Now I know why Tower Hamlets teachers are going on strike, I have more sympathy

Francis Gilbert's picture
In a previous post, I had expressed bemusement about my son's teachers going on strike on Wednesday 30th March but now I have more information, I definitely support it. The Tower Hamlet's branch of the National Union of Teachers, the East London Teacher's Association or ELTA, are taking the action because of the drastic cuts to the Local Authority teaching services.  ELTA list these reasons for striking on their leaflet (as far as I can see this is the first listing on the web):

9 jobs are being cut from the team which supports children with Special Needs and children who need behaviour support

41 jobs are being cut from the team which trains and supports teachers in the work they do;

Borough-wide support for newly-qualified teachers will disappear

29 jobs are being cut from Children's Centres; this includes 11 teachers -- which goes against all research and evidence

Schools Sports Co-ordinators are being cut

The ICT support centre is being closed

The Junior Youth Service is being closed

Of course, the government will reply that schools can buy into some of these services if they want them. According to the government, schools have been devolved more of the budgets that used to go to the LAs. This though would be disingenuous; the LA appears to have shut down these services BEFORE schools can "buy into them". Standards have risen more in Tower Hamlets across the board than anywhere in the country; this is partly because of the support that LA has provided in training. In a previous post, we were talking about the importance of giving support to teachers who are in difficulties; good LAs are able to do this. But not for much longer.
Now I know this I have a great deal more sympathy for the teachers going on strike.

What's happening in Tower Hamlets is going on up and down the country: the education services of LAs are being decimated. Why are teachers in other LAs not protesting too?
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Janet Downs's picture
Wed, 23/03/2011 - 08:09

It's a pity the ELTA didn't publicise their reasons before announcing a strike. It's also a pity that ELTA doesn't keep their website up-to-date. It's better to have no website than one that looks as if no-one's looked at it for months. (EDITOR'S NOTE: the ELTA website is not supposed to up and running due and will shortly be taken off the web)

That said, the publicity shows that the proposed cuts in public services are damaging the most vulnerable in the community. As Francis says, it is disingenuous for the government to say they have devolved more money to schools and that schools can buy into these services if they want to. Who exactly will schools buy these services from? One of the groups highlighted on the recent Channel 4 Dispatches programme, perhaps, which showed that outsourcing had increased profits for the providers but decreased services for end users?

Anyone who wishes to protest against these cuts to public services can join the March for the Alternative protest in London on Saturday 26 March.

Francis Gilbert's picture
Wed, 23/03/2011 - 08:54

Yes, Janet, I couldn't agree more. It feels as if the situation is ripe for "outsourcing": taxpayer's money going into private hands.

Andrew Baisley's picture
Wed, 23/03/2011 - 09:46

Camden NUT are striking on 30th March for exactly the same reasons as Tower Hamlets.

Francis Gilbert's picture
Wed, 23/03/2011 - 09:58

Thanks for this Andrew. Is this strike London-wide? Nationwide? I've emailed the NUT HQ but received no answer yet. I noticed the NASUWT are striking on 30th March in Wales. Information from the NUT required!

Francis Gilbert's picture
Wed, 23/03/2011 - 10:19

I've just got an email from Alex Kenny, ELTA member, who is pleased to have our support, but says the ELTA website is not supposed to be up and running so I think it's a glitch. However, the NUT generally need to collate what's going on. I have a feeling this is going to be a big day for teacher strikes...

Alex Kenny's picture
Wed, 23/03/2011 - 10:21

Hi Francis, just sent you an e-mail from East London NUT. We are distributing thousands of leaflets to parents outside schools and getting a good response. UNISON members in Tower Hamlets will be on strike with us so the strike will have more impact. The Tower Hamlets and Camden strikes are important as they are about defending essential services, which as you rightly point out have contributed to the success of education in these boroughs.

Francis Gilbert's picture
Wed, 23/03/2011 - 10:30

Yes, I think you're right Alex. Above all, the public needs to know HOW IMPORTANT these services are; this government seems intent upon destroying Local Authorities up and down the country, making services ripe for private take-over, where profits go into private hands at the expense of the education and well-being of our children.

Alex Kenny's picture
Wed, 23/03/2011 - 10:36

This is the first year of cuts and there is more to come. - this is truly a government that knows the price of everything and the value of nothing. People will realise how important these services are when they are no longer there.
We still haven't given up hope of changing the situation so any attention you and your colleagues in the media can give to this is much appreciated.
I have sent an explanation about our website.

Kiri Tunks's picture
Wed, 23/03/2011 - 14:13

These cuts will seriously impact on the life chances of the students I teach and that's why I'm taking strike action. I am sick of hearing that we are 'all in this together' when we can see the obscene wealth of Canary Wharf from our school windows. How do I explain to my students that we can't afford to fund their education but we can afford to pay bankers bonuses. Oh, and we can't be bothered to collect unpaid corporate taxes either...

Kate Halsall's picture
Wed, 23/03/2011 - 14:17

Teaching in Tower Hamlets has made me aware of the crucial roles learning teams supporting children with Special Needs and behaviour problems have not only on the pupils being supported, but the attitudes of those around them. If too many jobs from this area go, many children will not have the support they need to become fully involved members of society.

That is why I will be on strike on Wednesday.

Francis Gilbert's picture
Wed, 23/03/2011 - 17:34

To Kiri, I wonder if you are aware that there's a "free" school Canary Wharf college being set up in that area. I've put in a Freedom of Information request to see their funding, but it's been refused. From what we know of other free schools, the capital funding will amount to millions and it will be expensive to run. It's clear that the school is targetted at the more privileged parents in the area. In other words, millions are going to this school, when services for the poorest are being cut. I can only agree with Kate about the cuts to Special Needs funding.

Andy Smithers's picture
Wed, 23/03/2011 - 17:51


Maybe explain to your students that the bankers over in Canary Wharf do actually contribute massively to the economy and actually help fund the school you work in. You could look at their contribution to GDP for example.
Additionally you could explain to your students that the majority did very well at school through hard work and that their hard work is now being rewarded (yes too highly but they did not get into their positions by taking easy options etc).

You could then explain that some of their parents will have to take a days holiday while you make your little protest which will also mean they lose a days school thereby impacting their opportunities.

Perhaps you will explain your strike will achieve little but will inconvinience anyone associated with the school.

Should make for interesting lesson.

You would get a lot more sympathy from a lot more people if you made your protest during the school holidays in your own time.

Francis - your original post of disgust about the strike struck more of a chord - looney left comes to mind.

Francis Gilbert's picture
Wed, 23/03/2011 - 17:56

My original post didn't express disgust, just bemusement because I wasn't aware of the facts. Now I am I think they've got a point. The LA is being decimated.

John Illingworth's picture
Wed, 23/03/2011 - 19:40


Teachers protesting in the school holidays sounds good in theory. There will be thousands of teachers protesting in London this Saturday, amongst tens of thousands of other people. Sadly protests don't always make a difference but strike action often does. Teachers have learnt from experience that sometimes strikes paradoxically help pupils because they are effective in defending vital services. Teachers would be the first to avoid action if they could achive the same ends through protest alone. I think the success of withdrawing labour is about market forces. That's something people in Canary Warf will understand.

Allan Beavis's picture
Wed, 23/03/2011 - 20:50


I think you will find that most students don't think the bankers in Canary Wharf contribute nearly enough to the economy. They will see that today's budget announcement which favours the rich and penalises everyone else exposes the grotesque way which this government is propping up the interests of a privileged few by taking away anything and everything that ordinary, never mind, vulnerable people need. And that includes an education.
What is the point of telling young people to work hard at school when the only available jobs for the young will go to those with connections or nepotism? What kind of division does this government want to create and has it any idea of the sub class that it will engender? Education is a human right for every individual. it is the squeezed taxes of the ordinary person which pays for essential services like education. It was their taxes that rescued the banks and averted financial disaster. It is time to stop blaming Labour for the deficit when that deficit was caused by the reckless behaviour of the banks.

These strikes are about preserving the system of fair and inclusive education in a democratic and just society.
I think you will find that the march on saturday against cuts will strike more fear into the "ruling class" than you could ever imagine.

Lawrence Wong's picture
Thu, 24/03/2011 - 04:50

How strange it is that those who complain about students losing a days education due to our strike action on 30 March are completely silent about students losing a day's education due to school closures on the 29 April - much closer to exams. Andy should know that we will be seeking to take coordinated strike action with other unions in June, after the examinations season, to defend our pay and pensions.

Andy Smithers's picture
Thu, 24/03/2011 - 11:39


There is a co-ordinated day of protest this saturday which will highlight the cuts etc.

There is no additional need for Tower Hamlet teachers to strike the following week - it will be ignored by most and dismissed as militant by the rest.

Lawrence - the reason people are not complaining about April 29th is that everyone will be on holiday - parents and children.

In striking the teachers will lose support and trust of parents.

Of all the teachers in Tower Hamlets (total) how many actually voted to strike?

Allan Beavis's picture
Thu, 24/03/2011 - 12:45


I think you will find that under the present climate, the tide of opinion amongst the population is changing very fast indeed.

Where once parents might not tolerate the "militancy" of strike action, they now see themselves firmly on the side of teachers who, like them, are going to be financially worse off, under threat of losing their jobs and who actually give a damn about the way children are going to continue to be educated in this country.

In Tower Hamlets, where schools are struggling under the glacial indifference of Canary Wharf, I think the community will support its own rather than the financial institutions that stole from and deserted then

Francis Gilbert's picture
Thu, 24/03/2011 - 17:04

Just spoke to Jessica Shepherd at the Guardian who says that Tower Hamlets are claiming that only 10 jobs approx are being cut. Does anyone have any views on this? I'm going to try and contact them myself...

Alex Kenny's picture
Thu, 24/03/2011 - 21:20

This is an extraordinary claim and I have the documentation to prove it.

Ros Coffey's picture
Fri, 25/03/2011 - 00:14

Francis - All Chairs of Govs in TH received a letter from Alex explaining very clearly why they were going out on strike, indeed we always receive timely information NUT.

However, I am also aware through two council members that sit on my GB how grim it has been to make these decisions but they are having to make swingeing cuts.

As you know I always sing the praises of TH, it is my LA and the service that they have provided over the years has been second to none. I totally understand the reasons for the strike and will stand squarely with those members who take action.

Francis Gilbert's picture
Fri, 25/03/2011 - 08:38

Thanks for this Alex, I am awaiting more info from TH. They are claiming I believe that it's the National Strategies jobs that are going, plus some support for Learning service in Mile End which is losing 8.7 full-time posts from a staff of 47. But as we know, the Sports Partnership jobs are going but the others I am awaiting confirmation from them about. Thanks Ros, I am glad you were aware about this, the first definite info parents got was this week on Wed.

Francis Gilbert's picture
Fri, 25/03/2011 - 08:50

I've also heard that many jobs are going by "voluntary redundancy" and early retirement; it may be that TH are not counting this in their figures. Anecdotally I've heard that departments in children's services are been savagely cut.

Alex Kenny's picture
Fri, 25/03/2011 - 10:14

Ros, I take it from your comments that you are chair of governors in a TH school. I hope you will be able to join us on the day and if you would like to say a few words you would be welcome.

Francis Gilbert's picture
Fri, 25/03/2011 - 10:51

The Cribsheet of the Guardian has reported the strike positively:

Francis Gilbert's picture
Fri, 25/03/2011 - 14:48

This is the piece by Jessica Shepherd in the Guardian. I think I may have misunderstood her initially; it appears that 19 jobs are going in school support -- with ten jobs going because of cuts to the National Strategies. But if the council are admitted they have to make £72m in cuts then clearly there's much more to come.

Tower Hamlets council help for teachers

Cut: £808,000

Support for secondary and primary school teachers is being cut from 31 March, with 9.5 posts being lost from secondary school support – amounting to a cut of about £250,000 – and another nine from primary school support, which equates to about £558,000.

The secondary school cut is in part connected to the Labour government's decision to abandon its "national strategies" programme two years ago. This was introduced in 1998 with a daily literacy and numeracy hour for all primary schools. It cost the government £100m a year and was run by Capita, which provided teaching materials and staff training to improve teaching across schools.

The national strategies programme has now been wound down and loses all of its funding as of 31 March. Tower Hamlets said it had had to find £72m of savings over the next three years.

Claire Lovelock, from Tower Hamlets, who has a seven-year-old in a local primary school, says she is disgusted by the move. "They are mucking up people's chances. I don't understand why they have to make so many cuts." JS

James Messam's picture
Tue, 29/03/2011 - 15:54

It is imperitive that we show our utter disgust at the callous cuts that have been implemented by this government. It is apparent that these cuts are well calculated to have maximum impact on the most vulnerable in our society.
"The Trumpet has sounded my country men all Rise from your slumber and answer the call.
The torch has been lighted
The dawn is at hand
Who joins in the fight for his own native land."
(From the National Anthem of the Peoples National Party -Jamaica)
Let us all gather and be numbered with those who are taking a stand.
One Love.

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