Victory against academisation at Avenue Primary

Now step up the fight for well-funded, democratically-run education in Newham

Pickets at Avenue School, 14.12.17, photo James Ivens

Pickets at Avenue School, 14.12.17, photo James Ivens   (Click to enlarge: opens in new window)

Newham Socialist Party

After 19 days of strike action NEU members at Avenue Primary school have successfully forced the head teacher and the governing body to withdraw their plans to turn Avenue into an academy.

The strength and depth of support for the strike was shown by the new ballot (required by the anti-trade union laws) which closed on 2 May and had a 95% yes vote on a 75% turnout.

Throughout, staff have had overwhelming support from parents. Just two weeks ago a meeting of around 70 parents voted unanimously to demand that the academisation proposal be withdrawn.

At the same time a group of parents have taken the head to judicial review over her complete failure to meaningfully consult them over the proposal.

Even in the governors’ own consultative survey 132 parents objected to academisation while only four stated they were in favour, yet still the plans were going ahead until the movement against them became unstoppable.

Martin Powell Davies, NEU London regional secretary, and Socialist Party member, explained: “The lively rallies on the school gates on strike days, always supported by dozens of local parents, left governors in no doubt that the campaign showed no signs of weakening.

“The determination and unity across the school community shown at Avenue School over the last six months of action will be an inspiration to other campaigns organising to stop academisation in their schools.”

This is an important victory, which will give confidence to other school staff and parents fighting academisation.

However, it is not the end of the struggle. On a Newham-wide level, the Labour council, having presided over widespread academisation in recent years, voted – just before the elections – to oppose further academisation.

The new Labour Mayor, Rokhsana Fiaz, has also said she will oppose academies. Both moves are to be welcomed.

However, Louise Cuffaro, newly-elected Newham NEU secretary and Socialist Party member, explained: “It is vital that the new council does not leave this policy just as words on a piece of paper, but actively campaigns against academisation.

“This has to be linked to providing local schools with the resources they so desperately need. “

It is the scale of the cuts facing schools which has been a factor in pushing some schools to become academies believing, mistakenly, that it offers an escape from the endless cuts.

Local councils have the power to underwrite school budgets to stop cuts for at least three years. Newham should use that power now.

This should be linked to the incoming Labour council declaring that they will not preside over any more cuts to public services in our borough, but will instead set a no cuts budget – using reserves and borrowing powers to do so – as part of building a movement to defeat the Tory government.

This version of this article was first posted on the Socialist Party website on 8 May 2018 and may vary slightly from the version subsequently printed in The Socialist.