NUT members at Whitmore School in Hackney started a two-day strike today to oppose unacceptable workload.
Their stand against an aggressive management that seems to expect teachers to work themselves into the ground to keep up with their demands deserves the support of every teacher.
Whitmore's story is just one example of the pressures facing teachers and school across the country. Targeted by Hackney's Learning Trust for making insufficient 'progress', the acting Head has left and a new Executive Headteacher put in charge, extending his federation.
Instead of working together as a respected team, teachers are being weighed down by excessive marking demands, observations and meetings - without any clear limits.
Negotiations to try and resolve the dispute stalled with the management effectively suggesting that a 'reasonable work-life balance' was out of the question in a school like Whitmore. Yet this is a right for teachers, as is the directed hours breakdown and observation protocols that we are seeking.
I fear that management don't want to agree clear policies that limit the demands on teachers. Do they hope that overworked teachers will simply leave to be replaced by young staff that will be burnt out and replaced in turn in a year or so? That's a recipe for constant turnover and low morale, not for good education.
Parents speaking to staff on the picket line understood our concerns. One was appalled by the aggressive attitude of one of the senior managers stood behind the gates who told me that these were staff that would be struck off by the GTC for not doing their job! As one teacher explained - they just want 'more for less' - or another parent responded astutely ' it sounds like what happens under privatisation'.
Yes, like today's UCU strike against pensions (see Goldsmiths lunchtime rally below), these battles to defend our working conditions are also about defending public services against the managerial outlook of the private sector - and the actual privatisation of the public services as companies look to run services at the cheapest cost to themselves.
Many staff face similar problems as at Whitmore. It is to their immense credit that the NUT members there have not just walked away but stood up for themselves and taken strike action. They need to know that teachers admire their determination and courage.
Please send messages of support to firstname.lastname@example.org
There were also UCU picket lines at many colleges today - including at Goldsmiths University in New Cross. A lunchtime rally got good support from students and lecturers:
Well done Whitmore teachers for standing up against BULLIES!
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