Our best pictures of today’s protest

Our best pictures of today’s protest

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Off to London – Tories out!

Over 50 people from Coventry and Leamington joined the anti-austerity protest in London today, including a number of members of Coventry Socialist Party. Below are some of the best pictures we took today!

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Time for Cameron to go – and take the rest of the Tories with him!

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The FBU fire engine!

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Teachers say no to forced academisation

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Tories out – time for a general strike!

Live: Coventry Socialists join London protest against austerity

Live: Coventry Socialists join London protest against austerity

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On the bus to London – Tories out!

Coventry Socialist Party members are joining a march against austerity in London today. Trade unionists on the Coventry bus represented a number of unions including Unite, UNISON, Coventry TUC, NUT, CWU and PCS.

Jane Nellist from Coventry NUT said “We are joining the march today because we have to ensure that we build a fightback against Tory plans to destroy our public services.”

Socialists will be building the fight against austerity and arguing for a socialist alternative to capitalism. The Tories are split, the trade union movement needs to organise a 24 hour general strike to co-ordinate the fightback!

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NUT and CWU members from Coventry

Coventry Labour council schools chief sets up academies firm

Coventry Labour council schools chief sets up academies firm

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Cllr David Kershaw

A Coventry Labour councillor has set up a business designed to take over schools and turn them into academies. Councillor David Kershaw, who is cabinet member for education, is heading a new academy company called the West Midlands Academy Trust.

Writing in the Coventry Observer, Les Reid revealed that the company was set up just last month by Cllr Kershaw and is believed “to be in line to win Tory government permission to take over five struggling schools in Birmingham. The five schools are understood to be those which make up the Perry Beeches Trust and are already Academies. The fact that these schools are struggling is a clear indictment of the government’s Academies programme.

Cllr Kershaw has done this at a time when Labour are campaigning against Tory plans to force schools to become academies, and have been distributing leaflets around Woodlands ward claiming local Labour council candidate Patricia Hetherton is “fully behind the campaign to save Woodlands Academy”. After the release of the Panama Papers implicating leading politicians in tax dodging, this is yet another example of hypocrisy.

Hetherton’s leaflet also claims that “[she] knew that the opening of Finham Park 2 would have an impact on student numbers in the area”. “Local” Labour MP Geoffrey Robinson also features on the leaflet, and last month he said the same to the Coventry Telegraph. However, while they say this now, Cllr Kershaw wrote to the Department for Education last year expressing support for Finham Park 2!

Cllr Kershaw has also been key in advocating and pushing through the council’s library closure plans, and the (currently shelved) plans to cut transport to schools for disabled children. As a former headteacher, it is shocking that he seems willing to make cuts that will clearly damage children’s education.

Other partners in the business include Alan East, a Labour candidate for Bablake ward in May. Locally this is yet another example of Labour saying one thing and doing another – how do Kershaw’s actions compare with the anti-austerity policies of Jeremy Corbyn?

Members of the National Union of Teachers (NUT) are campaigning against the enforced academisation of all schools and will be balloted over strike action against funding cuts and threats to teacher’s contracts and pay and conditions. We give them our full support – concerted industrial action can stop these plans and bring this government down!

Lively Coventry protest against forced academies

Lively Coventry protest against forced academies

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Protesting at the Department of Education, Coventry

A lively protest took place in Coventry earlier this evening against the government’s plans to force every school to become an academy.

The demonstration, held outside the Department of Education building and organised by the National Union of Teachers (NUT) was supported by teachers, parents, school  and university students. It also drew support from members of UNISON, UNITE, GMB, CWU and Coventry TUC.

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Jane Nellist with Sam Kempster

Jane Nellist, recently re-elected to the national executive of the NUT, chaired the protest explaining why her union was so opposed to the Tory privatisation plans.

Eileen Hunter, an NUT activist from Warwickshire spoke passionately about how these plans needs to be fought.

Sam, a student from Coventry University, spoke about the need to forge links, and brought solidarity greetings from Coventry students.

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Hands off our Schools!

Parents also spoke about the effects that academisation has had on the education of their children.

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Outside the Department of Education

Paul Hunt, assistant branch secretary of Coventry City UNISON, explained how the Tory proposal will be an attack on UNISON members in schools. He spoke in support of a co-ordinated fight back between the public sector unions pointing out that the government is weak – witness the resignation of IDS and the splits over Europe. The junior doctors have shown a lead, now is the time for a general strike in this country!

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On the protest

All speakers showed that the fight must now be taken to the government.

Jane Nellist closed the protest explaining how her union conference this week must come out with clear plans for industrial action and that Coventry NUT would be continuing a campaign after Easter to defend education.

NUT protest in Coventry against Tory academy plans

NUT protest in Coventry against Tory academy plans

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Coventry NUT (National Union of Teachers) has organised a protest this week against Tory plans to turn every school in the country into an academy. The protest is outside Coventry DFE (Department for Education) offices in the Butts on Wednesday 23rd at 4.30pm.

We have already seen the negative effects of “academisation” in Coventry, with a number of schools such as Blue Coat, Grace Academy and Woodlands facing financial difficulty – Woodlands Academy is currently under threat of closure.

Forcing all schools to become academies is indicative of the Tories’ desire to privatise public services, by removing schools from local authority control and handing them over to big businesses. Teachers, parents and students need to fight these plans – save our schools!

Protest outside Coventry DFE on Wednesday 23rd at 4.30pm! 

Protest against closure of Woodlands Academy

Protest against closure of Woodlands Academy

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Protest outside Woodlands Academy (photo Cov Telegraph)

Over 200 staff, parents and pupils gathered outside the gates of Woodlands Academy on a very cold and wet afternoon to protest at the proposals to effectively close Coventry’s only all boys school. Please read and share the below report from Jane Nellist, joint divisional secretary of Coventry National Union of Teachers (NUT) which represents many teaching staff at the school.

A consultation letter was sent to all parents and staff outlining plans to close Woodlands School and merge pupils into the neighbouring Tile Hill Academy, currently an all girls school, and that it would be renamed and become a co-ed school in 2017.

Woodlands School was built in 1954 as a purpose built Comprehensive school, one of the very first Comprehensive schools in the country.  It became an Academy in 2011 even though teachers and unions protested against the proposals and took strike action against the conversion.  At the time, unions warned that there was no guarantees of extra funding and new school buildings. That’s exactly what has happened.

We know that by 2020, Coventry will need to find many more school places for children that are currently in Primary Schools in the city due to population growth, and that’s without accounting for further housebuilding in the city.

This situation highlights the government’s chaotic  education policies with the growth in Academies along with the demise of the Local Authority and sensible democratic accountability, oversight and planning for school places. It is also a consequence of the government’s policy of agreeing to Free school expansion, including a Free school in the area, Finham 2, which has added to the destabilisation of school places in this area of Coventry.

The Department for Education, whilst agreeing to the Free Schools and pushing schools into becoming Academies is failing to step in and support schools. The marketisation of our schools and increased competition, encouraged by the Tories, is proving a disaster.

This has all contributed to the very worrying situation of the planned closure of one of Coventry’s schools, and the job losses of teachers and support staff at Woodlands.

Parents are angry, pupils are unsettled and staff are left with not knowing if they have a job.

Coventry parents, pupils and education staff deserve far better.

 

 

Interview with children’s author Cathy Cassidy about library closures

Interview with children’s author Cathy Cassidy about library closures

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Cathy Cassidy speaking at NUT “Save Our Libraries” meeting. Nicky Downes centre, Alan Gibbons far left

Around 50 people attended a “Save Our Libraries” meeting on Tuesday 3rd March, organised by the National Union of Teachers. The meeting, chaired by Coventry NUT President and Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition activist Nicky Downes, heard speeches from authors Alan Gibbons and Cathy Cassidy about the importance of libraries and the campaign to save them.

Socialist Party member Dan Crowter spoke at the meeting about the need for the council to adopt a fighting strategy by using their reserves to buy time, and build a campaign with trade unions and community groups to get the money back from central Government. Afterwards we interviewed children’s author Cathy Cassidy about the campaign.

Dan: Where do you think the campaign to save the libraries should go now?

Cathy: We need to keep it up. This [the one year delay of closures] isn’t breathing space, it’s a chance to build the campaign. The protests and lobbies of the council should continue, write letters to the paper, turn up to meetings and councillors surgeries. Keep saying it. Be a thorn in the side of the council! The campaign in Coventry has been amazing, so keep it up. Put pressure on the council – I don’t believe any Labour councillor wants to make cuts.

Dan: So what would you like to see the council do instead?

Cathy: Well, instead of making cuts with a heavy heart, why aren’t their hearts so heavy that they decide they can’t make the cuts? If it’s playing on their minds, if it’s weighing on them, on their consciences, they should listen to that. They should listen to the people of Coventry, and stand up for the people and for the children who use the libraries. Children keep contacting me and telling me they care about their libraries, asking me to stop this from happening in their town – the councils need to listen.

Thanks Cathy for doing the interview and supporting the campaign – join the fightback against library closures and all cuts!