Staff and students at Pimlico Academy in London have already seen a first victory. On 18 May, the day before a National Education Union (NEU) ballot for strike action, closed, head teacher Daniel Smith announced he would leave on 31 May. Student protest and the threat of workers’ action has seen off the ultimate school bully.
Staff have been organising over bullying management; failure to address accusations of racism; lack of adequate safeguarding and unreasonable workload. The NEU strike ballot, which closed last week, came back with a resounding yes vote, and staff are due to hold their first strike day during the first week back after half term (31 May — 4 June).
On 31 March, around a thousand students at Pimlico Academy refused to go to lessons, and demanded Smith’s resignation (see Solidarity 587). They were protesting, among other things, the school’s racist uniform policy, its failure to support students that had made sexual assault complaints against other students, and its whitewashed curriculum. Pimlico Academy is not the only school in the Trust to see discontent. When pupils at Millbank Academy, a primary school down the road in Pimlico, were instructed to eat their lunch in silence, the upper KS2 students (9-11 year olds) wrote to their Head Teacher, asking for permission to whisper to their neighbours. After all, they said, school is for socialising too. When their request was refused, the pupils, inspired by their peers over at the secondary school, took to the playground with placards that read “We want change!”
The events at Pimlico Academy have been covered extensively in the mainstream press, with right-wing papers dubbing the school the “Academy of Anarchy”. Tory MPs have expressed concern that the Trust is giving in to the “woke mob” by taking down the Union Jack, following their protest last term.
But the events at Future Academies in recent weeks reveal which way the wind is blowing. Staff and students are united in the task to tackle bullying, racism and bigotry and to introduce inclusive, empowering curricula. Our job now is to support the coming strikes.