The Cumberland School, Newham. Photo: Stephen Craven The Cumberland School, Newham. Photo: Stephen Craven

The fight against academisation in the East End is on, with three schools taking strike action

Newham in East London is on the frontline in the struggle against academisation with three schools taking strike action: Avenue Primary, Keir Hardie Primary, and Cumberland.

Teachers and staff at Avenue Primary have been taking action since November. Last Tuesday and Wednesday school teachers and support staff once again walked out totalling eleven days of strike action academisation by Eko trust. They have three more days planned for this week, Tuesday (20), Wednesday (21) and Thursday (22).

Keir Hardie took two days of strike action against Agate Trust last Wednesday and Thursday. Governors voted against a staff and parent ballot and have brought forward academisation decision from July to 19 April.

Cumberland Secondary School, lumbered with a Carillion PFI deal and facing academisation by the Community Schools Trust walked out on Wednesday 15th and another strike is planned for Thursday 22nd, their sixth day of strike action.

Academisation is the transfer of the school from the local authority to private firms registered in the Company House who hold the trustees and the governing body. That represents a rupture with a democratic practice of having the governing body composed of volunteers who are parents, teachers, staff and members of the community. There are over 250 thousand governing bodies of which 60 thousand have been lost due to academisation breaking the link with the community. The schools are no longer accountable to the community. Instead, they are under the authority of a governing body that looks after a number of schools, sometimes as many as sixty.

Academies have no obligation to maintain the working conditions that are statutory at moment. Issues such as school holiday pay, maternity pay and hours a teacher can teach can be renegotiated.  What usually happens with the academisation is that the head teachers and senior leadership see their pays inflated while staff see their salaries depressed. Some head teachers in academies earn more than the Prime Minister. Experienced teachers leave and unqualified teachers are contracted.

Schools under local authority have a policy of including children of all background and ability. Academies can control who gets in the school excluding students with special needs, who are expensive and bring down the grades.

The trustees increase their earnings by hiring their own consultancy firms and building companies. Taxpayers’ money going to increase the profit of these firms instead of improving the education of young people.

The support from parents has been strong, particularly in the two primary schools. The local mosque has also played an important role. The large Muslim population use the space as a focal point where they can organise their support and collect signatures for their petition.

Since Cumberland is a secondary, the support of the parents has not been as strong. Secondary school students tend to go to school on their own, so parents do not have as much opportunity to meet. Also, students tend to come from further away. However, the school has seen students organising protests.

Orlando Hill

Orlando was born in Brazil and was involved in the successful struggle for democracy in the late 1970s and 80s in that country. He teaches A level Economics. He is a member of the NEU, Counterfire and Stop the War.