Downhills School in Tottenham were on strike today (22nd May) against plans to turn it into an academy, despite a 91% vote against it by parents. After a picket line of about 40 people in the morning, teachers, kids, parents and community supporters had a picnic. At lunchtime the support workers, who are balloting for strike action at the moment, came to the park to support the strike.
As Downhills kids ran and tumbled around in the glorious sunshine, I talked to teaching assistants and asked them how long they had been at the school. “You could say forty years, because I went to Downhills myself!” one told me. Others told me how their children attended Downhills and said that the school is not failing the kids.
The government sees these deep roots in the community as worthless and derides the parent-led campaign against forced academies as ‘enemies of promise’. Standing against their arrogant bullying, Downhills has received support from all over the country. Banners sent from other NUT branches and messages of support decorated the fence. The children’s poet laureate, Michael Rosen, who has supported the campaign from the beginning, did a poetry recital for the children.
The strong community campaign has kept the teachers from becoming despondent in the face of a politically motivated Ofsted result and bullying from the government. This combination of industrial action and community action is what we need. Teaching assistants were confident that the Unison ballot for strike action would be successful and the NUT have a ballot for sustained and discontinuous action so hopefully there will be more strikes soon. Together we can win.