Staff at three Newham schools unite at rally against academisation plans

Keir Hardie Primary School staff striking over academisation plans. Picture: Ken Mears

Keir Hardie Primary School staff striking over academisation plans. Picture: Ken Mears - Credit: Archant

Protesters gathered at a rally against the planned academisation of three Newham schools this morning.

Staff on strike outside Avenue Primary School in November. Picture: Ken Mears

Staff on strike outside Avenue Primary School in November. Picture: Ken Mears - Credit: Archant

Teachers, parents and members of the National Education Union (NEU) picketed outside school gates before gathering at the rally in Stratford.

Today was the seventh day of strikes for staff at Avenue Primary School, the third for Cumberland School and the first for staff of Keir Hardie Primary School.

Keir Hardie, in Canning Town, is fighting against joining the Agate Momentum Trust, and strikers were joined on their picket by Martin Powell-Davies, the NEU’s London regional officer.

He said: “It’s fitting the name of this school we picketed today. Keir famously said we had a conspiracy of silence on our hands, and that’s what we have here.

Secretary of NEU Newham Louise Cuffaro read out a message of support from Jeremy Corbyn. Picture: K

Secretary of NEU Newham Louise Cuffaro read out a message of support from Jeremy Corbyn. Picture: Ken Mears - Credit: Archant


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“The facts about academisation are not being talked about. More than half of academy bosses get paid more than the prime minister. But this fight is breaking through that silence, and more and more councillors are being put under pressure to question the status quo.”

Around 30 people picketed the gates of Plaistow’s Cumberland School, which is due to be taken over by the Community Schools Trust, which also manages Forest Gate Community School.

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Carolyn McGrath, staff member and NEU committee member at Cumberland, said: “We feel like the vultures are circling. “We don’t know when we’ll be made into an academy. We feel violated, we feel vulnerable.”

Shebbida Ali is a parent at Avenue Primary School in Manor Park, which is facing academisation from the EKO Multi-Academy Trust in July.

“We won’t take a back seat and allow them to run over us,” she said. “We are furious, angry, and really upset. We need to show them that we are not weak.”

Michael Gavan, NEU’s London regional officer, explained why staff and parents were concerned about academisation. “At the moment if you’re a Newham school you can work with whoever you like,” he said.

“Once you join a multi academy trust you can only work with schools in that same trust. It breaks up the family of schools we have in Newham.”

The rally heard a message of solidarity from Jeremy Corbyn, and NEU representatives pledged their support for any further strike action planned.

A march from Plashet Park to East Ham Town Hall will take place before Newham Council’s meeting on Monday. Protesters will assemble at 5.15pm and the meeting takes place from 7.00pm.

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