NEU members at Leaways School in Hackney have been on strike for 18 days over trade union victimisation and the treatment of children and they aren't backing down
Leaways is a private special school, situated in Hackney and owned by the Kedleston Group, which charges London councils £56,000 per year to provide education for pupils with complex special needs. For some time staff have been concerned about the quality of the provision being offered. The building (once Lennox Lewis’s gym) is hardly a purpose built space for any pupils, let alone pupils with special needs. Amongst other things, heating is inadequate.
As a result, NEU members at the school have now taken 18 days of strike action and more to come. On Thursday morning, when I joined the picket to offer solidarity from my own NEU branch, I was told some pupils have been wearing coats during the winter months for the past 5 years. There is also no outdoor space for pupils and when staff asked for provision of extra staffing in order to be able to take pupils to the local park, it was refused.
These conditions are hardly in line with costs in excess of Eton. Staff conditions are no better: no union recognition, no provision of decent sick pay and no award of the 2.75% given to most education workers last year. In response to these grievances two members of staff have been sacked, including the NEU lead rep.
The dispute represents a convergence of demands for pay & conditions parity for the staff and demands for additional resources for the SEMH (Social, Emotional, Mental Health Needs) school students. The strikers are garnering support from the local community as well as the movement including NEU General Secretary Kevin Courtney and local MP Diane Abbott.
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