Newham Sixth Form College begins strike against academisation

by James Ivens, East London Socialist Party

Staff at Newham Sixth Form College (NewVIC) in East London walked out against privatisation on 1 December.

The ‘chief executive’ (headteacher) of this community college wants it to become a privately run ‘academy’. That means private firms can profit from the budget, there’s no limit on management salaries, and national terms and conditions for staff don’t apply. Naturally, there was no consultation!

NewVIC picket line 1 December
Photo: James Ivens

The National Education Union (NEU) now has over 100 members at NewVIC, with many signing up because of the strike. They voted overwhelmingly for the action. Dozens joined the picket line on the first day.

As the Socialist goes to press, workers are due to strike again on 8-9 December. More days will likely be needed to force management back. The NEU is ready to call further action after the Christmas break.

Louise Cuffaro, secretary of Newham NEU and Socialist Party member, said: “We are going to fight to keep this a community college. If you don’t fight, you can’t win.

“We’ve kept places in this borough away from academisation. They’re not accountable. We’ll keep going week in, week out. He thinks you’re going to be worn out after a day, or after two days. We are not going anywhere!”

NEU reps from the neighbouring borough of Redbridge also joined the picket line, fresh from the 33-day strike against bullying at Oaks Park secondary school. Oaks Park rep Bill Stockwell led rounds of Solidarity Forever on his cornet, and victimised rep Keiran Mahon joined in solidarity.

The culture of bullying is also a problem at NewVIC, and at schools and colleges around the country. National action to reduce workload and improve pay is the best way to start changing this.

UPDATE: 9th December 2021

NewVIC picket line, 9th December
Photo: James Ivens

Newham Sixth Form College on the third day of strike action by the National Education Union. No to privatisation! End the culture of bullying and intolerable workload!

NEU general secretary Kevin Courtney addressed the picket line today. Newham NEU secretary and Socialist Party member Louise Cuffaro told strikers to get ready for a long fight in the New Year — the branch plans a big tranche of strike days if bosses won’t back down.