Friday 22 July 2016

Striking for School Funding

The 5th July strike over school funding was a huge success nationally, and in Oxfordshire where I attended events on the day. Below, I give a brief report of our activities on the day and the response but first I want to share the short video made by Leigh Seedhouse, one of our talented local committee members, using photos taken by Chris Honeywell:

We knew on the day that we had several objectives. On the one hand, we wanted to ensure there was a clear political focus on the question of school funding, both in terms of our trade dispute over the impact on terms and conditions, and in terms of the wider impact on education.

At the same time, we needed both to build on our contacts with parents and deepen the understanding and commitment of our core group of members, particularly in light of a ballot result where the depth of feeling over the issues (evidenced by the 92% yes vote) was not matched by wider awareness and confidence in our ability to win (shown by the 25% turnout).

In response to this, we organised several activities on the day. We began with two community events, focused on school funding, the narrowing of the curriculum through excessive testing, and expressing ourselves through creativity.

At East Oxford Community Centre, we had samba workshops and Stand Up for Education hat making. At Whitehouse Road Sports Pavilion, we had banner-making, placard-making and arts and crafts. Both events lasted from 10am to 12noon and between them attracted between 75 and 100 parents with children. There was a lot of support for oir action and over 100 parents signed a letter of support.

At the same time, we ran a strike meeting for NUT members, from 11am to 12.30 pm at the Wesley Memorial Church in central Oxford. Speakers at the meeting included a local parent talking about how academisation had disenfranchised him and the local parent community, a local headteacher speaking about the impact of primary assessment arrangements, a local parent speaking about the impact of Children's Centre cuts, and myself talking about how these issues linked together with the issue of school funding and what our strategy for winning was.

This meeting was attended by 250 NUT members and there was a lively discussion from the floor. These 250 members gave us their details and committed to building the campaign within their workplaces.

The meeting was followed by a march and rally with speakers from other unions and messages of support from the Oxford & District Trades Union Council, as well as the local ATL and NASUWT. Over 400 NUT members and supporters joined the march and we received significant positive media attention, particularly around the issue of school funding.

Overall, we succeeded in raising the core issue of funding, in strengthening our links with parents, and in engaging a new layer of activists, committed to building the next stage of this campaign school by school.

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