Win at Alfreton school
By Liam Conway
Teachers at Alfreton Grange school have won a huge victory in their dispute over the imposition of a nine period day.
Teachers at the Alfreton Grange Arts College campaigned for six weeks, and struck for eight days. When the NUT leadership engages in empty talk of social movement trade unionism, they should be looking at Alfreton Grange for a living example!
The strikers demanded that the college should return to a five period day, the standard across most secondary schools. The academy trust brought in to ″raise standards″, Torch Gateway, tried to tough it out. At the picket line managers would pass the strikers in their cars at speeds well beyond the speed limit, occasionally coming close to knocking NUT members and officials over.
But the tough stance did not work. Following the increasing involvement of parents, students, local Labour councillors and other trade unionists, the picket lines began to grow. A public meeting called by Derbyshire NUT attracted 200 parents who expressed their full support for teachers.
Soon the students themselves were added weight to the pressure on Torch, a company used to getting its own way at schools in neighbouring Nottinghamshire. Year 11 students organised a questionnaire to gauge the views of students about the nine period day. The survey showed that over 90% opposed the new timetable and believed it was damaging, not improving, their education.
Eventually Torch were forced into talks at ACAS, the result of which will mean a return to the standard 5 period day at the school. This represents a complete victory for the strikers.
The Alfreton Grange dispute shows that without strike action to highlight the issues, community involvement is unlikely to materialise. Vague talk of “social movement trade unionism” without industrial action yields little. The strikers’ active involvement in the running of their dispute, was the key to victory. Now the Union must spread this kind of action to many other schools and build for national action against the epidemic of bullying management in our schools.
The union must also go beyond the protest strikes. At Alfreton Grange members were prepared to take extended strike action over a short six week period. The union made it clear to the bosses that we were in it to win it.
It is this model of social movement trade unionism that needs adopting nationally, and not just by the NUT.
Free school teachers strike
“I don’t think the media understand how much it takes to make teachers strike”, said a picket outside “Tech City College”, a free school in Islington, London.
The teachers are striking on 8, 9, 15, 16, and 17 December, demanding a limit on observations and fairer performance management.
“A lot of these students are being denied a chance to get to university by the way this school is run”, said a picket. “The management don’t know what they’re doing”.
“Tech City” is part of a 12-school chain, and has its AS students spending a day a week on a “Leadership Course” instead of academic study. The chain’s boss, Steve Kenning, paid himself £230,000 and his wife £158,000 in 2013-4, the last year for which we have figures.
The majority of the school’s teachers will quit at Christmas, but those who will stay on are determined to continue the battle for a decent school.
• Messages of support to email@example.com.
• Read more: bit.ly/techcitystrike