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Newham teachers strike


On 10 December 2008, 48 members of the National Union of Teachers at The Royal Docks Community School in the London borough of Newham took strike action in opposition to the threat of redundancies that might arise from the privatisation proposal to turn the school into an academy run by a private sponsor.

The school was closed, affecting 1200 pupils, and the striking teachers distributed thousands of leaflets into the houses of the local community surrounding the school. The local newspaper gave good coverage to the dispute and the beginnings of resistance are starting to emerge among parents and teachers in other schools.

Creating an academy would transfer many millions of pounds of publicly funded Royal Docks assets and running costs to unaccountable private sponsors. In addition, an academy takes the school outside local authority control.

In an effort to “increase” exam results, there is evidence that academies use permanent exclusions to reduce the number of special needs children whilst poaching high achievers from elsewhere. Moreover, there is no legal compulsion on an academy to admit pupils with special educational needs. As the Royal Docks currently has a high proportion of special educational needs children, there is a fear for their continued presence in the future if the school’s status were to be changed. Local children will not have an automatic right to attend their local school, despite authority claims to the contrary. The community fought long and hard to get a new community school in this part of the borough which would benefit all in the area. Now this asset is poised to be taken away and handed over to a private sponsor.

Although The Royal Docks School did not reach the recently introduced national challenge target, exam results at the school are improving with 43 per cent of pupils gaining 5 A* to C grades being its best-ever total, whilst value-added indicators reveal slow constant improvement as well. Moreover, the HMI inspection in mid-November stated that the school was making satisfactory progress with many good features. The school and its NUT members wish to continue to make progress, bringing greater achievement, but in a state school working within the family of local authority schools.

Newham Anti-Academies Alliance has been created and is now campaigning throughout the borough, as the creation of an academy will undermine admissions procedures across all the secondary schools. Together with Newham NUT it is asking parents to send letters of protest to the mayor, councillors and Newham local authority, calling for a proper consultation process with both sides of the argument being presented to ensure a democratic decision, before a ballot of parents is undertaken. It is too important a decision to be left to one man, the mayor, to decide.