Last Friday, 200 students walked out of their lessons at Deyes High School near Liverpool, in protest against the bureaucratic mismanagement of the school. This anger and militancy must be channelled into a united fight to bring education under democratic control.
On Friday 8th July around 200 students at Deyes High School – part of the Lydiate Learning Trust, a multi-academy trust – staged a walk-out during their final lesson. This protest was sparked by the management’s decision to make changes to the form tutor system.
The changes mean that each department will become the form tutors for a certain year group. For example, the English department will be the form tutors for next year’s year 7 cohort.
This has left students furious, especially those in the older year groups. This is because the form tutor who they have had since they started high-school will be taken away from them and allocated elsewhere. Over their time at school, students form a close bond with their form tutor, who is often their first port of call when they have problems.
However, the higher-ups at Deyes have shown absolutely no regard for the interests of students. Undemocratically, without consulting students or staff the decision was made to tear away form tutors from the students they have built up a bond with over the years.
Despite attempts to blame the students for causing disruption to learning by walking out of their lessons, it is clear that this situation was created by the managers and governors, who concocted a perfect storm of discontent.
The students tried a number of ways to express their dissatisfaction – all of which were ignored by the management. As one student commented, “[higher management] ignored us […] they left us no other option when they didn’t listen to us.”
One student put together a letter expressing their anger at the decision to strip them of their form tutor and sent it to the headteacher. This letter was ignored. Students then circulated a petition in another attempt to get their voices heard. This petition was ignored too.
A number of students then had a meeting with the governors and managers to discuss the matter. However, the higher-ups used this meeting as an opportunity to intimidate the students by threatening them with suspensions and disqualification from their prom.
Rumours began to circulate about a protest that was to take place in the last period on Friday. On the day of the walk-out, the management decided to put the student who wrote the polite letter into isolation. They were later released from isolation when they protested the decision to lock them away from their peers.
At the protest, students from across the year groups united in solidarity with one another. The management were powerless to stop them; all they could do was stand around and watch. They could only hope that as time dragged on the students would return to lesson one by one.
The fury of the students was clearly displayed on their placards, featuring slogans like ‘SAVE OUR TUTORS’ and ‘STOP AFFECTING OUR FUTURES.’
Clearly, this student walk-out is an expression of much deeper resentment felt against the school that is failing their education.
One student stated that they were protesting not just against the decision to strip them of their form tutor who they had been with for four years, but also at “SLT [higher management] in general.”
For example, students are also angry that supply staff are being used more regularly. Without a regular permanent teacher the quality of their education deteriorates. This is a direct consequence of the management’s corner-cutting approach to teaching.
The management are now trying to de-legitimise the walk-out by blaming it on the unruly behaviour of a minority of the students. This completely ignores the fact that the walk-out was largely carried out in an orderly manner by sensible and disciplined students. This is a clear attempt at divide-and-rule tactics from the management.
Students and staff, unite!
Students aren’t the only ones who are fed up with the situation at Deyes. It is rumoured that many members of staff will be leaving Deyes at the end of the academic year. This matches the national mass exodus of teachers from the profession due to a race to the bottom in pay and conditions.
Members of staff have shown already that they are sympathetic towards the students, One member of staff said that the students “have a good point” and another even remarked that they were tempted to join the students’ walk-out.
This comes as no surprise. With an undemocratic bureaucracy mismanaging the school, pay and conditions plummeting, education standards falling, and staff leaving in droves, it is clear that the current system does not work.
It is no coincidence that this school is run under the academy system. As part of an academy trust, all decisions are made behind closed doors, by an unaccountable cabal of trustees, headteachers, managers, and governors.
These people are not interested in improving education, but in lining their own pockets with eye-watering salaries – at whatever expense. Their interests are diametrically opposed to the interests of staff and students.
The students at Deyes have shown immense courage in the face of the management’s intimidation. They have also shown that militant methods are the only way to get the ear of the fat-cat managers. But this energy must be combined with the power of the workers in the school, who truly have the power to bring the school to a standstill.
Students and staff both feel a deep resentment towards the bureaucratic mismanagement of Deyes. But this needs to be channelled into a united fight against academisation, for genuine control over the school by staff, students and parents, and for a fully-funded education system as part of a socialist planned economy.
At the Marxist Student Federation, we say:
Solidarity to the Deyes High Students!
No punishments for student protestors!
Students and staff, unite and strike!
Push the fat-cats out of education!