On 8 June, National Education Union (NEU) members at Pimlico Academy (London) held their first strike day. A sunny Tuesday morning saw a strong turnout from members, with the picket line stretching all the way down the road. Workers carried placards with slogans including: “kick racism out of school”; “kick islamophobia out of school” and “hold the Nashes accountable”.
Lord John Nash, Tory peer and former Academies and Free Schools Minister, and Lady Caroline Nash are Future Academies Trustees and the main force behind the Trust. Lady Nash, for instance, is the leading figure in the Trust’s in-house curriculum centre. It’s a role that she has been criticised for, having no teaching qualifications or experience herself. Staff and students alike have complained that the curriculum is whitewashed and old-fashioned.
Following the strike, NEU reps went back into negotiations. The NEU has already won a range of concessions from management — most notably, seeing off the bullying Head Teacher, Daniel Smith, who resigned the day before the strike ballot came back — and the key issue that remains is one of loading. Members want guarantees that teachers — especially newly-qualified teachers — won’t be overburdened with excessive numbers of lessons per week.
Reps report that decent progress has been made in negotiations. Strikes which were due to take place on 15 and 16 June have been postponed, following a narrow vote by union members in which 57% of members were in favour of postponement.
At the time of writing (15 June), reps are seeking final assurances from management before putting their latest offer to members. If negotiations turn out to be unsuccessful then strikes will resume in the week starting 21 June.
Despite negotiations boiling down to important, bread-and-butter issues, it’s clear from the mood on the picket line, and the placards on show, that staff have a view to a broader culture change within the Trust. With the workers having achieved so much already, and momentum on their side, this strike may well turn out to be a historic tipping-point in Future Academies.