Join the Socialist Party Join us today!

Printable version Printable version

Facebook   Twitter

Link to this page:

From The Socialist newspaper, 16 December 2020

East London shows the way: strikes are how to fight for state education

Little Ilford school strike, Photo: James Ivens

Little Ilford school strike, Photo: James Ivens   (Click to enlarge)

James Ivens, East London Socialist Party

Two strikes in Newham, east London have the future of publicly owned and run education at their heart. What's more, the mini-strikewave which has followed them in surrounding boroughs shows the potential for wider action.

The action against forced expansion of Little Ilford School rages on. Its seventh and eighth strike days on 8-9 December again counted dozens of pickets. This is despite multiple year groups and staff members isolating due to rampant Covid cases.

The strikers' mood is dogged and participation remains firm. In fact, the school's National Education Union (NEU) group has grown from 60 to 75.

Too many students, too few staff, and yet more disruptive building plans are the reasons for this dispute. But its political crux is privatisation.

With expeditious strikes in 2018-19, Newham NEU defeated most attempts to turn more local state schools into state-funded, privately run 'academies'. Under huge pressure, the local Labour council even reluctantly agreed it would formally oppose academisation.

Newham needs new schools

Meanwhile, Labour's own gentrification policies in London had funnelled working-class families into localities with insufficient school places. What Newham needs is new schools to take the pressure off.

However, the Tory-Liberal central government's Education Act 2011 introduced 'academy/free school presumption'. This meant local government could only build new 'community schools' - owned and run by the council - if they received no viable pitch for a privately run school.

The final arbiter? The (Tory) education secretary.

In 2015, the Tories updated the 'presumption clause' to 'free schools' only. Free schools are simply new academies which anyone can set up. Like all academies, they are 'free' from national union agreements on pay and conditions, the national curriculum, and even the need for qualified teachers.

So now Newham is saying the only solution to the problem it has created is an under-resourced school expansion - or a free school.

In fact, it could fully resource staffing and student places by using its vast reserves and borrowing powers, and demanding the money back from the U-turn Tories. With some creativity, and backing for the NEU's campaign, it might even find a way round free school presumption.

In the meantime, the dangers of free schools are underlined by the ongoing dispute at London Design and Engineering UTC, on a University of East London campus. It's a 'university technical college': a secondary-age free school focused on 'Stem' subjects.

The vicious school management sacked NEU rep Sharon Morgan - for the crime of asking questions about Covid safety. A judge even decided in her favour, but such rulings are not binding.

Staff and students work in cramped facilities. Like in all schools, workload is increasing while staff numbers fall. One striker told us the time between bells to change classrooms has been cut completely - periods end and begin simultaneously! Are teachers expected to teleport?

Turnover is high. Conditions are unbearable. This is sweated education, and it's the future the Tories want for school workers and working-class students.

Nonetheless, the brave core of strikers have rattled bosses, stood at the windswept Dockside gate on six days this year. Management attempts to intimidate pickets and keep students away show this.

Both these local strikes are fighting aspects of a national problem: free school presumption. They are also angry and worried about coronavirus safety, falling pay and rising workloads - national problems too.

Socialist lead

Led by Socialist Party member Louise Cuffaro, Newham NEU has shown the mood is there to fight if leaders are willing to lead. And that mood is contagious.

In Hackney, members at a 'special educational needs and disability' (SEND) institution - the independent Leaways School - walked out on 8-9 December. NEU members are demanding better pay and sick leave (see article here).

Next-door Tower Hamlets NEU called a strike of SEND educators on 9 December. The Labour council is proposing redundancies in the 'Support for Learning Service'.

Havering Sixth Form College struck on 10 December for safer Covid measures. All the students are in every day! Outside London, Kingsway Primary in Wirral, Merseyside struck for Covid safety the same day.

With or without a national lead, schools have no way forward but to fight. They must not be left to fight alone. The national leadership of the NEU needs to learn from east London and have the confidence to build ballots on industrial action nationally.

Donate to the Socialist Party

Finance appeal

The coronavirus crisis has laid bare the class character of society in numerous ways. It is making clear to many that it is the working class that keeps society running, not the CEOs of major corporations.

The results of austerity have been graphically demonstrated as public services strain to cope with the crisis.

  • The Socialist Party's material is more vital than ever, so we can continue to report from workers who are fighting for better health and safety measures, against layoffs, for adequate staffing levels, etc.
  • We must be ready for the stormy events ahead and the need to arm workers' movements with a socialist programme - one which puts the health and needs of humanity before the profits of a few.
Inevitably, during the crisis we have not been able to sell the Socialist and raise funds in the ways we normally would.
We therefore urgently appeal to all our viewers to donate to our Fighting Fund.

Please donate here.

All payments are made through a secure server.

My donation


Your message: 


In The Socialist 16 December 2020:


Unemployment and Covid rising - the crisis is not over - Fight for jobs and safety

Mass testing - we need trade union oversight and full pay for all

Fight for NHS pay and funding

Rich countries hoarding vaccine is danger to us all

No to Tories' new anti-protest law

Maternity unit deaths - democratic, public ownership needed

Met police investigate British mercenary war crimes against Tamils

No surprise, poverty is rising


Cancel exams for class of Covid

Welsh schools close for safety after union pressure

Effective testing and properly funded safety plan needed in schools

East London shows the way: strikes are how to fight for state education

Determined strikers at Leaways school

Workplace News

Openreach and EE: Massive vote for action

PCS union conference stripped of powers by NEC

Unite launch ballot over sacked London bus rep

Christmas redundancy shock at L&Q housing association

Stop 'fire and rehire' at British Gas

New Technology

Can green technology and AI save capitalism?


'Socialism - Utopian and Scientific' by Engels

Reports & campaigns

Protests in solidarity with Indian farmers

Book: The national question - a Marxist approach

School boy assaulted by police in Tottenham

TUSC relaunch in the north west

Protest against immigration enforcement centre in Newham

Tremendous fighting fund reflects confidence


Quiz 2020


Home   |   The Socialist 16 December 2020   |   Join the Socialist Party

Subscribe   |   Donate   |   Audio  |   PDF  |   ebook

Related links:


triangle10,000 tube workers vote to strike

triangleWest London Socialist Party: Was Stalinism Inevitable?

triangleNorth London NHS - "It's going to be us who saves it"

triangleSolidarity with workers protesting in Kazakhstan

triangleCommunities fight back against Rio Tinto mine

East London:

triangleWaltham Forest: Campaign unites families facing eviction

triangleTrinity Centre: Shameful eviction by Newham council

triangleEast London mass non-payment wins housing victory

triangleNewham: Durning Hall - another shameful act of Labour gentrification


triangleNUS walkout: Organise to fight for free education on 2 March

triangleCovid, stress and cutbacks fuel school staff shortages

triangleUni staff and students must unite to end marketisation and for free education


triangleMutual aid, the welfare state and the fight for a new mass workers' party

triangleMoney Heist: A Robin Hood tale set in modern-day capitalism


triangleSouth Yorkshire bus strikes spreading and getting stronger


triangleOaks Park school strike ends following forced concessions


triangleUnion action needed for Covid safety


triangleNewham college strike solid against bully privatisers


triangleDerby academies closed by strikes against brutal cuts and changes

Free Schools:

triangleSchools and teaching: A perfect storm of cuts, underfunding, excessive workloads and low pay

Reports and campaigns

Reports and campaigns



10,000 tube workers vote to strike



Scunthorpe scaffs resume indefinite strike action


South Yorkshire

S Yorks Stagecoach strike results in "huge pay win"



Sheffield Just Eat couriers speak about strike



Coventry bin strike continues



NUS walkout: Organise to fight for free education on 2 March



Oliver Campbell - 31 years fighting for justice



Somers Forge workers continue pay strike



Workplace news in brief



Bus driver Tracey Scholes reinstated at Go North West


Royal Mail

Royal Mail: Unofficial walkouts precede bigger battle to come on pay and workload



Newham college strike solid against bully privatisers



Pauline Wall memorial meeting


Socialist Students

Southampton uni ignores staff and students in exam farce



Demonstrating against the Tory anti-protest bill

triangleMore Reports and campaigns 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



Phone our national office on 020 8988 8777

Email: [email protected]

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

Regional Socialist Party organisers:

Eastern: 079 8202 1969

East Mids: 077 3797 8057

London: 020 8988 8786

North East: 078 4114 4890

North West 079 5437 6096

South West: 077 5979 6478

Southern: 078 3368 1910

Wales: 077 7221 5281

West Mids: 024 7655 5620

Yorkshire: 078 0983 9793



Alphabetical listing

January 2022