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14 December 2009
Strike says 'Hands off Weston Favell school'
ON 3 December, workers in the NASUWT and NUT teachers' unions went on strike at Weston Favell School in Northampton. They were protesting at the county council's plans to hand over the mixed state comprehensive to the infamous United Learning Trust (ULT) as part of the part-privatisation academies scheme.
Lee Dunkley, Northampton Socialist Party
Simultaneous strikes by both unions meant that 48 workers came out. The school was open only to Year Eleven students for revision sessions for GCSE examinations next year.
Over 70 teachers, parents, residents, trade unionists and activists assembled at the school gates. Placards saying "Academies 0/10" and "ULT: Underperforming Learning Trust" were held alongside NASUWT and NUT banners. Members of Unison and CWU unions, an Independent Socialist councillor and Northampton Trade Union Council's president were also there. Support was offered by the parents action group, and sixth form students came on the picket in support.
The county council held an extraordinary cabinet meeting on 10 December. The strength of opposition, however, meant they put off a final decision on whether Weston Favell School will be handed over to a private organisation until after a special council meeting to be held in January.
390 out of 400 letters written to the council over Weston Favell were in outright opposition to the council's plans. But Paul Burnett, council director of children and young people, told the Northampton Chronicle and Echo, that despite overwhelming public opposition, an academy is the only option for Weston Favell.
Central government has stopped ULT 'sponsoring' any more schools because of their dismal record. But both central and local government claim this organisation is still good enough for Weston Favell.
We want the county council to drop the disruptive plans and allow Weston Favell to continue with its improvements in GSCE results, student behaviour and staff retention levels. If the council allows this part-privatisation plan through, teachers, students, parents and the wider community will fight them at every level.
This may include further united industrial action by the teaching unions and UNISON, which many administration staff belong to. If the academy plans are realised, Weston Favell will experience big staff losses, poorer student results and they will be detrimental to the community.
Northamptonshire County Council's underhand tactics
WESTON FAVELL School had a surprise OFSTED inspection three days before the final cabinet decision was due, adding fuel to the fire of the academy debate. The school received a 'satisfactory' the last time OFSTED visited two and a half years ago. The news comes at a time when staff are already under pressure to make dramatic improvements to next year's GCSE results.
An NASUWT member and teacher at Weston Favell School
The local authority was originally scheduled to hold the final cabinet decision meeting on 8 December, but inexplicably changed it to 10 December a few weeks ago. OFSTED then revealed they were coming on 7-8 December.
Some people might say that announcing an OFSTED inspection to teachers on the day of a strike would be an attempt at scaring staff, or even attempting to spark regret on having balloted for strike action. Some might even say that this inspection plays in to the hands of the pro-academies county council, as it is unlikely that the school will improve on its 'satisfactory' status, even though it has almost doubled its A*-C GCSE results in just one year.
The council and ULT will use whatever tactics they can to demoralise staff, privatise education and drive down working conditions. Everyone should be united in the struggle against the academies onslaught in Weston Favell and elsewhere.
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