Drapers Pyrgo school picket line. Photo: James Ivens
Drapers Pyrgo school picket line. Photo: James Ivens

James Ivens, East London Socialist Party

Teaching assistants and support staff at Drapers’ Pyrgo primary school in Havering, east London, have struck for weeks against pay cuts. Staff with many years’ experience are being forcibly downgraded.

Pickets told us on the thirteenth strike day, Thursday 14 July, that bosses at their academy chain have an ulterior motive. They suspect the trust plans to pave over surrounding parkland and throw up a massive ‘learning village’ with a primary, secondary and college combined.

The bosses’ aim is presumably to attract in more students and more money, never mind the quality of the facilities and conditions for staff and students. Slashing support staff pay at this primary would be a step towards winding it up ahead of that.

Why else build a whole new primary right next door, and stop even publicly offering Drapers’ Pyrgo as an option? Why else allow the facilities to fall into disrepair, like the disgusting boys’ toilets? Why else give students at other sites in the academy trust a school trip for free or discounted, while charging £50 a head here?

The trust has £800,000 in reserves. Its top twelve earners make £1 million a year put together. Downgrade their pay! The money’s there and the strikers know it.

The local press has sided uncritically with management. The local borough council, led by a Residents Association-Labour coalition, has done nothing to support the workers. The working class needs its own party to do that job. The truth is that schools just can’t operate without good numbers of experienced support staff. But the bosses don’t care. The workers at Drapers’ Pyrgo are standing up for themselves and education. Victory to the NEU strike!