Thursday 29 November 2012

Stratford Academy Concerned Parents Press Release

PRESS RELEASE (29/11/12)



After nine days of strikes, teachers at Stratford Academy, Newham, have suspended further strike action. Following talks facilitated by ACAS, on Tuesday 27 November, the NUT and NASUWT teachers’ unions and Stratford Academy management agreed a joint press release: “Following constructive talks facilitated by ACAS, all sides have agreed to a process of further discussions to deal with outstanding issues.” The teachers will be reintroducing their unions’ joint national action (short of strike action) measures in opposition to excessive workloads.

It was the Academy management's outrageous demand that staff must individually promise not to take part in their unions’ joint action that provoked the strike in the first place. Staff who refused to repudiate their unions’ campaign had their wages cut by 15%, with further threats of monthly pay cuts. Nearly half a million teachers, in 23,000 schools, are taking part in the unions’ actions but only Stratford Academy management decided to take punitive action against teachers. Faced with this, teachers took strike action on 25 October, followed by eight more days of strikes, over the next three weeks.

We hope that the final outcome of negotiations will confirm an important victory for the teachers. This would also be a tremendous result for parents and pupils! Our children can then return to school full time and our teachers can return to teaching unbowed and confident they have the full support of parents.

The 'Stratford Academy Concerned Parents' group was formed after parents’ views were completed ignored by the Head and Governors. We organised mass leafleting to bring the real facts about the strike to parents and the local community. We held our own packed meetings of parents where it was unanimously decided to condemn the actions of the Head and Governors and to call on senior management to negotiate with teachers, to allow our children to return full time to school.

Under our continuous pressure, eventually the Head Teacher was compelled to call a “meeting of parents” on 20 November. Two hundred parents attended and loudly condemned the confrontational and reckless actions of school management that led to the teachers’ strike. Last Friday, 23 November, a delegation of Concerned Parents met with senior management and presented a motion of ‘no confidence’ to the Head.

Within days, the combined pressure from teachers and parents forced the Head and Governors (the Employers) to negotiate with teachers’ unions.

Areas of concern for parents remain

While teachers’ continue to negotiate over their issues, areas of concern for parents remain, in particular the heavy-handed management culture. But parents have found their voices! Stratford Academy Concerned Parents will continue to campaign for real representation and accountability. We will work to be represented by parent-governors that actually reflect our views on the Board.

We are confident that our example of firm parents and teachers’ unity in the face of bullying senior management will give encouragement to staff and parents in other schools facing similar problems with management.

The experience at Stratford Academy also serves as a warning to staff and parents at other schools where attempts are being made by senior management to turn them into academies about the sort of regime that might await them. Many parents at Stratford now question the rapid process and minimum so-called “consultation” that led to Stratford becoming an Academy in 2011.

We will endeavour to ensure the magnificent struggle at Stratford Academy is widely known at schools across the country!

Niall Mulholland

Stratford Academy Concerned Parents

For more details and interviews etc, please contact Niall Mulholland,

Stratford Academy Concerned Parents at:

Wednesday 28 November 2012

Stratford Academy: parents and teachers united

Stratford Academy: Parents and teachers united against bullying management

After striking for nine days over four separate weeks, teachers at Stratford Academy, east London, have been able to suspend their strike action pending the outcome of negotiations with senior management. 

The head teacher and school governors were rocked by the combined pressure of striking teachers and parents who are in open revolt against the aggressive actions of the school's senior management. 

The Socialist spoke to Niall Mulholland, who helped initiate Stratford Academy Concerned Parents.

" The head, Andrew Seager, tried to use 'divide and rule' tactics between teachers and parents to defeat the strike. But this was thwarted once parents knew the real reasons for the dispute - an oppressive management that cut teachers' pay for following national union action short-of-a-strike. Teachers are refusing to undertake tasks that distract them from the core role of teaching and which do not require their skills as qualified teachers.

On the first day of strike action, 25 October, I went to the teachers' picket line to offer solidarity and support from the local Socialist Party branch and also as a parent of a Year 8 pupil at Stratford. I soon heard examples of years of heavy-handed, oppressive senior management, backed by supine governors. This only got worse when Stratford was turned into an academy, with minimum 'consultation', in 2011.

Parents tried to meet with the governors. We were ignored. So we called our own parents' meeting and invited teachers' unions and governors to speak. We advertised the meeting by leafleting neighbouring streets around Stratford Academy, holding street stalls, asking local shops to display posters on their windows, which most did eagerly, and going to the local press.

We held a packed meeting on 16 November. The NUT and NASUWT sent representatives but the governors did not show up. Parents were able to get past the misinformation put out by Seager and find out the truth about the strike. While half a million teachers in 23,000 schools are taking action short-of-a-strike, only senior management at Stratford have decided to take punitive action against teachers, provoking a strike.

We set up 'Stratford Academy Concerned Parents' and the meeting unanimously agreed a motion demanding senior management stop cutting teachers' pay, let the teachers carry out union activities and end the oppressive management culture.

This rattled Seager who called his own 'meeting for parents' on 21 November. We and the teachers' unions leafleted the 150-200 parents who turned up. After 20 minutes listening to the head justify provoking a strike by his insistence on enforcing "non-negotiables" on teachers, the mood of parents was extremely restless.

I and other parents, like Lois Austin and Caroline McGrath, stood up and demanded that we have our say. We put the blame for the strike firmly on senior management and the governors. This ignited the room. Many parents angrily called for the few governors present to justify their actions. Seager lost control of the meeting. Lois Austin moved a vote, calling for the governors to call an emergency meeting and to rescind the teachers' pay cuts, which got an overwhelming majority in support.

This gave confidence to the striking teachers. Up to then, only a handful of teachers were on picket duty, largely due to fear of management reprisals. But the day after Seager's meeting blew up in his face, 40 teachers joined the picket line. The fear of management tyranny fell away.

Another Stratford Academy Concerned Parents meeting was held on Thursday 22 November, with an even bigger turnout of parents and many young teachers. The next day, Seager suddenly invited us to meet with him and other senior staff. We brought to the meeting another motion, passed unanimously, which found 'no confidence' in the head.

Seager and senior staff were on the back foot. We got them to agree that all pupils who did not attend the few 'classes' that took place on strike days would not be marked as having taken 'unauthorised absences'.

The parents have also found their voices. They demand real representation and accountability and will fight to have genuine parent-governors on the board of governors.

Stratford Academy Concerned Parents will continue to campaign, along with teachers, for all these aims." 

Teachers have also been taking strike action at Connaught School for Girls in Waltham Forest, which is threatened with becoming an academy, and students have also been campaigning against the plans. A petition has been passed around and now has hundreds of signatures. Despite intimidation from the head teacher, some students are discussing what more they can do to support their teachers.

Saturday 24 November 2012

Thousands march to defend NHS in Lewisham

Over ten thousand demonstrators marched thorough a rainy Lewisham this afternoon in a tremendous display of community opposition to the plans to close the A&E and other services at Lewisham Hospital.

The chants of "We won't die for the PFI" summed up what these cuts are all about - protecting the PFI contractors' profits at the expense of public health and healthworkers' livelihoods. See short video:

NUT members helped boost the numbers after an email was sent to teachers working right across South-East London to call on them to support the demonstration.

In a meeting after the demo inside Lewisham Hospital I had a chance to congratulate the staff on their stand - and to encourage them to take the step that trade unionists have to consider when their jobs, conditions and workplace are threatened - to take strike action.

UNISON members in the mid-Yorkshire NHS have taken strike action just this week - as reported in 'the Socialist': - so there is every reason for UNISON and other health unions to back action in Lewisham as well.

Taking strike action is no easy step for any worker to take, particulalrly a health worker, but today's demonstration showed how a firm stand would get firm public support. Of course, the pro-cuts politicians and press would hypocritically attack healthworkers for taking action. But far better to have hospital services restricted for a few days of determined strike, than to have them permanently lost through cuts and hospital closures ! 

Campaigners will be hoping that the many responses to the consultation opposing these NHS cuts, backed up by today's demo, will already be making the trust 'administrator' reconsider his proposals. But, if not, then strike action needs to be prepared alongside further community campaigning. 

Neither can we settle just for saving Lewisham hospital at the expense of cuts elsewhere.  This needs to be a united battle to defend NHS services right across South-East London. 

No cuts, no closures - cancel the PFI debts and defend our NHS!


Wednesday 21 November 2012

LANAC Conference on Dec 8 - we need national action !

After a year without national strike action - and growing threats to our pensions, pay and conditions, how do teachers now rebuild the action needed to defeat these attacks?

That's the debate that will be taking place at:

LANAC’s Second National Delegate Conference:
Winning on Pensions, Pay and Workload
Saturday December 8th, 11.00 - 15.30
at Leicester Adult Education College, Leicester LE1 6HL

To confirm attendance: Contact Martin Powell-Davies, LANAC Convenor,

E-mail: Cheques for £5 Conference fee to ‘LANAC’ and sent to LANAC Conference c/o NUT Office, Town Hall, Catford, London SE6 4RU.

Here is the final agenda:
10.30-11.00am: Registration

11-12.15 pm: Opening Plenary: 'Phase One' Action - Successes, Lessons and Challenges

· Introduced by Julie Lyon-Taylor, Chair of LANAC
· Reports from around the regions, including from school reps where schools have won victories by threatening to escalate to strike action
· How can we carry out the Network’s aims – to ‘spread success’ and ‘develop confident organisation in the workplace’ ?
· How widely can the action be built? What are the challenges and the lessons for the Union?

12.15-1.00 pm: Lunch

1.00-2.00 pm: A choice of four workshops
a) Pensions - the latest threats - an update on where we are now with the Pensions Bill, 2013 contribution rates, the prospect of co-ordination with other unions taking action;
b) Pay - what we can expect from Gove? – Gove will soon be announcing news from the ‘Review Body’ - further attacks on pay progression, perhaps pay relegation and regional pay;
c) The threats to union organisation - the growth of academies and attacks on facilities time is opening a debate on how the NUT can best meet those challenges
d) Building rank and file organisation and getting our message out to the wider community – particularly drawing on the lessons of the successful action by Chicago teachers.

2.00-3.15 pm: Closing Plenary - Setting the dates for national strike action to win on
pensions, pay and workload
· Introduced by Martin Powell-Davies, LANAC Convenor
· Reports from the workshops – setting out the serious attacks we face
· How can we mobilise across the Union to secure the Network’s aims of ‘an escalating program of national action’ ?
· Can we wait for the NASUWT – or is it now time for the NUT to act without them?

3.15-3.30 pm: Conclusion – building from today, dates for next LANAC Committee/events.

Tuesday 20 November 2012

London schools build 'Phase 1' action - now for 'Phase 2' !

Last night's meeting of the London NUT Regional Council heard reports from across London where NUT groups were taking collective action to defend their workload by implementing the joint NUT/NASUWT 'Phase One' guidelines.

On the Stratford Picket Line
Pride of place has to be given to the courageous members at Stratford Academy, Newham, on strike this week for another three days - their fourth week of action. Teachers are standing firm, buoyed by the support from parents who organised a public meeting last week which was addressed by Kevin Courtney, Deputy General Secretary of the NUT, and NASUWT Deputy General Secretary Dr Patrick Roach.

The attendance sheet showed over 30 parents and family members were present and 17 parents signed up on the night to be active in the campaign. Dozens of local people and trade unionists also attended.

The meeting unanimously agreed a motion that “deplored the actions of the Head and Board of Governors that have provoked the strike by their aggressive and irresponsible actions, causing classes to be cancelled and imposing great practical difficulties on parents and pupils”. The meeting called on “the school employers to bring this dispute to an immediate end, to allow pupils to go back to a full school day and to allow teachers to teach”. The motion also demanded the Governors “immediately withdraw cuts to teachers’ pay, to allow teachers to carry out their lawful trade union actions, and to ensure that Stratford Academy is free of management bullying or threats towards teachers and all staff, and pupils and parents”.

A victory has also been achieved at Deptford Green School, Lewisham, where, after NUT and NASUWT members voted to take strike action unless an unacceptable observation regime was scrapped, management eventually withdrew their original proposals and a settlement has now been reached. It again shows what can be achieved by members standing together, backed up by the Union action guidelines.

Other reports were given including in:

  • Hounslow - where primary teachers refused to continue to be subject co-ordinators without receiving additional TLR payment
  • Islington - where a threat to take strike action at Mount Carmel School had also won a success over observations
  • Greenwich - where members in one school had just won a clear limit on directed hours (and another has just voted by 60 votes to 1 to escalate to strike action over excessive observations !)
  • Bexley - where two school groups have said they are prepared to take strike action
  • Waltham Forest - where, in a separate dispute at Connaught school, members are taking sustained strike action in opposition to becoming an Academy.
But many delegates also wanted to know when the Union is moving on to 'Phase 2' and calling national strike action to oppose the national threats to pay, pensions and workload. Those debates will continue - including at the LANAC Conference in Leicester on Saturday, December 8th:

Camden NUT announced that it has called on its members to join a Lobby of the DfE on Tuesday December 4th at 5pm to protest at the latest announcements about pensions robbery that will see even more stolen from our salaries from next April (see previous post: )


Saturday 10 November 2012

London Councils must oppose Mayor's Free School plans!


London NUT Executive members met last week to discuss the dangers facing education in the capital from the Mayor’s “Going for Gold” recommendations into the future of London schools. They would mark another move towards the break- up of Local Authorities and the expansion of privately-run ‘free schools’.

It’s certainly clear that London desperately needs more school places. It's estimated that over 90,000 new places are needed by 2015/16. But what we need are properly funded and staffed schools, accountable to elected local authorities, not ‘free schools’ crammed into any available space and building.

Johnson wants to lead on setting up “a new generation of free schools” through a “New Schools for London” agency. His support for free schools isn’t restricted to meeting the demand for more pupil places. He also trots out the Tory mantra that “free schools can help drive up standards and stimulate new thinking”. How does that drive for ‘standards’ sit with Gove’s decision to remove the requirement for free schools and Academies to employ qualified teachers ?!

Regrettably, instead of clearly rejecting the Mayor’s plans and campaigning for properly-funded democratically accountable schooling, the ‘London Councils’ body has responded that it will help in “identifying and promoting innovative practice in using space for learning” and will help by "offering advice and support to broker relationships with new Academies and Free School applicants” and by “mapping empty buildings that have the potential to be transformed into schools”.

In short, it seems Council leaders just want to share in the work of overseeing the privatisation of London’s education and the cramming of our youngsters into unsuitable accommodation - instead of demanding the resources needed to build and open the quality schools that London’s children need and deserve.

If the main political parties lack the political will to fight these plans, than a huge responsibility falls on the NUT, as by far the biggest teaching Union in the capital, to campaign against them.

Friday 9 November 2012

Lewisham mobilises to stop NHS cuts

Protestors fill up yet another overspill meeting in Lewisham
Last night, the residents and workers of Lewisham mobilised in an impressive show of strength to protest against the threats to their National Health Services.

The huge turnout to the protest meeting was in response to the announcement by the 'special administrator' of proposals that would probably mean:

• The closure of Lewisham Hospital's Accident and Emergency (A&E) unit,
• A £36 million cut in staffing, leading to hundreds of NHS staff losing their jobs

• The closure of Lewisham hospital maternity unit
• The privatisation of many NHS services in Greenwich, Bexley and Bromley.

It was difficult to judge exactly how many people turned up. That's because, as there were so many of us - perhaps 700 or more -  that we had to squeeze into about four different meeting places while speakers shuttled from venue to venue to get their message across!

I ended up in the Calabash Centre, packed in with hundreds of other angry but determined people. Great speeches from healthworkers such as a Lewisham A&E nurse and a local GP, Louise Irvine, set the tone for the meeting. She held up a map showing the plans to sell-off two-thirds of the hospital site.

There was a determined mood to fight these cuts and a confidence that grew throughout the evening that, if we organise, we can successfully defend our health services.

I gave my support on behalf of the NUT and asked exactly how a child injured at school - or at home - was meant to be speedily ferried across the busy streets of London all the way to QEH in Woolwich, or to overstretched King's in Denmark Hill, if Lewisham A&E closes. I also called on trade unionists to use their strength to fight cuts, including through taking strike action.

Not everyone was happy with the contribution of Lewisham's Labour Mayor Steve Bullock who didn't seem ready to follow the lead of Ealing Council and put the full resources of the Council behind the campaign. Lewisham Council should be mobilising opposition right across the borough - and using its scrutiny powers to help defeat this attack.

Neither were people prepared to go along with any suggestion of 'divide-and-rule', where politicians campaign to save Lewisham's hospital - but call for cuts elsewhere instead. This has to be a united campaign to stop health cuts right across South London and to demand the privatisers and PFI bloodsuckers get their hands of our NHS!

Everyone will now be building for a massive turnout at the demonstration on Saturday November 24, assembling at Loampit Vale roundabout at 2pm and marching to link hands around Lewisham Hospital at 3pm.

There's more information - including advice on how to respond to the consultation  - on

The details of meetings where residents can tell the 'special administrator' to his face about what they think of his plans include:

16th November, Goldsmiths College, SE14 6NW, 10:00 - 12:00 
26th November, Bromley Court Hotel, BR1 4JD, 10:00 - 12:00 
26th November, St. Andrews Centre, SE4 2SA, 14:00 - 16:00 
4th December, Calabash Day Centre, SE13 6HH, 19:00 - 21:00

Stratford: Parents unite with teachers to oppose pay cuts

Parents and teachers together on the school gates
The courageous campaign of action by members of the NUT and NASUWT unions at Stratford Academy in Newham escalated to two strike days last week - and will step-up further to three days of action from Tuesday 13th November to Thursday 15th November next week.

The dispute was provoked by the bullying actions of the Academy management who, behaving as if they were running a dictatorship where trade unions are outlawed, insisted that teachers individually promise that they would not take part in the national action-short-of-strike-action jointly launched by the two teaching unions. All teachers refusing to 'repent', and stick with their union's national campaign to defend working conditions, then started to have 15% docked from their pay!

The only response to such anti-union intimidation was to escalate to strike action. Bravely, teachers at the Academy have done exactly that.

This week's two-day action has seen the strike grow stronger. On the picket line on Thursday, staff from other unions in the school expressed their support - and some suggested they would be transferring to the NUT to join the action. As well as myself from the NUT Executive, members of the Newham NUT Committee and, significantly, a local parent, Niall Mulholland, all came along to express support.

Niall, along with other concerned parents, has called a public meeting in the Clapton FC Clubhouse, close to the school in Upton Lane, on Thursday 15th at 6.30 pm. As their leaflet explains: "Parents feel they have been left in the dark. They want to know: Why are Stratford teachers on strike? Why have Governors cut teachers’ pay by 15%? Is it true that teachers face bullying and intimidation from management? What does Academy status mean for pupils, staff and parents?"

The NUT National Executive meeting this week congratulated the Stratford teachers for their determined action. Their stand is not only about defending their own rights and conditions, it's also about upholding staff morale and defending the learning conditions for pupils, as well as making clear to other anti-union Heads that union members are prepared to stand together when threatened with pay deductions.

Keep sending in your messages of support to NUT rep, Steve Charles, on

Thursday 8 November 2012

Pensions robbery - they want us to pay more, MUCH more !

At a sub-committee before today's NUT National Executive meeting, a paper was circulated confirming the next round of teachers' pension contribution increases being proposed by the DfE for April 2013. For an Inner London teacher like me, it would mean a combined monthly cut in gross pay of £140 since these pension changes were imposed.

We always knew that yet more pensions robbery was on its way but, particularly for Inner London teachers paid on a higher rate to allow for the cost of living in the capital, it's even worse than expected. The new tiering proposed means that a UPS3 teacher in Inner London (like me), having already seen contribution rates rise from 6.4% to 8.0% in 2012, will have to pay a staggering 10.1 % of their salary in pension contributions in 2013 - with the final instalment of contribution increases still to come in 2014. (All this, of course, for a worse pension and a retirement age rising to 68 or more...)

We cannot let these pension attacks be imposed without a fight. Regrettably, there was nothing concrete yet to report to follow up the last NEC's decision to urgently speak to the NASUWT and other TUC affiliates about confirming plans for co-ordinated action. Those talks are still ongoing. However, I could not allow this latest threat to go without making our opposition clear, and therefore proposed the motion below, seconded by Outer London NEC member, Nick Grant.

The motion was carried without opposition:

In continuing our discussions with the NASUWT and other TUC affiliates, the Union will point out that the DfE’s proposed further increases in pension contributions for April 2013 confirm the further losses in income that will be imposed on teachers, on top of a continued pay freeze. These losses are one of the reasons why we are seeking to explore the practicalities of a co-ordinated programme of strike action on pay, pensions and jobs.

The NEC notes that the DfE’s proposals will have a particular impact on many teachers paid on London pay spines. A UPS3 member in Inner London would see contributions rising from 8.0% to 10.1%, resulting in a £79 per month gross pay cut from April 2013, on top of the £60 loss in 2012. The NEC notes with concern that this risks increasing the disappointment of those London members who took an additional day of strike action in March 2012 in the expectation of further action being taken in opposition to the threats to teachers’ pensions.

The NEC also agrees that the Union should continue to make clear to the DfE our objections to these increases for all teachers and their disproportionate impact on London teachers.

But our objections and arguments alone will make no difference to this Government. We need to take firm and decisive action. The next NEC meeting in December needs to set clear plans for co-ordinated action to defend pensions - and to oppose the impending threats to pay from the Review Body report which is now in the hands of Michael Gove.


In another sign of the desperate lack of decent political representation for trade unionists, the Second Reading of the Government’s Pensions Bill - enshrining in law all their attacks - not least the increase in retirement age to 68 and more - passed through Parliament last month with just 9 Labour MPs prepared to vote against it. 

As Christine Blower pointed out to the NUT Executive, the Bill also includes wording that runs a coach and horses through the supposed “25 year ‘guarantee'" that persuaded some unions that they had somehow won a good ‘deal’ in signing   up to the Government’s proposals. Perhaps now, they might still think again? 

Sunday 4 November 2012

Teachers' strike at Stratford Academy

"It's like being run by the Stasi in this school", a striker commented, as teachers at Stratford Academy, Newham, went on strike on Thursday 25 October.

The industrial action is over a pay cut imposed by school governors, and against a bullying school management.

The governors' punitive salary reductions were made after these east London teachers began a work-to-rule, as part of national action by the NUT and NASUWT teachers' unions.

Following a lawful national ballot, teachers are refusing to undertake tasks that distract them from the core role of teaching and which do not require their skills as qualified teachers.

The NUT rep Steve Charles explained that not only has teachers' pay been cut but that staff are subjected to threatening and intimidating actions by governors and school management.

A letter from management went to teachers demanding they agree not to take part in the NUT and NASUWT national action, which stops short of a strike, or else have their pay cut.

Those teachers who refused to be bullied into submission had their pay cut by 15%. In response, the NUT and NASUWT unions, which represent the majority of staff, issued notice of a strike, demanding the punitive wage cuts are withdrawn and the intimidation stops.

Niall Mulholland, a parent of a Year 8 pupil at Stratford Academy, and a local Socialist Party member, joined the picket line. "Teachers at Stratford Academy work very hard and professionally, despite dilapidated school buildings and the school being in one of the country's poorest boroughs.

"The teachers have been forced into strike action by the outrageous, autocratic actions of the governors and senior school management.

"It is they who are entirely responsible for any disruption to pupils and parents. I and other parents will do all we can to support the teachers' completely justified action.

"We will campaign to try to ensure that all parents are fully aware of the real issues in this dispute and the teachers' justified case, not just the management propaganda.

"We want to meet the governors without delay, to demand that they immediately end their pay cuts and anti-union intimidation."

NUT rep Steve Charles said that parents' support is valuable in the dispute and for the future of the school and its students.

More strike action is planned by the teachers; two days in the week after half-term and three days after that if their demands are not met.

The Stratford Academy teachers' action is significant for all staff in academies and throughout the education system.

If the Stratford governors and management get away with their attacks, it will encourage similar action by management in other schools.

This article was taken from the Socialist Party website:

Please send messages of support to Stratford Academy NUT rep Steve Charles at