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17 July 2019

Council seeks to take budget deficit out on school staff and pupils

Helen Pattison, East London Socialist Party

"You can't keep cutting jobs and simply expect teachers and support staff to pick up the extra work. We are not prepared to see our members driven into the ground nor see the children's education suffer", said Venda Premkumar, Redbridge National Education Union (NEU) branch secretary.

Despite having one of the lowest spending on teachers-per-pupil in the whole of Labour-run Redbridge, the council is now demanding another 500,000 of cuts are made to clear the deficit at Ilford County High School.

The latest proposals would see pay cuts for some teachers and a major increase in workloads.

For the NEU members this was the last straw. They had put up with vacant posts not being filled, increased workloads, bigger classes and less time for preparation and planning of lessons, but now "enough was enough".

The members voted 91% in favour of strike action. So far three days of solid strike action have taken place which have shut the school.

On 9 July the NEU called a parents' meeting to put forward the workers' case and counter the management propaganda. Parents were shocked to hear about the low level of spending on teachers, while at the same time the school had spent 400,000 on outside consultants last year alone.

They also couldn't work out why the schools' privatised caretaking and cleaning services costs were the highest in the local authority.

The council's response was ridiculed when it said that the figures were wrong because teaching costs had accidently been placed under catering costs in the accounts. As NEU regional officer Glenn Kelly said to the meeting: "It adds new meaning to the idea of cooking the books".

The parents readily agreed to Glenn's proposals to join with the union to jointly lobby the school governors and the council to demand where the money has gone. The workers are set to vote on a proposal to escalate the action with a three-day strike in early September.

Socialist Party members who have been on every picket line were thanked for their support of the strike at a recent strikers' meeting.