homelessness

Death in a doorway: struggle can end homelessness

9/1/19

Austerity

Tories Out. End austerity. Mass working-class action for a general election

2/1/19

Rail

Yet another wage-busting fare hike? Nationalise rail now!

2/1/19

Swansea

Early morning cabinet meeting nods through 24 million cuts

2/1/19

Housing

Rip-off landlords make money out of misery

triangleMore News and socialist analysis articles...


Join the Socialist Party
Subscribe to Socialist Party publications
Donate to the Socialist Party
Socialist Party Facebook page
Socialist Party on Twitter
Visit us on Youtube

LATEST POSTS

CONTACT US

Phone our national office on 020 8988 8777

Email: info@socialistparty.org.uk

Locate your nearest Socialist Party branch Text your name and postcode to 07761 818 206

Regional Socialist Party organisers:

Eastern: 0798 202 1969

East Mids: 0773 797 8057

London: 020 8988 8786

North East: 0784 114 4890

North West 07769 611 320

South East: 020 8988 8777

South West: 07759 796 478

Southern: 07833 681910

Wales: 07935 391 947

West Mids: 02476 555 620

Yorkshire: 0114 264 6551

ABOUT US

ARCHIVE

Alphabetical listing


January 2019

2018

2017

2016

2015

2014

2013

2012

2011

2010

2009

2008

2007

2006

2005

2004

2003

2002

2001

2000

1999