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From The Socialist newspaper, 19 January 2010

Education trusts are "academies lite"

Education bosses in Greenwich have begun laying off workers and slashing and burning terms and conditions of some of their lowest paid workers. They are preparing the ground for a new education trust run by the University of Greenwich. The two schools selected to be part of the trust are Eltham Green school and Eglinton School in Plumstead.

Paul Callanan

Teaching assistants (TAs) from the two schools lobbied the council on 8 December. Michelle Nimmo, a TA at Eglinton school, explained how she was sacked while on maternity leave.

Michelle was called to a meeting with no one to represent her in a room full of strangers and given notice that she was being made redundant. The school's head teacher didn't even attend the meeting because she was on holiday in Indonesia!

Meanwhile at Eltham Green school 39 workers have been made redundant as part of a so-called "restructuring" package. TA Kirsty Gibson explained that this has been done so that bosses can "pick off the most vulnerable workers". As a result the school has lost experienced workers.

She also explained that this is an attack on staff pay, terms and conditions as the council have now opened up 39 new vacancies at the school. Former staff will be able to apply for these positions but those that get the jobs will do so on much lower terms than before.

The next night a meeting was held to discuss the fightback. The meeting was first addressed by Onay Kasab, Greenwich Unison branch secretary and Greenwich Socialist Party member who said: "the trust proposition is a very real threat that we mustn't lose sight of. The redundancies, cuts and the trust are all linked, in spite of the council's denials."

His call to stand candidates at the next council elections, that would really represent parents and teaching staff was well received.

Lewisham National Union of Teachers branch secretary and Lewisham SP member Martin Powell-Davies then told the meeting about a similar attack being carried out by Lewisham council, who are trying to impose a trust on parents and teaching staff.

He explained that councils' new found enthusiasm for trusts is because of the unpopularity of academies and that trusts are simply "academies lite".

He pointed out that one danger of academies is that "staff would no longer be working for the council but competing trusts who want to hammer down terms and conditions". Also so-called "difficult children" could be turfed out or denied places at schools as the trusts compete with each other.

This was backed by a TA from Eltham Green school who said that "difficult" students are already being expelled on flimsy reasons in preparation for the trust.

The meeting finished by agreeing to organise a demonstration in Eltham.

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