NEU Left bulletin (29.05.22)

Blood Money

Get this pamphlet

Review of ‘Sir Robert Geffrye and the Business of Slavery by Steve Cushion (Caribbean Labour Solidarity & Hackney Stand Up To Racism, 2022)

by Andrew Stone, a head of history in a south London college

June 2020, and I welcomed back our students for their first in-person lesson since the March lockdown. Tentatively directed to separate desks, everyone masked, sanitiser at the ready. 

And then we discussed and researched the felling of Edward Colston’s statue in Bristol; the preceding campaign to highlight his role in the slave trade; the lineage of non-violent direct action; the alternative options for commemoration.

No doubt this would horrify the culture warriors in the Tory party and right-wing press. How dare we seek to erase history? How dare I impose lefty woke cultural Marxism etcetera, etcetera. 

Of course good history teaching does nothing of the sort. It recognises that history is constantly being reframed and reimagined, that memorialisation is always contested, and is as much a product of the present as the past. 

And 2020 was not just the year of Covid, it was the year of the global Black Lives Matter rebellion after George Floyd’s shameless murder. And to slay the demon of racism in the modern world many decided that they needed to pull down the monuments celebrating those who built it.

Which brings us to Steve Cushion’s excellent pamphlet. The statue that ‘graces’ Hackney’s Museum of the Home (formerly the Geffrye Museum), may not be quite as notorious at that of Edward Colston, but its model was no less implicated in the barbarism of chattel slavery. 

Arguably he was even more central to its workings, and in particular its links to the development of capitalism within England, and Cushion has done teachers, as well as social justice activists, a real service in pulling together the research that illustrates this.

Cushion explains how Geffrye was one of the original 200 investors into the Royal African Company that, between 1672 and 1713, transported 170,000 enslaved Africans across the ‘middle passage’ of the Atlantic. 

It was involved in every grubby aspect of the ‘triangular trade’, owning several slave factories and forts on the West African coast and importing products, particularly sugar, grown in horrendous conditions in Caribbean plantations. 

This was no shadowy enterprise. As Cushion states, “The Royal African Company acted as a get-rich-quick racket for the Stuart royal family, Charles II and James II, along with their cronies and backers from the City of London, amongst whom we find Geffrye.” 

In the early days of James’s rule Geffrye was appointed Lord Mayor of London and led a Tory clique alongside his near-namesake, ‘The Hanging Judge’, George Jeffreys, using paid informers to root out ‘sedition’ in London.

But like any good cut-throat capitalist, Geffrye switched allegiances as James increasingly alienated his wealthy subjects with his autocratic ambitions, and as ‘interlopers’ challenged the monopoly of the African slave trade. 

Did he at this point have an epiphany and devote himself solely to charitable endeavours? No, he devoted himself more fully to his other main investment, in the East India Company, in which he retained a stake of £6,433 when he died (equivalent to almost £15 million in today’s money). 

And as Cushion explains, though at this time the Company had not yet become the military behemoth that it would evolve into, it was still intricately connected with the Atlantic trade, and indeed did enslave and transport people from Madagascar itself.

I would strongly recommend this pamphlet for history educators. It has a wealth of research accessibly explained, so would be suitable for use directly with key stages 4 and 5, and as a primer for those teaching younger children as well.

Importantly, it contextualises the history in the debate around statues as memorials, it explains the key role that the resistance of the enslaved played in abolition, and explores issues such as reparations and why the government today is intervening to preserve the statue. It also makes the case for this as a trade union issue.

With an Ofsted report on how we should apparently teach history imminent, it will be a useful resource for everyone who understands the importance and defends the principles of decolonising the curriculum.

Copies can be ordered by emailing [email protected] (£4 plus £1.50 postage and packing, with reductions for bulk orders.)

Book Launch event

If you’re in or can get to London on Friday 10th June come an join the book launch author Steve Cushion will speak on the book and on the real story of Sir Robert Geffrye.

It’s at the Bookmarks bookshop at 6.30pm at 1 , Bloomsbury Street, London WC1B 3QE

Facebook event with full details here:

Solidarity Calling: Issue 14 (23.05.22)

Waltham Forest strike wave rolls on

Walthamstow primary Academy

Members at the primary school in the East London borough of Waltham Forest have been on strike for 14 days and so far won significant concessions on workload, bullying and equalities for staff and students. Of the 49 issues presented to the school 48 have been agreed. However, members are not prepared to see their members lose out on the pay issue and will continue to take strike action this week. 

Tuesday 24th, Wednesday 25th and Thursday 26th May

Send messages of support to

[email protected]

[email protected]

Connaught school for Girls NEU support staff

After 5 days of strike action, with 3 more days planned, an agreement with the school was reached at ACAS, not to outsource cleaners to a company that would have worse terms and conditions for example

  • Cut working weeks from 52 to 43
  • Not guarantee annual pay raises
  • Not recognise trade unions

It was also agreed that should any future outsourcing happen it will only happen where these members have their terms, pay and conditions retained for the lifetime of their contract and with trade union recognition.

More formal Strike ballots currently taking place in Waltham Forest

Hornbeam Academy

  • Restructures and redundancies

Gwyn Jones

  • Redundancies, pay loss and workload

Our Lady and St.George

  • Restructure and temporary TLR payments


Following effective tsrike action talks are taking place at ACAS this week in the fight at John Fisher school in Sutton in a landmark fight to defend LGBT+ rights. Full update as soon as we know.

NEU Left bulletin (22.05.22)

Standing up to the far right in Telford

Rally in Telford

by Jodie Mallier-Ridley

On 7th May, activists from anti-racist groups and trade unions came out en masse in Telford town centre to rally against notorious fascist Tommy Robinson and his far-right followers. 

The former EDL leader’s 400 supporters marched through the town then gathered in an isolated car park where they listened to him exploit local child abuse scandals for his own cynical gain. 

Stand Up To Racism and Shropshire Trades Council organised an effective counter rally, where around 300 anti-fascists gathered in the town square to send a clear message: Robinson and his ilk are not welcome anywhere.

Speakers were heard from these groups as well as from UCU, USDAW and the NEU. Trade unionists from across the Midlands and beyond came to show their support for unity and to oppose Robinson’s dangerous attempts to divide us.

The NEU Left were present at the event, because as educators we care deeply about racism and oppose any attempt to divide society. 

NEU Left member Doug Morgan addressed the crowd and said, “We are absolutely for justice for the victims (of child sexual abuse), but we are not for fascist division, because that’s all they want to do, they want to cause hatred amongst communities.” 

Convicted criminal Tommy Robinson does not care about the victims of abuse at all, as Doug reminded us, and we must fight relentlessly to challenge his rhetoric every time.

Chants were loud and energetic, and trumpets and music drowned out the fascist propaganda peddled by Robinson in the car park. Passing cars beeped their horns and cheered the rally to show support for anti-racism, where banners from Birmingham Stand Up To Racism and Coventry NEU were on display amongst others.

John Boken, an NEU Left member who helped to organise the rally gave a passionate speech saying, “We will continue to fight, we will continue to educate, we will not stop. Whose streets? Our streets!” 

As pay and living conditions get worse, the far right will continue to push their agenda and exploit the vulnerable in our society, so it is imperative that we all oppose them at every turn. This is another reason why the left urgently needs to mobilise and build the cost of living national protest on June 18th.

NEU Left bulletin 8th May 2022

Empowering members through workplace organising

by Jodie Mallier-Ridley, Coventry NEU

Making every issue a union issue and organising in schools- the key to a powerful union

Some of the most exciting and engaging discussions at NEU conference at Easter centred around activism and promoting the organising agenda in the workplace. 

NEU Left members took the lead in these important motions, and we heard some effective arguments pushing this, especially relating to Value Education, Value Educators (VE; VE).

Motion 47 and the supporting amendment were passed overwhelmingly, allowing us as a union to move forward with a relentless focus on strengthening our school and district groups. 

This will empower all members to tackle any matter with confidence, making every issue a union issue.

VE; VE is the tool which will take us forward to bargain and win on issues including pay, workload and accountability. 

Educators worked incredibly hard during the pandemic, unlike the Tories we were not drinking and partying, and it is about time that we were valued as professionals. 

When conference voted to prioritise VE:VE as the main organising approach of the union it was a very exciting and positive moment for us all. Even more exciting is the NEU Left being at the centre, as our principles fully embody VE:VE. 

During the conference debate, NEU Left members pointed towards successful campaigns in Coventry and East Sussex, where union groups worked collectively to achieve success. 

We also discussed how the districts with the most impressive turnouts on the pay survey were those which worked hard to form a coherent network of reps and members. We can all learn from their methods, and VE:VE is undoubtedly the best way to capitalise on this.

We have lost 17% of our pay since 2010, and teacher recruitment targets have not been met for the past eight years. The situation is now unsustainable.  

With 44% of NEU members planning to leave the education profession within the next 5 years, citing excessive workload and accountability as the main triggers, can we really afford not to organise and fight in every workplace, in every district across the country? 

The government have chosen not to address these very worrying problems, instead blaming and gaslighting teachers at every opportunity. 

The motion passed at conference now helps us within the NEU Left to organise and connect, using the VE:VE materials to make gains in every area of our working lives. 

A co-ordinated VE:VE agenda putting reps and officers at the centre will be the key to achieving strong and unified workplaces, as this is where our power lies. 

It signifies a return to the traditional methods of trade unionism where every member can be involved and feel valued. 

When members see what we can achieve, we will all feel empowered to apply these strategies on a national level to fight for fairness and feel valued.

So what do we need to do now? 

Join the NEU Left, invite others, look out for upcoming meetings and share VE:VE strategies with others to make a real difference.

This is a really exciting and empowering time for our union – make sure you are a part of it!

NEU Left bulletin 7th May 2022

Alternative Provision:

A response to the SEND Review

by Leigh Seedhouse, Oxfordshire NEU

What’s the future for AP centres like this one in East London under the Green Paper proposals?

The SEND and alternative provision green paper has finally been published following the completion of the Department for Education’s long-awaited SEND review which was launched in 2019. 

Increased early intervention for children with SEND and a single system combining SEND and alternative education provision feature highly in the plans.  

The paper’s vision is for all Alternative Provision (AP) to be part of a ‘strong Multi Academy Trust (MAT)’ which will set ‘robust standards focused on progress, re-integration into mainstream education or to a sustainable post-16 destination’.  

Ministers also plan to shake up accountability with a new performance table and national performance framework.

Throughout Chapter 4: A reformed and integrated role for alternative provision, the paper’s obsession with ‘early intervention’ and ‘behaviour’ really lifts off.  

Yes, the paper admits that AP schools are experts in dealing with behavioural needs which present a barrier to learning, but they do not appear to understand that there is much more to AP than behavioural difficulties.  

They don’t appear to have considered ‘un-picking’ what the issues are in mainstream settings which provoke this reaction in some young people – the curriculum.  

Flawed vision

The paper’s vision focuses only on providing targeted support for challenging behaviour within mainstream settings with all AP being part of MATs – apparently this approach will ‘transform the sector’ and fix everything – along with robust standards based on progress and the performance tables I mentioned earlier.

Seven new AP free schools are already approved to open, run by ‘strong MATs’ in areas where new provision is most needed.  

This will form part of the £2.6 billion investment, over the next three years, to deliver new places and improve existing provision for children and young people with SEND or who require AP.  

Great, you may say, but there is a huge flaw in this.  

Yes, we welcome more AP settings as we are all too aware that there are often no places available when a young person requires support.  

But why are we building new AP schools when current ones are closing, and/or are having to reduce their staffing?  This does not appear to be a joined-up plan at all.

Funding has been unpredictable for AP for many years, with AP income being dependent on whether places are used and based on census returns at a given point in time.  

We welcome this being acknowledged in the paper – as this formula does make it hard for AP to invest and recruit practitioners.  

The paper states that they will be addressing this so that ‘AP is less of a financial risk for MATs’ – resulting in the link to the White Paper about enabling children to ‘benefit form being taught in a family of schools’, but it doesn’t explain how AP will be funded in the future. 

It mentions an AP-specific budget and that ‘funding will no longer follow the movement of each individual child or young person’, but it doesn’t give any clarification on how this will actually work in practice.  

Out of touch

The Green paper’s vision is for AP, in my opinion, is out of touch and does not understand the role AP has within the education system.  

The plan is to offer short-term intervention and education ‘across a continuum of support’, rather than focussing on long-term placements. 

Apparently, this new model will reduce the number of preventable exclusions and expensive long-term placements.  

The plans appear to be that by allowing students to spend a bit of time in AP and then returning to mainstream education that everything will be ‘fixed’. 

What they don’t appear to understand is that long-lasting interventions with consistent teachers and support workers are what some students need.

This ‘new approach’ will require a new delivery model based on a three-tier system of support: –

  • Targeted AP support in mainstream schools: Targeted support focusing on students whose ‘behaviour prevents others from learning’ or from whom a ‘strong behaviour culture is not sufficient’.  These identified students will then be offered support from AP through coaching, delivering self-regulation classes and one-to-one support
  • Time-limited placements in AP: – if targeted support fails, then those who required more intensive support, schools can use ‘their powers’ to off-site educate these students for a short period of time – with the aim for them to return to their original schools as soon as possible
  • Transitional placements: – AP will provide support to those who, basically have failed the previous two steps, and now need a new school to go to and restart the previous two tiers.

So, it a nutshell, AP is now more like a ‘drop in’ clinic – with no long-term placements or vocational study on offer.  

For me this poses several disastrous consequences for both staff and students: –

  • Recruitment and retention – this model suggests that staff could be placed on short-term contracts as and when the services are required, and it is not clear on who will be their employer
  • There is no longer the ‘safety’ for students of having a consistent face to go to when a crisis occurs or access to ‘time out’ or ‘wellbeing activities’.  This model is ‘behaviour centric’ but doesn’t look to find out what is causing the behavioural pattens or seek to provide any SEMH support along the way
  • Vocational training has not been mentioned at all.  Lots of students who access AP do so through small vocational based centres – allowing them to access qualifications that are no longer part of a mainstream curriculum to re-engage on their learning journey.  If AP is now only to be a short-term behaviour management tool, then access to vocational training appears to be a thing of the past.  

I am pleased to see that there are concerns regarding the commissioning of part-time placements and the use of unregistered AP settings.  

I agree that every placement needs to be safe and has clear oversight, and that the use of a combination of part-time placements to create full-time education is not acceptable – what isn’t made clear is how they intend to monitor and address this practice.  

Yes, a call for evidence on the use of unregistered AP is a step in the right direction, and a paper published before the summer will be welcomed, but this investigation should have been done a long time ago.

Cheap alternative to real provision

The new AP model of support focuses purely on addressing behavioural issues within mainstream schools.  

It does not appear to appreciate or acknowledge the importance of the role AP plays in our educational system or look to address why there are behavioural issues in mainstream settings.  

It also doesn’t explain how those schools who do not have an AP setting within their MAT will be able to access AP support.

This new three tier support model does not provide the support which we know young people need.

Instead it only appears to focus on creating a cheap alternative to bespoke provision and support for students by creating one which strips all levels of mental health and wellbeing support from them and further narrows the curriculum offer available and implies that AP is only about dealing with poor behaviour.

Solidarity Calling Issue 13: 3rd May 2022

On the picket line at John Fisher last week. NEU president Daniel Kebede joined the strikers.

Support the John Fisher Strike

Support LGBT+ Inclusive Education

Thursday 28th April saw a historic strike at John Fisher school in Sutton, South London. It was the first time that a union group has ever taken strike action to defend LGBT+ inclusive education.

No strike action took place during the 15 year duration of Section 28, which ‘prohibited the promotion of homosexuality’ and none has taken place since its abolition in 2003.

This makes this strike an important landmark for our union in standing up against homophobia, biphobia and transphobia in our schools. 

Last Thursday it was discussed on BBC London News and on Radio 4. The strike received massive support. But the success of this strike is very important. 

Its outcome is clearly a test point for the future of LGBT+ inclusive education in schools.

The NEU members at John Fisher are taking a brave stand for equality and against prejudice and we should support them unconditionally.

However, the Archdiocese of Southwark are now trying to change the terms of the argument. Now they are saying that having an LGBT+ author and discussion of gay experiences is an attack on the Catholic religion. 

They quote sections from the books of the invited author, Simon James Green, in order to frighten parents and create a backlash against those standing up for equality. 

The books are humorous, ironic stories about teenage love including gay relationships. They are not the devil’s work. This is so Section 28.

This is a classic reversal. It is the Archdiocese that has the power, sacks the school governors, bullies the staff, bans writers and marginalises and erases the existence of a minority group.

The John Fisher NEU group deserve 100% support.

It is vital that we get behind the upcoming 5 days of action that John Fisher NEU members are conducting on Tuesday4th/Wednesday 5th May and 10/11/12 May.

Rush messages of support and solidarity to: [email protected]

Sixth form pay fight in Croydon

Around 50 staff at Coulsdon Sixth Form College in Croydon are to stoke again for two days this week, following one day on strike last week. The staff are members of the NEU (National Education Union) and are in dispute with College management over a refusal by the administration to honour nationally agreed pay awards.  

Coulsdon Sixth Form College is now part of Croydon College but retains its identity as a setting at which terms and conditions of employees differ from those based at the Croydon College site. As such, salaries of the NEU members employed at Coulsdon are negotiated at national level by the NEU and other education unions.  

Successive settlements agreed with employer representatives at a national level have not been recognised by Croydon College management causing anger and frustration amongst NEU members at Coulsdon.  

They have drawn attention to feeling under valued and point to the retention and recruitment problems that poor salaries are responsible for. In addition NEU members claim that matters are made worse by the erosion of pay in real terms due to the higher cost of living caused by inflation.  

Frustrated by the intransigence of the Croydon College authorities NEU members demanded a ballot for strike action in support of a salary increase. This resulted in a 90%+ vote for strike action

messages of support to [email protected]

Waltham Forest battles

Chingford Foundation ballot success

NEU members at Chingford  Foundation school in Waltham Forest have ended their formal ballot before it closed after agreements were reached on 15 workload, pay and terms and conditions issues. 

Members were balloting, following agreements being reached at South Chingford school following 6 days of strike action, which is part of the same trust. The agreements include: Reduced contact time; Removed lunch duties for pastoral team; NEU stress audit on biannual basis; Adoption of NEU worklife balance principles; Cover only in emergency; Creation of a behaviour and ethos group; TLR payments agreed

Walthamstow primary Academy

NEU members continued their strike action this week. 8 days of strike action over workload, pay and bullying have led to some significant concessions being made. There are issues that remain unresolved around pay and notification has been given 9 more days of action should talks this week not resolve matters.

The next rounds of strikes are on 10th, 11th, 12th May, then 17th, 18th and 19th and then 24th, 25th and 26th of May

Messages of solidarity and support to

[email protected]

[email protected]

Connaught school for girls NEU

Cleaners at Connaught school for girls continued their strike action for 3 days this week over TUPE transfer. TUPE transfers do not protect workers indefinitely and this has been recognised by the strikers and the NEU. The next days of strike action will take place on

10th, 11th, and 12th of May 

Messages of solidarity and support to

[email protected]

[email protected]