Student solidarity with lecturers strike

Student solidarity with lecturers strike

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UCU members picketing at Coventry University

Coventry Socialist Students have produced the below statement in solidarity with striking lecturers this week. Please read and share, and support the strike however you can!

This week, the UCU trade union (representing academic and related workers, including many students who teach as postgrads) announced their campaign for fairer pay in higher education. They will be on strike at universities across the country on 25th-26th May, and at the same time beginning to work to rule, which means they will refuse to work overtime, set additional work or undertake any voluntary duties like covering timetabled classes for absent colleagues.

Socialist Students supports the UCU in this strike as the fight for free education cannot be isolated to students alone, but must be linked to lecturers and all workers in FE/HE to fundamentally challenge the neo-liberal race to the bottom policies that are stripping away education.

Coventry University UCU will be picketing outside Graham Sutherland Building, Coventry University from 8.30-10.30 on both the strike days. Please join and show solidarity!

Fight for free education, fight for socialism!

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!

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.

 

 

For a fighting students union – vote Aidan for President

Vote Aidan for President – for a fighting Socialist president and a fighting students union!

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Socialist Students including Aidan (centre) fighting for decent housing

Coventry Socialist Students have decided to make a stand during this year’s Student Union elections. One of the societies organisers, Aidan O’Toole is running for the position of President on a fighting socialist platform.

Since New Labour introduced tuition fees in 1998, students have been seeing increasing attacks on their right to education, the most recent being the scrapping of maintenance grants for students who need them the most for loans instead. This will add to the high levels of debt students face and act as a massive barrier to students from working class families.

We need an education fightback, for a national campaign to stop these attacks students are facing and to bring back free education and maintenance grants. A national movement is needed to force the government to change course – by linking up with other student unions and trade unions representing staff this could be done!

A prominent issue facing students in Coventry is the circus that is the housing market. Students are faced with dodgy landlords and rogue letting agencies from all angles, and are routinely exploited with high rent, expensive agency fees and substandard conditions! Things don’t have to be this way, and Socialist Students members on the SU council including Aidan have successfully put forward motions that allow the SU to fight dodgy landlords and letting agencies like FututeLets, but they haven’t.

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Aidan (second from right) campaigning with TUC Young Workers for a £10 an hour minimum wage

A fighting Socialist president would make sure that the full weight of the SU will be fighting for better housing. As housing effects the whole of Coventry a cross city campaign, with local activist organisations and resident associations, should be organised to force the council to act in the interests of its residents and not just the landlords.

Aidan says that if elected he will follow the example set by former Coventry MP Dave Nellist, who only took a workers wage, by only taking the average income of a working student and donating the rest of the salary to causes that support students and workers.

A key demand of the campaign is the call for a £10 an hour minimum wage, which Socialist Students also proposed to the SU council and was passed as policy – however, the union has not called for the university pay all staff at least this wage. If elected Aidan will campaign for all SU and university staff to be paid at least £10 an hour as a step towards a real living wage.

Coventry University SU is bureaucratic and run by careerists, but it doesn’t have to be like this. Students can change it by getting involved in the fight for a decent future, decent jobs, decent wages and decent homes.

As Socialists, our society has decided that by raising our demands we will provide a programme of policies that will allow students to take the fight outside the bureaucratic student council and into the wider community. For a fighting SU we need a fighting Socialist! Vote Aidan for CUSU President!

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For a president that will:

• Fight for free education and the restoration of student grants. We don’t deserve to leave university with £50k debt over our heads. We need to organise both at Coventry and also nationally to stop the Tory onslaught on our rights to education!

• Reject the full Sabb salary and only take the income of an average working student. Our representatives should not get special privileges.

• Campaign for a £10/hour min wage for SU & University workers. This is the TUC living wage. Say no to poverty wages!

• Organise against the casualisation of education. Education is not a commodity and the provision of education is not a business. A joint campaign with the UCU will unite both students and lecturers.

• Stand up to dodgy landlords and rogue letting agency’s domination the housing market. Across Coventry campaign to force the local council to tackle the housing problem, with the Tenants Union playing a central role.