‘It will be a disaster’: Little Ilford staff strike over town hall’s expansion plan
- Credit: Archant
Teachers are staging a six day strike against town hall plans to expand their school.
National Education Union (NEU) members lined the entrance to Little Ilford School in Rectory Road to demand Newham Council rethink increasing pupil numbers at the secondary.
The local authority wants Little Ilford to take 300 more children to help accommodate a bulge in the borough’s younger population.
But striking staff say the expansion is being pushed on the school which already has 1,470 students on roll.
NEU rep and teacher, Tim Bergin, said: “If [the expansion plan] went ahead the way it is at the moment, it will be a disaster for students and staff for decades, not just for now.
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“It will be an inadequate expansion which will affect teaching and learning. We can’t do that to our students.”
He added big schools weren’t healthy for youngsters who can feel as if they are “just a number”.
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“Fifteen hundred is too big. Eighteen hundred is ridiculous,” he said.
Tim warned staff were prepared to extend the action unless the current proposal is cancelled or the town hall comes forward with plans for a proper expansion, including decent sized classrooms.
A council spokesperson said: “In Newham, we respect the right to take industrial action and have a proud history of support for the trade union movement. We have been liaising with the school and the union to understand their concerns.”
About 50 strikers were outside the school, chanting “Save quality education for everybody” and waving placards. The strike is due to end on Thursday (November 26).
Fellow NEU rep, Kate Chadwick, said members don’t believe they can deliver an inclusive education of quality in an expanded school.
“The local authority are saying they have to find places for children because there’s a bulge, which is fair enough.
“But they knew about this six years ago when these children were in reception and they did nothing about it,” Kate claimed.
Newham’s spokesperson said that besides its legal obligation to ensure enough school places, it is also committed to offering every youngster access to “the best opportunities”, including “excellent” education.
“In Little Ilford, Newham has an outstanding school that is currently helping 1,500 students to learn, grow and fulfil their potential. We want to extend those opportunities to more young people,” he said.
Since September 2019, Newham has provided an extra 11 forms of entry to meet demand.
A vote on Little Ilford’s expansion in November last year saw 85 per cent of staff come out against the plan. Seven governors later voted for, five against and two abstained, according to the reps.
The school has to be ready to receive the extra students from next September.
Teacher, Beth Hickling-Moore, said a council consultation saw only 12 responses from parents, adding that only one member of Little Ilford’s senior team voted for the plan.
However, Newham’s spokesperson said: “Following extensive consultation, it was agreed earlier this year to expand Little Ilford and Lister by two forms of intake each from 2021, to accommodate an additional 600 students by 2025.
“These plans are essential to having enough school places to meet demand so that no young person in Newham misses out.”
Kate said: “We’re not asking for more pay or longer lunch breaks. The people here are committed to this community.
“They care about the children. We want what’s best for them and [Newham] are not listening to us.”