Class struggle in school

Submitted by cathy n on 8 December, 2015 - 8:52 Author: Various

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 nut@islingtonteachers.org.uk.
• Read more: bit.ly/techcitystrike

Comments

Submitted by martin on Wed, 16/12/2015 - 15:38

Picket lines have been strong again at Tech City on 15 and 16 December.

After the 8-9 December strikes, bosses of the Aspirations chain offered concessions on the teachers' demand for a limit on observations. Indeed, they offered to institute a limit across the whole chain, not just at Tech City.

But simultaneously they withdrew a previous concession about restoring pay progression for Tech City teachers who have been denied it on grounds of performance management even though they had been given no previous warnings about performance or support to address problems.

So this week's strikes are on.

On Tuesday 15th Tech City tried to bring all the students in, offering them a later start and exemption from rules about uniform. Rumour is that teachers from another Aspirations school, in West London, were brought in to teach, or at least supervise, them, but as of Wednesday morning 16th the hard facts were not clear.

Students have supported the teachers' stand.

I was able to bring the pickets a statement of support signed by almost all the maths teachers at my school, and several of the science teachers. The pickets say that such messages of support are welcome.

Most of the teachers have already decided to leave the school at the end of this term, i.e. on Friday 18th. Only seven are continuing into next term, and one of those has already given notice that she will quit in February.

Tech City bosses say they have recruited replacement teachers, but it's not at all certain this is true. Maths and science A level teachers tend to be in short supply, and many of them will look elsewhere rather than at a school whose current teachers find it so badly mismanaged.

This dispute points to the urgency of the NUT organising across Academy chains in addition to its old local-authority-by-local-authority pattern of organising. On paper the NUT says it's working to organise across Academy chains, but on the ground there is little progress.

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