In this time of privatisation of schools and hospitals and with public service managers on the rampage it may seem odd to find so many teachers, pupils and parents at John Roan School feeling jubilant… but they are. Colin F, with Juliana J and Tony A, describe the latest developments in the campaign.
Last September a new head teacher arrived at John Roan. She had left her previous school two years after transforming it into an academy as the exams results worsened. The new head’s agenda soon became clear, differing little from that of management at many other schools and public service institutions – to isolate and undermine staff members’ ability to do their jobs, increase the emphasis on report writing and other non-teaching tasks and break the strength of the union.
Prior to this the NUT (National Union of Teachers) group had grown in size and confidence over a number of years. The school had become a popular, happy and successful community comprehensive providing a broad curriculum to a diverse group of students.
Strike action last autumn knocked back management’s initial attempt to make detrimental changes, and the prospect of strike action over the imposition of academy status delayed the threat until September this year. In the spring term the head and governing body announced the existence of a budget deficit and took out a large loan with the local authority. Their ‘recovery plan’ would have shuttered many subjects, destroyed pastoral care and included significant redundancies. The NUT staff and parents asked management to clarify the source of the deficit and requested the right to negotiate on the recovery plan. Lack of transparency and meaningful dialogue led to three NUT strike days in the last month, with the NASUWT teaching union taking the first strike action at the school for 25 years and the GMB balloting to join in. This ensured that almost everything under threat at the school – including subjects such as Drama, RE, Sociology, the pastoral care system and 17 jobs were saved (there will however be 4 voluntary redundancies).
The campaign group John Roan Resists, made up of parents, staff and the local community, played a pivotal role throughout. It gathered hundreds of parents’ signatures on a petition against the plans as well as opening up the process to examination and accountability at several public meetings and giving support on the picket lines.
The unions’ quick and decisive action led to a successful resolution for the students and staff at John Roan, ensuring that the school remains a caring community comprehensive with its broad curriculum offer and excellent pastoral care intact.
And if that wasn’t enough of a victory the local paper announced this week, “John Roan head teacher resigns”…
Ian A from Manchester adds that NUT members at Prestwich Arts College are going strong on their sixth strike day against fake compulsory redundancies. The college hired new teachers after knowing it was likely to make redundancies, but didn’t inform any of the affected parties until later. After the picket the strikers went off to Bury Town Hall to hand in a letter in person. On Tuesday night at 6pm they are asking supporters to join them in lobbying a governors’ meeting at the college (Heys Road, Prestwich, M25 1JZ). The strikers also request that supporters to write to firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject line ‘For the attention of the chair of governors’ urging the governors to settle the dispute. The NUT is discussing further action to follow on from this latest three-day strike. Strikers are determined to stop the compulsory redundancies.