Newham school staff fight for their school

by James Ivens, London Socialist Party

You’d think a former Ofsted inspector might have learnt a thing or two about how, and how not, to lead a school. Not the new head at Calverton primary in Newham, east London. Three months on the job and already his staff have had to strike.

Calverton primary school
Calverton Primary School.
Photo: James Ivens

Bosses want to cut ‘dependant leave’ from ten days a year to five. Most workers don’t need the whole whack each year — but if you have sick parents or a child needing an operation, it’s essential. Especially for teaching assistants (TAs) on £27,000 a year or less.

One young TA had to look after a family member facing a second operation within a year. Management had discretion to grant full pay for a handful more days. They declined.

This fits with what members of the National Education Union (NEU) describe as a bullying management style. The situation isn’t helped by the borough’s Labour council refusing to lead a struggle for resources and decent conditions in schools. Louise Cuffaro, Newham NEU secretary and Socialist Party member, has led rallies and discussions on every picket line. Around 40 joined the picket line on the first two strike days, 20 and 21 September, standing together to fight for their school.