Our formal action ballots against the threat that your employment could transfer to a new Academy Trust employer have given the NUT the mandate required to call strike action in your school. Overall, on a 42% turnout across the five schools, there was a 97% YES vote for action.
The Union has written seeking reassurances that there are no discussions taking place about conversion of school status. As things stand, we have not received any such confirmation. The NUT is therefore making plans to give notice to employers that we will be calling on NUT members in your school – and the four others where we have balloted – to take an initial one-day strike on Thursday February 12th. Please support those plans – and support the action!
Remember the ballot was for ‘sustained’ action so that any loss of pay for taking part in the strike will be reimbursed by the Union.
WHAT IS NEEDED FOR THE UNION TO WITHDRAW ACTION?
The Union will write once again to the employers to see if we can be given the reassurances that we are seeking – that they will confirm that there will be no change to take on Academy status. If that is the case, then parents and students can be told the news and we can withdraw our action. If not, then we need to show our opposition in the firmest way we can - through taking strike action.
We understand the Working Party set up by the Governors of the Leathersellers' Federation will be reporting back soon. We will take what they report into account – but, until and unless there is a firm rejection, we think NUT members in the three Prendergast Schools should strike on the 12th.
At Sedgehill, the Interim Executive Board is now in place. Thanks to the campaign, Bethnal Green Academy may no longer be involved but the DfE make clear, “we expect the IEB to actively consider a sponsored academy solution”. Until we are told that is not the ‘solution’, then action is needed!
Bonus Pastor's Principal has written back to the NUT confirming that she has "submitted our interest to convert to an academy within the Catholic Diocese of Southwark". Staff and unions are planning to contact the Diocese to ask them to reject that plan. For now, we have no reassurances and so, as in the other schools, we call on NUT members to show their opposition through action.
WHY WE CAN’T WAIT
We understand that some teachers are being told that the NUT is being hasty – that we should wait until a confirmed proposal is out for consultation before we take action. We disagree. The Union unfortunately has plenty of experience nationally of those kinds of ‘consultations’. There is no legal requirement on the Governors to consult fully and openly or for them to call a ballot of staff and/or parents. Even when a majority of staff do vote against – as has happened at Bonus Pastor – Governors can ignore those views. Calling strike action at that stage can help register a protest but is rarely able to stop the transfer to Academy status. Typically, the Governors’ minds have already been made up. We need to register our opposition before it is too late. We need to warn parents about what this change could mean for pupils. That is why we are acting now.
DOES IT REALLY MATTER IF WE BECOME AN ACADEMY?
We know that some teachers are being told that there will be no change to their terms and conditions if their school becomes an Academy. Again, the Union has too much experience that such a guarantee cannot be kept – and is unlikely to be. Talk to colleagues in most academies!
First, let’s be clear about what lies behind Government policy to turn most schools into academies. They want to put an end to elected Local Authorities having responsibility for providing services such as schools. That’s bad for education as a whole and it’s certainly bad for teachers and unions.
Whoever wins the next General Election, public services will continue to face cuts. That means more pressure, more workload, more performance pay cuts in schools. United together, we can oppose those attacks. Divided into Academies, it becomes a lot harder to defend each other.
You rely on your Union to be there to support you when needed. Local Authorities release elected NUT employees from teaching so that they can support and represent teachers. If your school becomes an Academy, it no longer has to be part of those arrangements. So support your Union!
If parents don’t like how a Local Authority is operating, they can vote for a new Council. Academies have no such democratic accountability. Perhaps that’s why questions are now being asked by the National Audit Office about why Academies are paying Heads on average over £6,000 more than in maintained schools. Durand Academy’s Head earns almost £400,000 a year according to the TES!
A maintained school – whether it be a community, VA or foundation school – has by law to follow a range of education legislation, such as the School Teachers’ Pay and Conditions Document (STPCD) covering pay scales, 1265 hour/195 day limits etc. An Academy, even if the individuals acting as Governors do not significantly change, is quite a different legal entity. The STPCD would no longer be a statutory requirement that has to apply in your school. Your guaranteed protections are lost.
It’s true that, at least under existing TUPE legislation, employers aren’t allowed to change your contractual conditions if you transfer - although they can be renegotiated after a year. However, TUPE certainly doesn’t apply to new staff. They can be employed under different terms and conditions, leaving transferred staff isolated and under pressure to match the new terms. For example, we know some academies are refusing to honour spine points when they hire new staff.
These aren’t Union ‘scare-stories’. This is, unfortunately, the bitter experience of the Union and many thousands of teachers who have been employed in academies. Neither have academies stood the tests of time and public scrutiny. The experience of staff, parents and students mean that the tide of opinion is starting to turning against them. The House of Commons’ education committee has just concluded that there is no evidence that academies raise standards.
(See: http://www.theguardian.com/education/2015/jan/27/no-proof-academies-raise-standards-education-inquiry )
Up to now, Lewisham Authority has largely resisted the spread of this divisive unproven scheme. Now is not the time to let them take hold. That’s why now is the time that we have to take action.
BUILDING THE CAMPAIGN – plans to build the action
In discussion with school reps and the National Union Action Committee, we are proposing:
- School groups meet as soon as possible to discuss and confirm support for the strike
- Unless we have news that means we don’t have to, official notice issued by Wednesday 4th
- A pre-strike NUT social at the Constitutional Club, Catford, SE6 4SP, 4.30 pm on Friday 6th
- Hear more at the SERTUC Anti-Academies Conference, Saturday 7th at TUC HQ from 9.30 am.
- Public meeting with Stop Academies in Lewisham at 7.30 pm on Wednesday February 11th
- Strike on Thursday 12th – picket, brunch union meeting, public leafleting, delegation to London
- ... then? Let’s see – we may be joined in further action by the NASUWT who are now balloting (UPDATE: The GMB may also be balloting too. However, we don't yet have confirmation of the other unions ballot timetables. We cannot legally wait beyond the half-term break before the NUT takes action)