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From: The Socialist issue 536, 4 June 2008: Don't just get angry - get active

Search site for keywords: School - Students - Teachers - Strike - Education - ISR - International Socialist Resistance

Students step-up struggle

School students are angry. Over the last six weeks, thousands have walked out in protest against the running down of the education system.

Ben Robinson, ISR national co-ordinator

800 protested in St Aelreds Catholic Technology College in St Helens, Merseyside over concerns for the future of their education, connected to plans to close the school and replace it with an academy.

250 walked out in Neale-Wade Community College in Cambridgeshire over overcrowded dinner facilities and short lunch times. The school management's answer proves what good pupils of Tony Blair and Gordon Brown they are; the school head said they will factor the pupils' concerns into plans for a new PFI build in 2010!

In Derbyshire, 60 students walked out on 23 April in support of two members of the National Union of Teachers (NUT) who planned to strike the following day, calling for no victimisation of the striking teachers.

Students involved in organising a protest in Kent took direct inspiration from the teachers' strike action on 24 April. A school student quoted in the local press said: "they decided to go on strike for what they want and we thought that if it is all right for them, then it is all right for us to do the same for what we want". Increased action by workers, especially those involved in education like teachers or support staff, can lead to more students taking action for their rights.

Over 150 students in Pontllanfraith School in Blackwood, Wales walked out over the possibility of several teachers losing their jobs. This action resulted in management distancing themselves from this proposal. It looks likely that the teachers' jobs have been saved, which would mean a victory as a result of the students' action.

School student strikes have won big victories in the past. In 1985 the Youth Training Scheme (YTS), which fundamentally meant slave labour for young people, resulted in huge strikes.

Inspired by the miners' strike and in revolt against Margaret Thatcher's Conservative government, hundreds of thousands of school students walked out in coordinated action. This led to the YTS being shelved.

Llais Gwynedd, a party formed as part of a campaign against school closures, won 12 seats in Gwynedd in North Wales in the 1 May local elections. This followed 600-strong demonstrations in December. As a result, it looks likely that the schools in this area will be saved. There is an urgent need for a new mass party for workers and youth on a national scale that can stand up for education and young people's rights.

During school student walkouts, the home secretary's tyrannical 'harass a hoodie' policing policy has resulted in a number of those involved being arrested. This makes proper organisation and wide-scale participation for these protests all the more important.

International Socialist Resistance (ISR), the socialist youth organisation that initiated and led many of the school student strikes against the war in Iraq in 2003, supports these protests. We would welcome more reports from those involved in these or other protests.

There is a need to link up on a national scale. If there are issues in your school or college which need to be addressed, organise a meeting to get a campaign together. Get in touch with ISR if you would like any help or advice.

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