Teachers at Small Heath school in Birmingham who recently won the battle to prevent their school becoming an academy have returned to the picket line. They have begun the first of nine planned days of strike action. The NUT claims that school union rep Simon O’Hara was victimised by management during the dispute and are campaigning for his return to work. The union now says that another worker and BUT member has been victimised. Simon says:
This is an important battle for the National Union of Teachers and all its reps and members who want to fight. Our strike will be solid tomorrow. Another teacher has joined us today, so the union group is bigger now than it was at the start of our dispute. Members are feeling determined, but worried, especially with the suspension for gross misconduct of another NUT member at the school last week. Solidarity and generalisation will win this – we can’t afford to lose!
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By Jess Edwards, Lambeth NUT Joint Branch Secretary
It is widely believed that the government plan to bring forward a white paper that will force all schools to become academies.
This is a two edged sword for the government. On the one hand they will look like they are able to get their way on education but on the other hand it is clear that they have failed to convince the vast majority of schools that academies are a good idea. That is not surprising as figures from Ofsted show that a school is six times more likely to get out of an inadequate grading if it remains a community school rather than become an academy! This is totally contrary to the government’s mantra that all ‘failing’ schools must become academies in order to improve.
There is another side to the government’s push however, in that some local authorities seem to be throwing in the towel over resisting academies. Two schools in Islington, The Mount Carmel girl’s school and another are faced with the prospect of being converted to academies. Teachers at one of them, Mount Carmel, have already voted to resist the move and are considering taking action. A school in Greenwich, Joan Roan, is also facing academisation. It seems some local authorities are beginning to adopt a ‘jump before you are pushed’ attitude. They are advocating the Multi Academy Trust as a viable option claiming that ‘schools working together’ in the face of declining budgets is desirable. I thought that is what schools already do in our local authority family of schools and in our clusters!
We have to recognise that the fight will be tough, but it is possible to win. Just this week Small Heath School in Birmingham was saved. Teachers there had taken several days of strike action that resulted in the sponsor pulling out and the local authority announcing that it would not be looking for a new one! In the battle Simon O’Hara, the school rep was victimised and his position has not yet been clarified so further strikes may take place!
Schools faced with becoming academies must contact parents right away and initiate a campaign. There are plenty of resources on The AAA website to help.
London schools are about to be hit with an unprecedented wave of cuts to their budgets up to 20% in some places and academies could see extra cuts. This is a time when all in education should stand together. Talking about more academies is simple divisive. Labour boroughs such as Lambeth and Islington should be leading the fight.
Jess can be contacted on @EducatingJess or at her Facebook page
Simon O’Hara on the picket line with colleague.
Salma Yaqoob’s response to developments at Small Heath School
I am delighted to hear that plans to force Small Heath School to become an academy may be shelved following a vibrant campaign by staff and parents. The school had been rated Outstanding by Ofsted until the recent politicised atmosphere post ‘Trojan Horse’. Staff at Small Heath School, including many confident Muslim women teachers and parents, have been anything but#traditionallysubmissive in winning their fight against the creeping privatisation of education. They know that Small Heath is best served by schools co-operating as part of the Local Authority family of schools. Indeed Ofsted’s own research confirms that Academies do not improve results as previously claimed. Now the Local Authority needs to step in to get the suspension of dedicated teacher and NUT Rep Simon O’Hara lifted. It is obvious to parents and the community that he has been victimised simply for standing up for the pupils and parents of Small Heath School. We will continue to campaign until he is back in the classroom doing the job he loves – teaching our children.
London Region NUT sends solidarity greetings
After several days of strike action teachers in Small Heath school in Birmingham have been told that their school will not become an academy.
The King Edward Foundation has confirmed in writing to Sir Mike Tomlinson on 26th January…that the Foundation is not in a position to take on sponsorship of Small Heath School’. He goes on to state, ‘I am therefore in a position to confirm unequivocally that there is at present no known potential sponsor for Small Heath School…’ and finally ‘…there is no concrete proposal for the school to become an Academy and we are not aware of any potential sponsors under consideration by the Department for Education.’
It is also the case that key figures on the IEB with links to The King Edwards Foundation have resigned their positions.
Teachers have been balloted to strike over the victimisation of school rep Simon O’Hara and insist that strikes will continue until Simon’s reinstatement.
Pickets including NUT DGS Kevin Courtney out in numbers on the first day of renewed strike action (Pic: Dave Gilchrist)
The ATL union representing support staff have voted to rejoin strike action at Small Heath School on 28th Jan and 2nd, 3rd and 4th Feb.
Notice has been sent to the school. Teachers are saying thank you to the support staff at the school for standing with the NUT and standing by Simon O’Hara.
Simon’s supporters said ‘Absolutely amazing news! Totally over the moon!’
Support staff have been out every day on the picket line to ensure that their ballot would get a majority for continued strike action.
Small Heath are striking to prevent the school becoming an academy.
School management have suspended NUT rep Simon in what the union believe to be a case of Trade Union victimisation.