Stunning victory for Tower Hamlets lecturers after a month’s strike to save jobs

As of yesterday, the strike is over, as the management capitulated and most of the lecturers’ demands have been met! After a month of solid striking, which has seen strong daily pickets, widespread and heartfelt support and large community demonstrations, they won the dispute. The College management had planned to make 13 redundancies, none of which will take place, and axe 1000 places from ESOL courses, 200 of which have now been saved.  

More info on this blog. Statement from UCU (the lecturers’ union).

Victorious lecturers returning to work earlier this morning

Come to tomorrow’s meeting to hear more about this important victory -

Tomorrow’s (26th) London School Students’ Union meeting will be 1.30 till 3pm in the gallery on the first floor of the ULU (university of London Union) building. ULU is on Malet Street, nearest stations Goodge Street and Russell Square.

 We will have a discussion on why we should organise to defend our education with Rebecca Galbraith speaking about the successful occupation of Lewisham Bridge primary school’s roof and the lecturers’ strike at Tower Hamlets College (where she is to start work as an ESOL teacher). We will also be planning future LSSU activity such as benefit gigs, stalls and setting up a regular newssheet. Furthermore, we will be voting for a new member of the organisation committee as Kady has now gone to university. Anyone can stand.

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Education news update

The news this week has been a bit scary, in terms of our education at least. All the major parties seem to be geared up to make attacks on school and university provision -

But the fightback continues –

  • The National Union of Teachers and the National Headteachers’ Union are gearing up for action to boycott primary school SATs tests, and recently held a day of action to highlight their concerns.
  • The ongoing all-out lecturers’ strike at Tower Hamlets’ college is continuing into its third week. Students showed their support at a rally yesterday, and negotiations have finally started with the principal. More information on the strike.
  • Victorious parents at Lewisham Bridge primary school have finished their months-long occupation of the school roof in protest at plans to demolish the school and replace it with an academy. The plans have now been dropped and the kids are back in school!
  • Students at Park Downs College in Eastbourne have renewed their campaign against the merger of their college with the start of the new term.
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More news and events, from Ecaudor to east London

  • Ecuadorian students have faced pitched battles with police while protesting for free education, see http://www.free-education.org.uk/?p=627 . Please send messages of support to feue.quito.uce@gmail.com
  • The newly-formed London Education Workers Group are holding a benefit evening for the Tower Hamlets College strikers tomorrow, Saturday 19th September, 5:00pm at Freedom Bookshop down Angel Alley (shared with Whitechapel Art Gallery), near the Aldgate East tube station. “Bring friends, and an unquenchable thirst for justice!”
  • Parents at Lewisham Bridge primary school will be coming off the roof of the school which they have occupied since April, as they have won their fight – the school will remain open and publically owned! There will be a rally to support them when they officially come down on Monday 21st September, at 7.30pm. More info here.
  • BBC report: “An unwelcome bonus culture is creeping into head teachers’ pay, diverting funds from the classroom.”  http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/education/8257579.stm
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LSSU news and upcoming events 16th Septmeber

Hey everyone

This Saturday 19th September we will be meeting at 12.30pm (venue TBC but will be SOAS or ULU, near Goodge Street station) to discuss why we should and can organise and campaign to defend and improve our education. Rebecca Galbraith will be speaking about the ongoing Tower Hamlets all-out lecturer’s strike against cuts and the lessons we can take from this and other related struggles. We will also be planning future LSSU activity such as benefit gigs, stalls and setting up a regular newssheet. Furthermore, we will be voting for a new member of the organisation committee as Kady has now gone to university. Anyone can stand.   [Meeting postponed to next week, 26th September]

LSSU members will be heading down to the Vestas wind turbine blade factory on the Isle of Wight shortly after this meeting. Vestas was occupied this summer by workers there in protest at the planned closure of the only such factory in the UK. The occupation has now ended but the fight continues, and they urgently need more people at the site to maintain a blockade to stop the management transporting the blades out of the factory. If you can spare some time this weekend call 07800921828 for transport details – accommodation (camping) will be provided and travel paid for.

Other news and upcoming events:

  • Three weeks in and the Tower Hamlets College all-out lecturer’s strike is going strong. Lecturers are fighting against planned redundancies and cuts to courses by the management which have been proposed as part of a “streamlining” process, despite the college having £6 million in reserve funds. The management is trying to get the college to run like a business, at the expense of the students and lecturers.

Last week a ballot of the strikers, who are organised in the UCU union, went 162-2 in favour of continuing indefinite strike action! Lecturers have now started informal and unpaid lessons off-site so that students don’t fall too far behind.

On Saturday, LSSU members attended and spoke at a lively rally at Altab Ali Park to support the strike. Pickets are still going every day from 7.30am till 6pm – please go down and show support, more details here.

  • The student anti-fees and anti-privatisation group Education Not for Sale will be having big planning and strategy meeting this Saturday in Hull. It would be great if a LSSU member could attend and report back. Transport can be heavily subsidised and overnight accommodation provided – please call 07800921828 if you can make it.
  • Tomorrow (17th September) is the national day of action for the Vestas campaign, with events and protests all over the country. In London, there will be a lunchtime protest outside the Department for Energy and Climate Change at 12.30 and (for those of us who have to be in school or work) another at 5.30pm. The DECC is at 3 Whitehall place, off Whitehall near Charing Cross station. More info on other actions taking place.
  • Vestas workers and supporters have now occupied cranes and a barge on the Southampton docks to stop the turbine blades being shipped off and to draw attention to the campaign to keep the factory open! More information here and here.
  • Lambeth NUT has made a schools pack for teachers about the Vestas campaign, available to download here. Could also be useful for a meeting in school about the campaign.
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The Impact of Parental Debt on Children’s Education

By David Slaughter

No-one knows exactly how much public money is being squandered on the bank bail-outs but most agree the figures could run into trillions.

This brings to mind a very simple question – why should the working class be made to pay for the bosses mistakes? It is a simple question which should make many bankers blush (and therefore ignore as a result!). Once that question is raised some may just accept that ‘that’s life’. Most people do not see a way out of the crisis, and so will keep their heads down and hope the crisis doesn’t knock on their door. A real lead should be shown by the labour movement but this doesn’t seem to be forthcoming, especially after twelve years of Blair and Brown. While state hand-outs to the bankers and their bonuses is acceptable press, any suggestion of nationalising say Woolworths, Visteon or Vestas in the interests of working people’s jobs is a closed book whilst big business calls the shots.

So we are left in a situation where the bankers and bosses are given a golden pat on the head when they ruin people’s livelihoods in the name of profit. The recession then subjects ordinary people to cut backs in public services – or even worse – redundancy. The chain of negative events does not end there; it is passed onto the next generation.

A poll produced for Yougov on 11th August 2009 and widely reported in the press said that 43% of parents on an average wage or below are likely to have problems buying school uniforms for their children. Over half said they would be cutting back on essentials such as paying bills or food in order to meet back-to-school costs.

For families on incomes below £12,000 a year, over half said they are likely to have problems buying new shoes while a quarter say they will have to miss out on buying their children a winter coat.

Research has shown that almost 57% of local councils no longer provide the clothing grants that many low-income families rely upon to buy school uniforms with – despite the 1996 Education Act requiring councils to help families afford school uniforms so children aren’t disadvantaged.

During the recession many parents have had to cut back on financial expenditure for their children such as after-school clubs and educational school outing.

When you think of ‘state schools’, it is natural to assume that this means schools are free but there are many hidden costs. The statistics released by the Department for Children, Schools and Families demonstrate the reality of ‘free education’. To send a child to a state primary school it will cost the parents on average £683, and to send a child to a state secondary school it is £1,200 every year. The financial leap from Primary School to Secondary School is quite large as shown by the data above. This is because there is a larger list of items and expenses parents must consider such as PE uniforms, school uniform, stationary equipment, school meals and school trips.  Indeed such is the pressure on poor families that Newham council is piloting a scheme to give free school meals to all primary kids – no doubt the Tories, if elected, will cut this ‘unnecessary’ expenditure.

To demonstrate how the profit motive is embodied in the education system, we can look at one small example that I personally came across – the fee to see your exam paper once it’s marked. Even though our taxes pays for state school students like myself to sit the exams, we then have to pay a fee of roughly £20 just to see the exam paper we wrote after its been marked and even then its only a photocopy!  So if you want to find out where you dropped marks, or what you need to improve on, you have to pay to see the paper which you wrote and in effect you paid for.  I had to prioritise which exam paper I wanted back, as I was not going to pay £20 each for all my exams! So, in some cases students just have to accept they got that particular grade and not find out why – surely this is NOT the principle of education.  This made me realise exam boards did not have just one role, to mark papers, but they also have a secondary role – making profit out of the education process. As commercial organisations they have an objective to make money rather than playing a fruitful role in the education system. The reality is that big business believes the purpose of exams is not to show how well people are learning but to divide people into groups suitable for selection for employment. In other words they need people to fail. This is one reason for the constant campaign against the current exam systems and the high numbers of people who pass with good grades each year.

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