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Posted on 24 April 2018 at 15:16 GMT

Avenue school picket line, 24.4.18, photo by James Ivens

Avenue school picket line, 24.4.18, photo by James Ivens   (Click to enlarge)

Newham school strike forces head to say privatisation will stop

Parents' protest supports strikers' demands

Strike still on till academisation cancelled in writing

Stop press: Avenue's headteacher reneged on her promise of stopping the privatisation drive later the same day. So angry parents again occupied reception and demanded to speak to her on the morning of 25 April, where no fresh promise seemed forthcoming. The strikes and protests will continue.

James Ivens, East London Socialist Party

Privatisation at Avenue school in Newham, east London could be on the verge of defeat - after striking staff and parents on 24 April forced the headteacher to promise she will call off 'academisation'.

Workers at the school were taking their 17th day of strike action, with more days scheduled. A visiting music teacher also refused to cross the picket line.

And a surprise occupation organised separately by a group of supporting parents added to the pressure. They decided to go into the school en masse, some with their children from classes whose staff are on strike, to collectively register complaints and demand the headteacher see them.

Parents go in to occupy the reception, Avenue school 24.4.18, photo by James Ivens

Parents go in to occupy the reception, Avenue school 24.4.18, photo by James Ivens   (Click to enlarge)

Staff and parents want, at the very least, a vote on whether the school becomes a privately run 'academy'.

The Avenue campaign has involved one of - if not the - highest numbers of strike days against academisation by any school so far. It is led by the secretary of Newham's National Education Union branch, Socialist Party member Louise Cuffaro.

The borough's right-wing Labour council has officially resolved to oppose further academies - although outgoing Blairite mayor Robin Wales refuses to let this turn into concrete action against them. The process is also under investigation through a judicial review.

As the pickets' chant goes: "The council says stop! The court says stop! Give us a ballot and the strikes will stop!"

Strikers and supporters chanting, Avenue school 24.4.18, photo by James Ivens

Strikers and supporters chanting, Avenue school 24.4.18, photo by James Ivens   (Click to enlarge)

Management called the police to deal with the mortal threat of parents and children standing in a school reception. Parents forced the head to come out and talk to them. She declared she had lost the battle, and would tell the governors that academisation must stop.

Louise said: "Nothing is in writing yet. We are still on strike and will be going ahead with our lobby of the governors' meeting this week. But this shows that striking and campaigning works, and the privatisers can be beaten!"

Louise Cuffaro addressing pickets, 24.4.18, photo by James Ivens

Louise Cuffaro addressing pickets, 24.4.18, photo by James Ivens   (Click to enlarge)

Elsewhere in the borough, management at Eastlea school has now followed Keir Hardie and Brampton schools in seeing the strikes at other schools and deciding against becoming an academy.

And Cumberland school workers are out for eight days over three weeks against academisation. The secondary could become an academy as early as 1 May.

Labour's new mayoral candidate Rokhsana Fiaz must publicly state she will intervene to block academisation when elected.

The Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC) - the electoral alliance that includes transport union RMT and the Socialist Party - is also standing in the 3 May elections. We are challenging Labour candidates still supporting academisation, and we are fighting for an end to cuts and privatisation across the borough.

This version of this article was first posted on the Socialist Party website on 24 April 2018 and may vary slightly from the version subsequently printed in The Socialist.

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