On the Connaught picket line

NEU union members at Connaught School for Girls in east London have won a massive victory as the plans for multi-academisation have collapsed. But the battle continues.

After 15 days of strikes since July, the school informed the NEU that Star Academy has decided that it was not in their interests to take over the school.

The announcement came the day after a mass picket at the school which had the NEU general secretary Daniel Kebede present as well as NEU exec members and reps and officials from across London.

The support from the general secretary gave weight to the escalated action that members had asked for. The NEU had just sanctioned four days of strikes per week for three weeks.

The victory is a massive blow to the government’s privatisation of education agenda. Star Academies is one of the favourites of the department for education with a chief executive who is now chair of the confederation of trust schools.

The government would have been confident that it could simply out-muscle a union group and pressure the school into transferring. The odds against a win were high in these circumstances.

However the fight was turned onto the government and with the help of Strike Map and others, 200 people emailed education secretary Gillian Keegan opposing cuts and the transfer.

The government picked a fight with the wrong group and the wrong branch—Waltham Forest NEU.

The four-day escalation is still on though. The issue of changes to the working day have not been resolved. So far on the balance sheet is stopping academisation, no compulsory redundancies and improved conditions.

There are several keys to this win.

The strike breakfast meetings, in which workers had control over the direction of the dispute were very important. So were the escalation of action and the support from the local branch.

The final factor is the war in Gaza. The events of the last few weeks have been the talking point on each of the strike pickets and strike breakfasts and members have been on the demonstrations.

This win should be a sign to every trade union member across the country—fight and you win. The other side is not as powerful as you think or even as powerful as it thinks.


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