Teachers at Newham Sixth Form college in east London are continuing their strike against overwork, management bullying, and academisation. Meanwhile, students are mobilising in support of staff. We must build the fightback to defend education.
For over four weeks now, National Education Union (NEU) members have been on strike at Newham Sixth Form College in Plaistow, also known as NewVic.
The college’s teachers and staff are striking over unacceptable working conditions; a culture of bullying and intimidation from management; and the prospect of the inclusive community college being turned into an academy.
The mood on the picket lines has been defiant and upbeat, with the teachers braving early starts and cold weather to attend the pickets each week.
Bullying, intimidation, and arbitrary workload increases harm both students and staff, in terms of mental health and quality of teaching and learning. This will only worsen if the proposed process of academisation is allowed to go ahead.
In such a scenario, it is inevitable that management will prioritise profit-making above providing the best education for students, as the college will be under enormous pressure to prove itself economically viable.
It is therefore essential that the NEU strike at Newham Sixth Form is victorious, and that the local labour movement offer their full support and solidarity to ensure this outcome.
— Jorge Martin (@marxistJorge) January 18, 2022
At the same time, students at Newham Sixth Form should do everything they can to support their teachers and staff during this strike.
Efforts have been made by local activists to reach the college’s students, in order to build support for the strike. Socialist Appeal supporters and Marxist Student Federation (MSF) comrades have played a role by flyering and talking to students about the strike.
Vic, a student at the college, and a comrade with Socialist Appeal and the MSF, has been actively supporting his teachers at the picket lines and at the weekly strike rallies. He had the following to say about the strike:
“Despite a massive campaign of disinformation by college management, who have left students in the dark in relation to the strike, lots of students have responded positively and come out to support their teachers.
“There’s also been lots of support given on social media. The management issues brought out by the strike affect both students and teachers, as management sees the teachers and students as assets to the college, who work or obtain grades for them, rather than as members of the community and human beings.
“Academisation in particular is an example of the increasing interaction between capitalism and education, which is massively detrimental to students and staff. It is simply not profitable or efficient to look after their wellbeing under the current system.
“This is what the strike is fighting against. And united action between staff and students is an example of how to fight against these problems in education and in society.”
We encourage students to attend the weekly picket lines on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday mornings, and to attend the student-staff open strike meeting on Monday 31, which is due to take place at 1pm in the main hall.
Industrial action like this is not just happening at Newham Sixth Form College. Similar stories are emerging all across the country as teachers are forced to fight to defend education.
Experienced teachers are being driven out of the sector by years of austerity and cuts. Vacancies rates are three times their 2011 levels, and we are now approaching 11 years of worsening conditions.
In this context, a strong fightback is vital.
As Socialist Appeal comrades in the NEU argue in their latest bulletin, union members should complete the January pay survey to move towards a Yes vote for the 8% pay increase campaign, and for further industrial action. This would begin to rectify the real-term pay lost since 2010.
Meanwhile, there are other opportunities at a local level to secure victory for the Newham teachers.
Importantly, the National Union of Students (NUS) is calling for a national student walkout on 2 March, involving not only university students, but also those in sixth forms and further education colleges.
This walkout should be used as an opportunity to show support for NEU members and other staff at the college, and to put further pressure on management.
Coordinated action like this can serve as a blueprint for a common struggle against austerity, and for free, fully-funded, lifelong education for all.
The money for this exists, but is currently hoarded by the billionaires and bankers. That is why we demand free education, funded by expropriation – with the big monopolies and banks taken out of private hands, and run instead under democratic workers’ control.
Only then will parents, teachers, staff, and students be able to use these resources to run schools for their benefit, and not for the benefit of shareholders and management.
Students and workers: Unite and fight to defend education!
Socialist Appeal and the Marxist Student Federation calls for:
- Students, staff, and teachers to attend the open strike meeting in the main hall at 1pm on Monday 31 January
- Students to support the strike and join their teachers on the picket lines outside college every Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday morning
- Full acceptance of the NEU demands, and an immediate reduction in unmanageable workloads faced by staff and students.
- An immediate end to bullying and intimidation by college management
- No to the academisation and privatisation of education
- A Yes vote for an 8% pay rise, with mobilisation for national strike action – in coordination with other public sector unions – to achieve this