Thursday 28 May 2015

Teacher resignation crisis grows - because "the job is undoable"

Thousands of teachers hand in their notice 
This week marks the last opportunity for most teachers to give the legal notice required to leave their posts by the end of the academic year. There’s every indication that tens of thousands of teachers will have decided to resign, with many leaving teaching altogether.

The DfE’s own figures reported that nearly 50,000 teachers left the profession in the last year for which data is available (2012/13). The figures for 2014 and 2015 may well turn out to be even worse.

Teachers are being forced out by the unbearable intensity of excessive teacher workload, added to by a bullying regime driven by Ofsted, league tables and performance-related pay. Their health and well-being will have been damaged. Just as seriously, this rising turnover is also seriously damaging education.

Teachers tell their stories

Last week, worried about reports of high numbers of staff leaving schools that I know in London, I posted a query on the NUT Facebook group. It soon became clear that teachers across many different regions shared exactly the same concerns. 

Here are just a few of the responses that were posted over the next few hours:
  • “There’s been a mass exodus from my school. An entire key stage has gone in the last week”.
  • “I handed my notice in on Monday. I used to love this job - I actually looked forward to going into work. Now that idea seems completely ridiculous to me! I always wanted to be a teacher; I never thought I'd be so desperate to leave”.
  • “ My school will be down to two permanent members of teaching staff (out of 14) in September”
  • “I'm afraid I'm also one of the statistics. For me teaching was becoming unbearable so I'm leaving the profession altogether”.
  • “I decided not to go back after having a baby. I was due to go back in February of this year but decided being poorer was better than being stressed. Also, I knew that every child would matter, except my own”.
  • "After 17 years I decided to take a break to recover after a period of ill health. I was kidding myself that it would be a break. Sadly, I have now been forced to accept that given the current climate, I will never return to teaching again”.
  • “After 25 years I'm leaving the profession. If full time were 40 hours a week, I would stay, but at 60 hours a week I feel exploited and exhausted”
  • “I’ve just left a job in a department where, by the end of term, all but two colleagues will have gone too. This is after the aftermath of a vicious ‘OFSTED’ yet the leadership team seem surprised and personally offended that so many are leaving!”
In response, I suggested that, to turn some of these sad tales to good use, colleagues should write further to explain what led to their decision – in order to better expose a system that's slowly falling apart. Here’s an extract from one reply I received, a resignation letter from a London teacher:  

“I am really sorry, but I regret that I have to hand in my notice. It is with a heavy heart that I do this, but feel that I have no option. The workload is simply not reasonable and I just cannot keep on top of it and do the teaching to the standard the students deserve and I set myself.

I have tried to complete everything, but even though I come in early and go late, regularly staying in school more than 12 hours a day, I have found it absolutely impossible. I do not see this improving at all next year; in fact I think that it will get worse. I feel I ricochet from one deadline to another, one instruction to the next, never on top of things and it is the teaching that suffers each time. Endless, endless paperwork and jobs to be done that end up taking away from the teaching and learning and the students. My email inbox is full of priority red flags and paper is piling higher and higher on each surface around my desk. The job is simply undoable.

I know you and others have been pleased with my teaching ... and I am happy to give you and the Governors proper feedback and suggestions, as well as fuller reasons for coming to my decision. I would not resign if I felt I had any other option. I have not got a job to go to, so it is probably not the wisest of decisions, but I do not feel I have any choice. I will leave everything in good order, continue to work flat out for the rest of this term and set it up for next year. With regret ...” 

These stories explain the harsh reality of education for many teachers and many schools. It is a reality that the plans in the 'Queen’s Speech' for more fragmentation and for more threats aimed at supposedly ‘coasting schools’ will only make worse. This is the reality that Nicky Morgan promised to address in her ‘Workload Challenge” - then did nothing. However, this is a reality that cannot be ignored – because it is damaging education as well as teachers’ lives.

Don't mourn, organise to defend education
As a number of teachers commented in the Facebook discussion, it’s important for teachers to highlight the crisis in teacher morale and turnover but, even more important, it’s vital for teacher unions to organise to defend teachers and education. 

To turn the tide, we need an honest analysis of both the successes and weaknesses of our campaign strategy under the last Government so that, this time, unions can act to call a halt to rising stress and workload.  

Last week’s NUT National Executive began a discussion about the tasks for the Union following the General Election. On Saturday June 6th LANAC, the Local Associations National Action Campaign, will be meeting in London to continue the discussion about the action we need to take. We have a responsibility to our colleagues – and to the children we teach – to act to stop this growing crisis.

Wednesday 27 May 2015

Prendergast Academy Order rescinded - questions needing answers

The announcement late on Friday from the Chair of Governors of the Leathersellers’ Federation of Schools that “the DfE are going to rescind the Academy Order in respect of Prendergast School” is an unexpected blow to the Governors’ plans to proceed to vote for a Multi-Academy Trust (MAT) of all three Federation schools - Prendergast (aka Hilly Fields), Prendergast Vale and Prendergast Ladywell - when they meet on June 17. As the Chair makes clear, at least for now “Governors will immediately cease consultation with respect to Academy Conversion for Prendergast School” (but apparently WILL continue for the other two schools).

The decision raises many questions – questions urgently awaiting answers: 

1. Was this ever a genuine consultation?
Governors – and I know some follow this blog – have been at pains to insist that they have been consulting with an open-mind and that there are no fixed plans to vote for a MAT on June 17. I still hope that this is the case and that the strength of opposition and argumentation against the MAT plans might persuade them to think again. However, a letter from Sheila Longstaff, DfE ‘Project Lead, Academies South Division’ commenting on the rescinding states “the academy orders for Prendergast Vale school and Prendergast Ladywell school stand and they can continue with the conversion process ... it is disappointing that this issue has delayed the academy conversion of a school”. (my emphasis in bold).

The DfE clearly seem to have been expecting only one outcome – conversion of the schools into academies. So was this ever a genuine consultation at all? 

2. Why has the Academy Order been withdrawn? 
The withdrawal has been forced upon the DfE and the Governors by a legal challenge from a Prendergast parent. It appears that the Governors accept that the challenge has a sound basis as the Chair concedes that the “issuing of the order was likely to be found not compliant with the regulations”. The regulations that form the basis of the challenge are named by the Chair of Governors as the School Governance (Federations) (England) Regulations 2012. The legal papers have not been made public but the issue seems to hinge on the wording that “An application for an Academy order in respect of a federated school” must be made by certain prescribed governors including “any staff governor employed by the federated governing body or local authority to work at the federated school”. However, the staff governor did not make, nor support, the application!
How many other federated schools have been converted since 2010 in breach of this legislation? 

3. Does this technicality really make any difference to the process?
For now, yes, because, unless or until the legislation is changed, that’s what the Law says! In the public debate, the Executive Headteacher was at pains to point out that Governors have followed the letter of the Law. Arguments for a parental ballot have been rejected – because the Law doesn’t insist on a ballot (although it certainly doesn’t rule it out either!). Arguments that Governors should have consulted before the Academy Orders were issued have been rejected on the grounds that the Academies Act allows consultation to take place either before or after an Academy order has been made. 
Governors have at least been consistent, and stepped back in the face of the legal challenge. But wouldn’t it be more consistent to now cease consultation at all three schools? 

4. Why has only one Academy Order been withdrawn and where does that leave the other ‘consultations’?
Does the breach of the Governance Regulations also apply to the other two schools? That’s a question for lawyers to look at – and the legal arguments may not yet be over. However, what’s clear is that the existing consultation has been based on the conversion of all three schools into one Multi-Academy Trust. One of the central arguments from Governors has been about the supposed advantages of a MAT compared to a hard federation of maintained schools. But what decision can be made if the consultation continues? To set up a MAT of the other two schools and leave Prendergast as a stand-alone maintained school? What kind of Governance structures will be needed for that?
If the Governors proceeded to vote for conversion of just Vale and Ladywell schools, the whole consultation would be based on a false premise. Surely, the whole consultation process now needs to be stopped? 

5. Has the conversion of Prendergast School been permanently stopped? 
Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem so. Perhaps the supporters of the MAT still hope to convert the two schools and then add Prendergast later when the legal issues have been resolved, perhaps by the Government changing the Regulations. That’s why it’s vital that this legal challenge is only seen as a temporary success. The campaign has to keep up the pressure until the Governors meet on June 17.
· Keep sending in responses to the consultation objecting to the proposed conversions.
· Support the events planned for June 3rd in particular:
· Rally - from 9.00 am in Cornmill Gardens, opposite Prendergast Vale School, Elmira Street, SE13 7BN (speakers include Kevin Courtney, NUT Deputy General Secretary and Kathy Wallis, Senior Vice President, NASUWT)
· Lobby the Leathersellers' Company - from Midday, 21 Garlick Hill, EC4V 2 AU, to hand in a letter appealing to the Company to urge Governors to reconsider their proposals. Locally, meeting at either Ladywell or Lewisham stations at 11 am to catch the 11.10/11.15 train to Cannon Street
· Lobby Lewisham's Mayor and Cabinet - from 5.15 pm, Civic Suite, Catford, SE6 4RU. The meeting, starting at 6pm, will be considering the Council's response to the consultation (Paperwork for the meeting will be published on the Council website this Thursday, May 28th).

6. Why are teacher unions taking action during the exam period?

An article in Tuesday’s Guardian quotes the executive headteacher as saying that “Governors very much regret that two of the unions have induced their members to take strike action on days when there are important exams”. 
It is teachers, above all, who understand the importance of exams to the students they work so hard to support. However, it is the Governors that have chosen to start consultation at a time when students are preparing for exams, rather than delay until after the General Election as they first announced in February. 
With Governors still apparently not heeding the strength of opposition to their proposals from across the school community, and the trade dispute left unresolved, unions have had no choice but to maintain their action while making what arrangements we can to protect exam preparation. That’s why unions agreed with the Federation that we would not to take strike action in the key revision period in the first half of the summer term. Now, in the period when exams actually take place, our action should not impact directly as teachers no longer invigilate external examinations. However, the NUT will grant dispensation to members where key GCSE revision arrangements might be affected by strike action and has already informed the Federation that a maths revision day will be able to go ahead at Ladywell School on Wednesday June 3rd. 
Finally, I would hope that Governors recognise that, while their teachers always regret having to take strike action, they have consistently done so, not from being ‘induced’ to do so (a legal phrase related to industrial action legislation) but because they feel so strongly about persuading Governors to withdraw their damaging proposals in order to resolve our trade dispute.

7. Does the withdrawal of the Academy Order affect the teachers’ strike on June 3rd and 4th?

Teachers’ action has been based on the trade dispute over the threat to a change of employer because of the threatened academy conversion. If Governors are able to make clear that this threatened change has now been fully withdrawn then our trade dispute will have been resolved and the action can be withdrawn. However, as yet, that’s certainly not the case at Vale and Ladywell schools and, while we are seeking clarification, nor is it yet at Prendergast (Hilly Fields) school either.
There are other steps that Governors could take if they wish unions to withdraw their action. I have made clear to Governors that, if a properly-conducted ballot of parents were to be agreed, then I would be prepared to recommend to NUT members that our action was withdrawn. Clearly, from the position of both Governors and Unions, the subsequent outcome of any such parental ballot in and of itself would not commit either party on how it chose to respond further and, in and of itself, would not resolve our trade dispute. However, it would surely be a significant factor for both parties in judging how to proceed. 
The question for Governors remains, if they are sure of the strength of their arguments in favour of academy conversion, why not agree to such a parental ballot?

Tuesday 19 May 2015

Fighting for 'what works for education' - to oppose academies

Debating what's best for education

The fading pomp of Brockley's Rivoli Ballroom must have seen a few contests in its time but, last Thursday, it hosted a packed education debate.

Over 200 people from the local community - including parents, staff, students and local councillors - packed into the ballroom to take part in a debate over the proposals from the Leathersellers' Governors to convert the three Prendergast Federation schools into academies.

The Federation's Executive Headteacher, David Sheppard agreed to present the Governors' case. I was given the task of putting forward the arguments against conversion on behalf of the unions and other campaigners.

The arguments were put, questions and contributions taken from the floor. By the end of the evening, I think it was clear that the overwhelming view of the meeting was AGAINST the academy plans.

No evidence to support the academy plans

The fact that the arguments against academies won the debate is no surprise. That's because there's no evidence to support the argument that academies benefit education.

As the NUT wrote in its letter to Councillors, the Governors' arguments about the supposed benefits of their proposals - in terms of 'accountability', 'curriculum', 'finance' and so on - simply don't hold water.

In speaking to the meeting on Thursday, I asked the Governors to put aside their claims about the benefits of conversion and to stick to the evidence.

They claim that their plans are driven by what’s best for children but the Parliamentary Select Committee is clear: “Current evidence does not allow us to draw conclusions on whether academies in themselves are a positive force for change”. After a decade of experience of academies, isn’t the obvious conclusion that the evidence just isn’t there?!

Ofsted's annual report for 2013/14 noted that there was no relationship between school type and performance and that the rate of improvement in KS4 attainment (5 A*-C in English and Maths) between 2010/11 and 2012/13 in LA maintained secondaries was twice that (at 2 percentage points ) of converter academies (1 percentage point).  

Research quoted by 'Stop Academies In Lewisham' points out that among children with low prior achievement, the effects of a school becoming a sponsored academy on students in the bottom 10 and 20 per cent of the ability distribution were “insignificantly different from zero - and possibly negative for later [school] conversions…suggesting no beneficial effects on students in academies”(see S. Machin and O. Silva, (2013)

The School’s own Working Party’s report states: “the policy of academisation and its impact on raising school standards remains ... controversial and unproven”. So why pursue such a policy ?

Ideology not evidence

Regrettably, it seems that evidence about 'what works'  doesn't matter to those who are ideologically determined to tear apart accountable local authority schooling and replace it with unaccountable academy chains.

Newly-returned Education Secretary Nicky Morgan has lost no time in declaring that she will now extend the threat of forced academisation to schools rated as "requiring improvement" or what she deems as being "coasting schools". She declared to the BBC that results show that "students do better in academies". Where's the evidence?

In response, a national NUT press release explained that: 

“The Government is looking in completely the wrong place if they are interested in social justice. There is no convincing evidence that the academies programme has improved education overall or for disadvantaged children. However there is overwhelming evidence that the poverty and inequality many children face is a real obstacle to their educational achievement. 

The Government should act on poverty reduction urgently ... Nicky Morgan should be using her office to argue for protection of the education budget – schools are facing 10% cuts. This, the teacher shortage and the failure to provide enough school places should be her main concerns – not continuing with these unproved experiments.”

Teachers and communities must defend education

We mustn't let privatising politicians put their ideology ahead of the education of young people. That means that school staff, parents and local communities have to step up the fight even further to oppose imposed academy plans.

In Lewisham, the tremendous campaign to oppose the Prendergast conversion plans has already seen student protests, local demonstrations, rallies and strikes. We have to make clear to Governors that, if they choose to impose their plans against this level of opposition, it will divide and alienate their own school community, damaging education.

We also need to make clear to Lewisham's Labour councillors that they also have a responsibility to oppose these plans and to support the demand for a ballot to judge their views of parents on the academy proposals.

Support the strike on June 3rd and 4th

Teachers don't want to be taking strike action but we know that we have a responsibility to do so to defend education.  

After all, as one of the parents said from the floor of the debate, regrettably it's only when teachers strike that parents and the press get to hear what's happening. That's why we feel that we must take further action before the end of the Governors' formal 'consultation' period on June 8th. We want to make sure that everyone is aware of the urgent necessity to oppose the academy plans and to write in with their objections too.

Unions agreed not to call further strikes during the main exam preparation period up to half-term but both the NUT and NASUWT have called further two-day strike action on Wednesday June 3rd and Thursday June 4th. We hope that parents, students and fellow trade unionists can help build our activities:

Wednesday June 3rd

Pickets - so as not to disturb students taking exams that day, rather than hold large school-gate rallies, we will just have representatives directing people to the:

Strike Rally - from 9.00 am in Cornmill Gardens, opposite Prendergast Vale School, Elmira Street, SE13 7BN - close to Lewisham station.

After some refreshments, strikers and supporters will be heading to:

Lobby the Leathersellers' Company - from Midday, 21 Garlick Hill, EC4V 2 AU, to hand in a letter appealing to the Governors to reconsider their proposals. Locally, meeting at either Ladywell or Lewisham stations at 11 am to catch the 11.10/11.15 train to Cannon Street

In the evening, we are calling on Lewisham teachers and parents who have not been able to attend events during the day to join us at the:

Lobby of Lewisham's Mayor and Cabinet - from 5.15 pm, Civic Suite, Catford, SE6 4RU. The meeting, starting at 6pm, will be considering the Council's response to the consultation. Campaigners were pleased when, in March,  the Mayor stated that "as things currently stand I would not expect to be able to support the proposal". Join us in the audience to help make sure the Mayor knows the strength of opposition to the Prendergast plans.

Thursday June 4th

Pickets - again, so as not to disturb students taking exams that day, rather than hold large school-gate rallies, we will just have representatives directing people to:

Meet at Le Delice, by Ladywell station for 9am for a coffee then collect leaflets and materials to go out to surrounding streets and High Street stalls to urge the local community to submit their responses to the academy plans by June 8th.

What is the community view? Ballot the parents!

At a meeting with Council Officers yesterday, unions were pressed as to what could convince us to call off our strike action. The only real answer is, of course, for Governors to resolve our trade dispute by making clear that they weren't pressing ahead with their proposed conversion to become an academy employer. 

However, on behalf of the NUT, I offered that, if the Governors were to agree to a properly-conducted independent ballot of parents, then I would be happy to recommend that our action was withdrawn.

That's a serious offer for a trade union to make, and not without risk. I am saying that I am offering that parents should have their say on our dispute, despite the risks to members' terms and conditions should parents decide to support the academy conversion. 

The offer has been made - but will the Governors agree to it? As I asked on Thursday night, backed up by several parents from the floor, "if the Governors are so sure of their arguments, why won't they agree to a ballot to judge the real balance of opinion?". The Mayor himself has already stated that "I would support a ballot in this case subject to resolving the practical issues".

Yes, the Law says that the Governors have to take the final decision but, like Thursday's debate, a proper ballot, with parents being presented with both sides of the argument, would show Governors and staff alike what parents really think. 

Imposing unpopular policies, whether it be by central Government or by School Governors, will only alienate and divide communities. For the sake of education, let's have a proper debate and an independent ballot on the academy plans.

Tuesday 12 May 2015

Lewisham NUT writes to Councillors about the Prendergast academy plan

I have sent the following letter to Lewisham councillors today:

Dear Colleagues

This week’s CYP Select Committee is considering consultation documents from the Leathersellers’ Federation governing body about Academy conversion. As their deliberations may form part of a single Local Authority response, I am writing to all of you on behalf of Lewisham NUT.

An irreversible decision with consequences for the whole Authority

In writing from the NUT, I know that the views below, and in the longer document from ‘Stop Academies in Lewisham’ represent the views of a broad range of parents and staff that are alarmed that the Prendergast Governing Board could be about to make an irreversible decision to convert the three schools into Academies when it meets on June 17.

That decision would not only be damaging for the Federation, but have serious implications for the whole Authority. Bluntly, if Prendergast converts, other schools could quickly follow suit.

Lack of proper consultation

We believe that Governors have failed to organise a fair and thorough consultation when proposals were still at a formative stage, have ignored requests for a parental ballot, and have issued a one-sided feedback form that fails to fairly put arguments for and against the proposal. As a letter quoted in today’s Guardian, from ITV commentator and local parent Ned Boulting, states: “The school management and governors have created a rift [with] parents, staff and students. This has undermined trust. It is unsettling for the students. And it will raise questions with good teachers as to whether they want to stay on at the school.”

Change to Governance structures

In contrast to the Governors’ claims, the proposed changes to a Multi-Academy Trust will lead to less accountability, not more. The current board consists of 18 governors – including a staff governor and 3 parent governors, with 6 Leathersellers foundation nominees. The new board would be only marginally smaller – with 14 governors – but with 8 (a majority) appointed by the Leathersellers. Staff and parent governors would be removed from the board altogether and have no say at this strategic level – only on school Local Governing Bodies.

A quote in the Parliamentary Select Committee Report on Academies sums up parental experience: ‘parents are sidelined from all important decisions, both over whether schools convert in the first place, and over how they are run once they become academies’. As the Select Committee also indicates, an academy conversion to become a MAT isn’t necessary, schools can also organise as a hard federation of maintained schools. It does raise suspicions that the reason for setting up this structure is to prepare for an expansion of a Leathersellers’ academy chain (see SAIL response).

No proven benefit to academy conversion

Governors are keen to say that their decisions are driven by educational considerations but the adage about just “doing what works” does not hold water in this case. As the Select Committee concluded, “Current evidence does not allow us to draw conclusions on whether academies in themselves are a positive force for change”.

The Leathersellers’ Working Party’s own report states that “the policy of academisation and its impact on raising school standards remains ... controversial and unproven”. So why are they pursuing such an unproven policy, particularly when there is no way back to maintained status ?


Regrettably, as much educational research points out, one way for an Academy to ‘secure improvement’ is through control over its Admissions Policy. The Authority as a whole is changing from its banding policy to a distance-to-school policy. What’s not clear as things stand from the paperwork is whether the Federation is prepared to also change in order to follow a common admissions policy, to the benefit of all, or have a separate policy for its own benefit?

Curriculum – and Staff Conditions

The SAIL report includes a telling quote from the Chair of Governors of the non-academy Dartmoor Federation that answers many of the claims put forward in the consultation papers: "Why on earth should I go academy? What are the advantages? We already have a reasonable amount of freedom with the curriculum, the teacher unions are happy because their members' terms and conditions are unaffected, and the extra money that was given to academies has essentially disappeared."

A range of curriculum freedoms are available to schools, whether maintained or academies. Teacher unions and their members are also clear that, particularly at a time when a new Government may be cutting budgets, their best guarantee of protection is when their national conditions are guaranteed by law as a maintained school, not through relying on TUPE.

Finance – and PFI

We are all aware that academies will receive more into their budgets overall but they also have more costs to pay. The original Leathersellers’ Working Party Report honestly stated that: “Converting to a MAT should not result in a financial advantage or disadvantage to the Federation schools as pupil funding formula, staffing costs and capital allocation formula are the same and hence the overall impact is broadly neutral”. It is therefore disappointing to see that claims are now being made that academisation will result in significant financial advantages.

There are significant unanswered questions over whether the Federation would lose financially through taking full responsibility for PFI payments and perhaps “losing the rebate on the Ladywell PFI contract”. As the Authority is responsible for the negotiations over these matters, we hope that the Authority would be making sure that a school choosing to leave the Authority as an Academy would not be benefiting financially from PFI arrangements.


In conclusion, a wide range of local stakeholders believe that

1. There is no good reason to undertake Academy conversion of the Leathersellers’ schools

2. Academies are unproven and unaccountable and the spread of those academies in Lewisham risks the equitable provision of education across the borough.

3. By driving through change without proper consultation, the Governors risk alienating students, staff and parents alike – and damaging the education and ethos of the schools.

Lewisham NUT hopes that the Authority would reflect these concerns in its response and also assists in organising a parental ballot on the proposed Academy conversion to at least make sure that a proper indication of support for these proposals has been taken.

Yours sincerely

Martin Powell-Davies, Secretary, Lewisham NUT.

Sunday 10 May 2015

A call for support from Bromley UNITE in their battle to oppose privatisation

I have received this message today - please do what you can to support this immediate post-Election battle against privatisation and attacks on trade union rights:

Brothers and Sisters

We are today making an urgent call for support for our members fighting a courageous campaign to defend public services and the right to organise in a trade union in Bromley.

The Council have made the decision to privatise every part of the borough that they can get away with. By no coincidence, they have also proposed withdrawing all trade union facilities with immediate effect. Our members have taken 10 days of strike action so far with more action to follow. From 13th to 18th May, members in the Transport Services section will take strike action. This will be followed by a branch wide strike on 19th May.

While all local authorities are facing the effects of austerity and the impact of 5 years of further Tory cuts, our members in Bromley are now engaged in one of the most important campaigns against privatisation in the Region. It is also the case that facility time is under attack in workplaces across the country. But the attack on public services and trade union facilities in Bromley is an advance party for what awaits all other local authorities.

Unite is leading the way in Bromley. Our public campaign against Library privatisation has won massive support from the community. Our members in Adults Services are taking strike action to defend services for vulnerable adults. Bromley Council has £300 Million available for the provision of services. But it chooses instead to use the money to speculate on property while cutting services.

The Bromley campaign is hitting the Council from all angles. Transport Services are due to be privatised by being handed over to a company set up and run by Labour Party dominated Greenwich Council (GSPlus). Yet Labour Councillors who are in a minority in Bromley have publicly opposed privatisation of all services. We will therefore be lobbying Greenwich Council to pull out of the process.

We are asking branches, committees and individuals to support the following way:

1. Send a message of support and donation to the campaign. Cheques should be made payable to Bromley Unite. Messages to:
2. Support the Lobby of Greenwich Council to demand that GSPlus pulls out of the privatisation process! 
6pm to 7pm, 
13th May. 
Town Hall, Wellington St,
Woolwich SE18
3. Support the branch strike on 19th May  - come to the picket line:
7.30 am to 10 am
19th May
Civic Centre
Stockwell Close
4. Join Our March! We are calling for a national mobilisation against the tory attack on public services and trade union rights. The branch are calling for support for a march through Bromley.
Assemble 12 Noon
13th June 
Norman Park
Bromley Common

Friday 8 May 2015

After the Election, turn anger into action

Balls, Milliband, Murphy and the other New Labour failures have performed a miracle – for the Tories that is – by handing power back to Cameron. Of course, for working people it could be a nightmare – unless we act together to stop them.

When the exit polls suggested that, despite five years of cuts and attacks, Cameron might be re-elected, even the establishment politicians themselves couldn’t quite believe it. A day later, and with Milliband, Clegg and Farage having already stood aside, the truth is dawning that we are going to have to gear up to fight a majority Tory government.

There is understandable fear and anger about what this General Election result could mean in terms of further attacks on benefits and welfare, further cuts and privatisation to schools and the NHS and a further strengthening of anti-union laws, to name just a few.

That anger has to be turned in to action. With any hope of any kind of anti-cuts Government gone for now, the trade union movement and community campaigners are going to have to act – and fast.

Locally, TUSC and the Socialist Party will be getting straight on with the job of supporting me, Stop Academies In Lewisham and the teacher unions building the fight to stop the break-up of local schooling into academy chains. Nationally, instead of pretending we can wait for a Labour Government to come to our rescue, the trade union movement needs to issue an immediate call to arms to take national strike action to defend jobs, conditions and services. This time, unlike 2011, it’s got to be action aimed to win – not just to protest then walk away.

The fact is, of course, that despite some people’s vain hope that somehow a Labour/SNP Government might reverse the cuts, that prospect was never really on offer. Ed Balls was so keen to show that Labour would be as reliably austerian a Party as the Tories, he couldn’t even hold his own seat.

If you're not going to challenge the austerity lies, then you shouldn't be surprised if some voters, such as disillusioned LibDem voters, opt for the 'real' Tories rather than their pretenders.

More than ever, trade unions need their own political voice

Surely, New Labour’s hapless failure makes it even more obvious that trade unions need to stop trying to resuscitate a dying beast and build their own political representation instead. 

Assisted by media ‘guidance’, the pro-business politicians who dominate New Labour thinking will probably draw all the wrong conclusions and decide that they must turn even more to the right. Yet the Election results show that, if you want to defeat the Tories, you need to promise to oppose cuts, not to ‘balance the books’. Witness how the SNP, posing as an anti-austerity party, opposing Trident and privatisation, almost swept the board north of the border. The Greens, given national publicity that was denied to TUSC, also picked up votes in the same way.

Of course, some of those who still refuse to jump from Labour’s shipwreck will say that TUSC’s relatively modest votes show that a new voice cannot be built. Far from it! TUSC campaigners know that, wherever we were able to get our views across, our ideas are enthusiastically supported. That was certainly my experience at the Lewisham West and Penge hustings, and at our TUSC pre-election rally that was packed with new faces, most much younger than mine! 

We met new TUSC supporters at the campaign stalls we held in Forest Hill, Penge, Sydenham and Bellingham. We were more active on the streets than any other Party. Our policies could offer an answer to the problems of low pay and unaffordable housing suffered by so many local people. 

One personal highlight on the street stalls was bumping into into Tim again, twenty-five years after we had last worked together in the Penge Anti Poll Tax Union, to find that he still had the suit in his attic that I'd lent him to be a 'McKenzie's friend' to asist non-payers being taken through Bromley Magistrates Court!

Ticking a box for the BBC ?
What TUSC certainly achieved was to publicise ourselves to voters looking for an alternative, increasing our profile, particularly through our Party Political Broadcast. As in Lewisham West and Penge, that has built groups of TUSC supporters around the country ready to build TUSC and local campaigns and action. Many of those want to join the Socialist Party too. 

Even on Election night, we were still meeting voters who said they would have voted for us if they’d met TUSC before. Even our lively campaign of stalls and activities could only scratch the surface of a whole parliamentary constituency, with mass media coverage largely denied us. The BBC did allow me twenty seconds on London Regional News on Wednesday – but few will have seen it. Even then, the visit to Broadcasting House, to then be hurriedly filmed in a side-street, felt distinctly like a mere ‘box-ticking’ exercise for the BBC to show that they had complied with their ‘fair media coverage’ duties.

Silenced from most of the press of course, many voters still saw TUSC as mainly a ‘minority’ option and the Greens picked up most of the ‘anti-cuts votes’ locally (although how reliably anti-cuts every Green would be once elected is debatable, as we found out ourselves when both Greens and the Socialist Party had councillors on Lewisham Council in the last decade). For now, TUSC’s support came from the most determined voters that have already seen through the austerity lies and/or have worked with us in trade union and community campaigns.

In Lewisham West and Penge TUSC secured 391 votes (0.8%), a solid enough start in a seat where we have never stood before. We got over 3% in places where our candidates have more of an electoral history, like Coventry North West, where Dave Nellist, chair of TUSC, received 1,769 votes. In Southampton, Councillor Don Morrell, a TUSC supporter who has taken a clear anti-cuts stance, won his council seat with 2,330 votes, a majority of 1,000 over the Labour Party.

Victories like Don’s show what could be achieved if the trade unions were to put their weight behind a serious anti-cuts political alternative. Just lobbying the main parties to support Union policies – like the NUT’s ‘Stand Up for Education’ campaign - has proved to be insufficient. Instead, trade unionists should be fighting for those policies themselves as trade-union backed candidates offering a real alternative to the establishment political parties.

If you agree, keep in touch with TUSC in Lewisham West and Penge and help us build to defeat the Tory attacks – and make sure that, next time, we can defeat them politically too.

The Socialist Party are meeting again at 7.30 pm in 'the Hob' in Forest Hill on Tuesday May 19 to discuss how we build action to defeat the attacks we now face - locally and nationally. Come along and join with us to fight cuts.

Tuesday 5 May 2015

Send a message to Westminster - Vote TUSC against CUTS on Thursday

On Thursday 7 May
in Lewisham West and Penge

Most of us will be only too pleased to see the back of the Tories on May 7. They spent five years helping the rich get richer while cutting services and living standards. 

But none of the main parties offer anything much different to what’s come before. In January, when Osborne's plans for £30 billion more cuts were put to Parliament, 515 MPs voted for them, just 18 against! Which way did Lewisham West and Penge's Labour candidate Jim Dowd vote? Yes, Jim voted for the cuts too!

TUSC stands against any cuts. We know that there's plenty of wealth sitting in the bank accounts of the super-rich. Let's use it to build homes and fund the schools & services we need.

I have been living and campaigning in Lewisham West and Penge for over 25 years. I helped organise the Penge Anti-Poll Tax Union, part of the campaign that defeated Margaret Thatcher. As Secretary of Lewisham NUT, I have fought to defend education, and am helping to lead ‘Stop Academies in Lewisham’.

I have pledged that, if elected as MP, I would continue to take only my existing classroom teacher's take-home pay, donating my extra salary towards building trade union and community anti-austerity campaigns.

Vote TUSC on Thursday to say:
■ We want to elect a workers’ MP on a worker’s wage
■ No to the austerity promised by all the main parties
■ Stop privatisation and cuts. Invest in jobs, homes, our NHS and public services
■ For a £10 an hour minimum wage now, not in 2020!
■ Control rents, launch a mass council house building programme
■ Take rail, energy and banks into public ownership
■ Use the wealth of the 1% to meet the needs of the 99%

Friday 1 May 2015

Hear Martin speak - why you should vote TUSC on May 7

TUSC received strong backing last night at the hustings organised by '38 degrees' for the Lewisham West and Penge constituency. To hear what I had to say, watch below:



Finally, why not come and hear me speak - and join in the debate and discussion - at our pre-Election Rally on Tuesday, May 5th, 7.30 pm at the Hob by Forest Hill station: