Dear Friends and Supporters,
We wanted to update you after a busy week in our campaign and let you know how you can help over the few days.
On Tuesday, our teachers took industrial action and held a one day strike in protest at a forced and unwanted change of employer to the Harris Federation. This was not a decision they took lightly and all messages of support were very much appreciated. Our teachers were joined by parents and other supporters on the picket line – here’s an article from the BBC if you missed it.
This support grew in strength during the day when over 400 people attended a Day of Action in to support our teachers. The Save Downhills campaign organised a family event in the Downhills Park with international food, banner making, face painting, sports and arts and crafts. Paul Lyall, a local poet, ran a fantastic poetry workshop for children and Michael Rosen also attended and voiced his support for our campaign – we so much appreciated both of them. Practically the whole school was there and many from the wider community – it was an event that won’t be forgotten. Many thanks go to the NUT, UNISON, Sophie Kaur and others who helped make the day such a success.
Today, Saturday, about 50 parents and children from Downhills and other local schools had a ‘carpet time’ in Carpetright, Tottenham Hail to protest against the Secretary of State’s attempts to force our school (and at least one other Haringey primary) to become an academy sponsored by Lord Harris. Lord Harris has donated millions of pounds to the Tory party and is described as a ‘close friend’ by Prime Minister David Cameron; he made his fortune selling carpets, not educating children. We thought that if Lord Harris wants to take over our school, we should take over his shop for a short while. The children listened to the story of ‘The Magic Carpet Seller’ who came to realise that children cannot be mass produced and manufactured in the way that carpet can. We left the shop after ‘carpet time’ and assembled outside to sing our campaign song ‘Save our school’. Thanks to Hazel Gould for writing the fantastic story and Andy Graves for the illustrations. We attach a couple of photos of the event.
Looking ahead, the ‘consultation’ which is being undertaken by Cambridge Education on behalf of the Harris-loaded IEB in our school ends this week – Friday 1st June is the deadline for people to submit their responses to the consultation. Anyone who considers themselves a stakeholder in our school or, indeed, the future of community schools can contribute to the consultation. I attach the consultation form distributed by Cambridge Education, which you can fill it and return to Les Walton at firstname.lastname@example.org. Alternatively, you can write directly to Les Walton at this address to express your viewpoint.
Thanks so much for you on-going support.
Message from Downhills NUT members
On behalf of the NUT members of Downhills Primary School we would like to say thank you for both the wonderful work you are doing in this campaign and in particular the fantastic support you gave us on our strike day. As you will know, taking strike action is not an easy decision to make but we felt – unanimously – that we had no choice but to take it. We want to show that, we the teachers, do not want to teach for a private organisation who can set their own goals, decide on what will be taught and by what kind of staff, on what pay and conditions of service they feel appropriate, and indeed what type of school it is. Simply put: the teaching staff want us to remain a community school.
And that was what Tuesday showed so clearly – what a community school we are. At one point in the park, a group of us stood and looked around and saw everywhere parents, children, staff and ex-Governors together. We could see families from all the different countries, cultures and religions which our school comprises – happy and united. It is no shame to say that we all felt some emotion in seeing this.
The solidarity though, extended far further than our school. Messages of support have flooded in from across the country and throughout the day delegations from schools arrived to pass on their greetings. On our picket line there were approximately 40 people in an atmosphere, which like the rest of the day, can perhaps be best described in words which are maybe not often associated with realm of industrial relations – love and affection. People know that this is an important campaign, not just for us but for the country.
What we do next needs to be discussed. Obviously our hope is that the message which Downhills has been putting out for over 7 months finally gets heard and we can be left alone as a community school to concentrate on teaching children. If not, we shall continue opposing this threat.
At one of our presentations by the Harris organisation the CEO Dan Moynihan was asked why Lord Harris why he had moved away from carpet retail and had got involved in schools – what was in it for him? He answered that Lord Harris wanted to help those who need it. Noble sentiments, but we say that could be done within grant maintained schools. Rich benefactors are great in the marvelous Charles Dickens novels but surely they have no place in 21st Century Britain?
Thank you once again. We fight on.
NUT reps Downhills Primary School.