Over 80 people turned out this morning, Tuesday 11th May, writes Dave Kellaway, to support Ian Forsyth, the victimised National Education Union (NEU) rep at Leaways School, Hackney. Leaways school is for students with special needs. It is run on behalf of Hackney Council by the Keddleston group, a private company, the Kedleston group. Sixty employees have joined the NEC and Ian was targeted because the union had started to raise issues about how the roughly £50.000 yearly allocation per pupil was being spent as well as trying to improve staff/pupil ratios and staff conditions over issues like sick pay.
Today’s picket was supported by Hackney North and Stoke Newington Labour Party, Momentum, London Renters movement, Unite Community Branch Hackney/Islington, Islington Unison and the National Union of Journalists (Magazine branch) and New City College. The NEU have been full square behind the action which has been going on since December. This week marks the 22nd week of strike actions. There is another strike day tomorrow (12th May) with the same picket from 8 am to 9 am welcoming community, trade union and political support. The school is situated at 18 Theydon Rd, Hackney E5 9NZ. Diane Abbott, our local MP, has been a stalwart supporter of the action from the beginning. A demonstration has been organised for Saturday 22nd May from 12 noon in front of the school and then marching down to Hackney Town Hall.
This struggle shows how privatisation of all sectors of education and of the public sector is proceeding apace. Under Blair Labour adopted the line that ‘structures do not matter it is delivery that counts’. New Labour started the academy programme which removed schools from local council control and consequently cut off even this level of accountability.
Predictably this facilitated attacks on union organisation as teachers worked in increasingly fragmented structures. Today, the NEU has to deal with many more cases of bullying and victimisation. Currently, just in our area, there are disputes in Islington at the Sixth Form college where management is imposing draconian observation of teachers even during the pandemic where it was mostly Zoom sessions for a long time. There is another conflict at Oaks Park High school in Redbridge. In many academies the heads, who are often on salaries well into six figures increasingly want to impose their understanding of a macho business model. This is fuelled by how Ofsted and the government encourage false competition based on dubious assessment statistics.
Thankfully the NEU leadership is fully behind its members in these local disputes. Its exemplary action over the pandemic, when its mobilisation stopped Johnson (backed by Starmer( reopening the schools too early, has led to an increase of over 35,000 members. Fighting unions build themselves, as we see with the RMT which organises London Transport workers and has kept up a strong membership.
In 2018 Kedleston Group made over £4million profit from the special schools and care homes they run. Despite this, staff faced only a 1% pay rise this year, and Kedleston refuse to offer more than 7 days sick pay. It runs over 10 day and residential schools for pupils with special needs and has sales of £28 million. Looking at the Leaways school building this morning I discovered it is an old gym where Lennox Lewis used to train. You have to ask whether the building is really appropriate for special needs students. There is no outdoor space for pupils and the heating has not worked properly with pupils reportedly having to wear their coats inside. How much of their profits are reinvested? At least public provision would allow you to use the money paid out to shareholders or owners to go directly back into meeting educational need.
Pressure needs to be put on Hackney Council to see how its contract with Kedleston can be invoked to put pressure on the company to reinstate Ian. In general we should also mobilise to end these arrangements and bring special needs provision back inhouse.
- Messages of support, motions of solidarity from trade union branches can be sent to email@example.com. which is Hackney district of NEU.
- You can sign a petition here: https://actionnetwork.org/petitions/leaways
- Demonstrate on 24th May Leaways school to Hackney Town Hall from 12 noon.
Brilliant news and a reminder striking wins! Victory at Leaways!
Really pleased to say our members have unanimously agreed to withdraw all future action and end the dispute – following a very positive set of talks with management after many days of strike action and political campaigning.
We have agreed the following statement with the Kedleston Group.
“Kedleston Group and the National Education Union are pleased to announce that the industrial dispute at Leaways School has been resolved. The school has voluntarily agreed to recognise the NEU and Iain Forsyth, a NEU representative for Leaways School, has been reinstated following due process under the School’s internal procedures.
Both Kedleston Group and NEU are committed to working in partnership to build and maintain positive industrial relations at the school.
We are pleased that we have also come to agreements on the following:
Introduction of Pay scales from Sept 2021 which will mirror the national main and upper pay scales for Teachers and the national NJC pay scales for support staff
Introduction of pay progression policy for teachers to provide career and pay progression
Amendment of the Sick Pay policy with effect from Sept 2021, which will include an increase from 7 to 10 days per 12 month rolling period
Both parties are confident they can work together to meet the needs of all the school community”
Very many congratulations to our members and reps at the school and to our officers in Hackney – Dave Davis and others.
And also thanks to Diane Abbott MP, Cllr. Anntoinette Bramble, Cllr. Caroline Woodley for their support