Solidarity Magazine » Education Fri, 01 Mar 2013 19:29:19 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Rebuilding working-class education Mon, 16 Jan 2012 12:39:53 +0000 Continue reading ]]> REBUILDING THE TRADITION OF INDEPENDENT WORKING-CLASS EDUCATION


Saturday 4th February 2012

10.30 – 3.30

Brunswick Centre, near Russell Square Tube, London

£6.00 includes lunch. Pay on the day.

Please email now to confirm / book your place

“How can Independent Working-Class Education contribute to today’s class struggle? What can we learn from history?”

The programme will be participatory, valuing what colleagues bring to the day. Presentations will include:

Colin Waugh: Lessons from the Plebs Strike; Louise Raw: The Matchworkers’ Struggle;  Jane Martin: Organising for Socialism: Mary Bridges Adams and IWCE; John Grigg: The Work of Labour Heritage; Mary Davis: Shop Stewards Education and Women – a neglected majority of the working class; Dave Welsh: Trades Councils and Workers’ Education today – New Directions.

Directions: from Russell Square Tube follow Marchmont Street to Entrance One of the Brunswick Centre / big block of flats. There will be signs. Put Flat 10 (Community Centre) in entry phone and ring. Lift to Floor 2. Follow signs.

IWCE Project tries to

  • Develop a diverse range of education materials and approaches for trade union and other working-class and progressive movement groups
  • Respect the role of the working class in making history, and in making the future.
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Sheffield University members to ballot on strike action Thu, 05 May 2011 10:37:07 +0000 Continue reading ]]> (03/05/11) Some 2,000 UNISON members at Sheffield University will begin balloting over strike action this week to protect their pensions.

The university is looking at closing its current final salary scheme and offering members a ‘cash balance’ scheme, which could see staff getting half what they’re entitled to under the current scheme when they retire.

For example, a member of the university staff on £15,000 a year – who had worked and paid into the scheme for 40 years – could currently get half their final salary as a pension: £7,500.

Under the new proposals, that could drop to a mere £3,750. But UNISON says senior managers would continue to benefit from a final salary superannuation scheme.

“If you’ve been paying into a pension fund all your working life and you’re suddenly told what you were expecting is going to be halved, you’re going to be pretty angry,” commented UNISON’s Alan Hughes, accusing the university of trying to save money “at the expense of its lowest paid staff”.

The union is balloting around 2,000 cleaners, porters, caterers and clerical staff to take strike action over the plans to slash their pensions.


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Save the EMA – Get organised for 13 December 2010 Sun, 05 Dec 2010 13:30:15 +0000 Continue reading ]]> The government intends to axe the Education Maintenance Allowance (EMA) for college students in England. This will have a massive impact on those families in  our communities who most need support to undertake education.

The EMA is a means-tested allowance of between £10 and £30, paid to 16- to 19-year-olds who stay on in education. In 2009/10, 635,000 learners received at least one EMA payment, and around 80 per cent of those the full £30.

The EMA helped support a huge increase in the number of young people from less well off backgrounds going onto college.  Students in areas with higher levels of social hardship are most dependent on the weekly financial support, and will therefore be hit hard by this cut. In some areas of Birmingham, Leicester and the North West as many as four-fifths of students receive the EMA.

Thousands of students could now be forced to drop out of college which will in turn also put even more college jobs at risk.

This is a punitive, cruel, unfair and inadequately evidenced cut on the most vulnerable and

those in the greatest need.

Take a stand now against the cruelest of cuts

NUS, UCU, UNISON, NUT, Unite, GMB and ATL are holding a nationwide day of lunchtime protests at colleges on 13 December.

We are calling on all members to support these peaceful lunchtime protests at their local college.

Please note that this is a united day of protest and not industrial action.

What YOU can do

  • Make urgent contact now with your other campus unions and Students’ Union  or student reps to discuss local ideas for the day
  • Speak to other union branches and community groups  in your area and involve them in your plans
  • Approach your college principal about your plans – ask them to support the day (many principals are concerned about the axing of the EMA)
  • Sign the joint union EMA petition
  • Contact your local MP ( to ask them to sign the petition, attend and/or publicly support the day and the campaign

Visit the site

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"UNISON gears up for lunchtime protests against further education funding cuts" Sat, 04 Dec 2010 15:53:10 +0000 Continue reading ]]> UNISON, the UK’s largest public sector union, is gearing up to join students, staff and other unions, for Save EMA Day on 13 December.

The union is stepping up its campaign to save the education maintenance allowance (EMA), as colleges and sixth-forms around the country hold lunchtime protests against government plans to axe financial support that would leave many students unable to continue their studies.

Protestors will be contacting their local MP to make the case for keeping the EMA, which is a key factor in improving participation in further education and colleges in some of the most deprived areas of the UK.

In some areas of Birmingham, Leicester and the North West, as many as four-fifths of students receive the EMA. Areas such as these will be the hardest hit if the government breaks its pre-election promise and scraps the EMA.

The campaign is being run by UNISON, the University and College Union (UCU), National Union of Students (NUS), the National Union of Teachers (NUT), the Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL), Unite and the GMB.

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Student protests and alliance of resistance? Fri, 26 Nov 2010 11:24:24 +0000 Continue reading ]]> This is from the UNISON Active blog

As a parent and a UNISON member I took part in the student protests in Liverpool yesterday. What I witnessed was a vibrant, fresh wave of anger organised ‘from below’ via Facebook and without the trappings and miserablism of recent trade union events I have attended.

Thousands of young people, including many school students, ran the Police ragged and delivered an incredibly effective protest by approximately 3,000 people. No speeches and rallies, just music, mobiles and good natured ‘roaming marches’ that avoided physical confrontations with Police and drew support and even applause from passers by.

Police looked ready for a Miners Strike push and shove – but instead got lots of young people bouncing up and down to Rage Against the Machine. No sectarian group were able to claim this – 90% of the banners were home made, angry and witty. ‘FTC’ was explained to me, Hogwarts references were widespread and some banners read ‘Now I’ll never find my Prince at Uni’ and ‘I’m looking forward to Uni – oh no I’m not I’m working class’.

I compared it with what had been a deadly sombre and much less well supported NW TUC ‘lobby’ of the Liberal Democrat Conference in Liverpool September this year. It was sealed off, get well away from the lib Dems and lacked any genuine ‘grass roots’ feel – very much what the Americans call an ‘astro turf’ event, attended by activists only.

There is a disconnection between the trade unions and civil disobedience, which could be fatal for the unions in this time of unrest. Decades of social partnership policies and adherence to the law could well have robbed the movement of its spirit of rebellion. That’s why Len McCluskey’s call for an ‘alliance of resistance’ is to be welcomed.

The TUC march organised for next year – will we be plodding around London as usual or will it be an event that properly represents the anger and bitterness of all our people against what is going to be done to us? As Len McCluskey tells the Guardian “Do I believe the law is sacrosanct? Absolutely I do not. If there are bad laws not only is it right to oppose them but your duty to do so”.

Let’s hope that the spirit of the young people protesting all over the UK this week is the spirit of an alliance of resistance.

Patrick F

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Student protests Wed, 24 Nov 2010 17:12:04 +0000 Here are some links to the national movement of student/school student protests.


National Campaign against Fees and cuts

Live Updates

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Schools Medical Provision Inadequate Fri, 19 Nov 2010 15:59:14 +0000 Continue reading ]]> GMB Warns parents that over 1 million school pupils with medical needs are at risk through “inadequate” provision as government refuses to act

Parents warned that the makeshift voluntary arrangements that schools have in place are totally inadequate and close to breaking point

A new GMB survey shows that over 1 million children are being put at risk in schools by the Government and head teachers who leave non-medical school support staff to perform complex medical procedures with little or no training or supervision.

A majority (57%) of school secretaries, teaching assistants and other school support staff surveyed by GMB say they have not received relevant professional training for the medical duties they are expected to undertake. These duties include responsibility for asthma pumps and inhalers, administration of controlled doses of behavioural drugs, epilepsy medication, insulin injections for diabetes and epipen injections for anaphylactic shock, catheter care, tracheostomy care, Hickman Line (IV drip) maintenance and replacement, etc (see note 4 below).

Medical duties in schools are meant to be voluntary, but a large proportion of school support staff (43%) feel pressurised into taking on such responsibilities and most (62%) feel vulnerable about being expected to do so.

The duties fall on school secretaries and teaching assistants because there are only 1,620 school nurses for over 22,000 maintained schools in England  (see note 5 below). Furthermore the public-health roles of school nurses may not include responsibility for hands-on nursing procedures.

In addition, school staff are not insured for any professional medical negligence that might arise should something go wrong.

Brian Strutton, GMB National Secretary for Public Services said:

“Demand for medical provision in mainstream schools is increasing substantially. GMB want to advise parents that the makeshift voluntary arrangements that schools have in place are totally inadequate and close to breaking point.

GMB are being inundated with examples of non-medical support staff in schools being assigned inappropriate and complex medical duties. In many cases, staff report they are getting little or no training or supervision. It’s a sign of their fantastic dedication that they take on these roles, but we really need to ask more of community health professionals.

GMB has been trying to raise this issue with ministers for some time. At the moment the Government remains committed to light-touch and ineffective guidance about what provision schools ‘should’ have in place. The responsible minister in the Department for Education, Sarah Teather, has declined even to meet us to discuss these serious concerns.

What GMB want is:

I) A fully regulated system of medical provision in schools, equivalent to SEN

And within that regulated system,

ii) A lead role for healthcare professionals, including responsibility for proper training, accreditation and supervision

iii) Clear and reasonable limits on the basic medical duties that support staff may undertake

iv) Guarantees of legal protection (i.e. indemnity) for support staff”

Children’s well-being is of paramount importance, which is why GMB wants a full public review of how medical needs are managed in schools. It is imperative that the Government directs and supports schools, local authorities and the NHS to work together to ensure that appropriate provision is in place”.

Friday 19th November 2010

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UNISON to consult on industrial action over abolition of schools support staff pay body Fri, 29 Oct 2010 17:25:07 +0000 Continue reading ]]> UNISON, the UK’s leading public sector trade union, today said it would be consulting members on taking industrial action over the abolition of the School Support Staff Negotiating Body (SSSNB).

The body, which was years in the making, was set up to develop consistency in pay, conditions and job roles for schools support staff including teaching assistants, special needs staff, nursery nurses, school secretaries, caretakers, technicians and schools meals staff.

Christina McAnea, UNISON Head of Education, said:

“This is a bitter blow to the mainly women, overwhelmingly low paid, hard working and loyal support staff in schools. UNISON will be consulting our members on taking industrial action as a matter of urgency.

The coalition’s consultation process was a sham. It was obvious the government had made up its mind, right from the beginning, that schools support staff are not worthy of national pay and conditions.

We are calling for an immediate equality impact assessment, as it is likely this move will hit women hard. The government must also explain how it intends to deliver George Osborne’s headline grabbing, £250 boost for the lowest paid. It is a disgrace that they have so far refused to guarantee this pledge for schools support staff.”

Notes for editors:

1. The School Support Staff Negotiating Body was established under the ASCL ACT 2009 and is similar to the Pay Review Body for Teachers. The body has been developing a national pay framework of pay and conditions to cover around 500,000 school support staff in England. The employers on the body are the Local Government Employers, The Foundation and Aided Schools National Association (FASNA) , the Catholic Education Service and The Church of England.

2. UNISON is the main union for school support staff with more than 200,000 members, whose jobs include, teaching assistants, nursery staff, school secretaries, school business managers, school meals staff, technicians, librarians and special needs workers.

3. Around 70% of staff are only paid during term time and get no pay for school holidays, the average pay for a teaching assistant is under £10,000 per year.

4. More than three quarters of schools were closed when school staff took strike action over pensions in 2008.

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Academies – applicants in your area Fri, 25 Jun 2010 16:54:44 +0000 Continue reading ]]> The government has released a list of schools which have expressed an interest in becoming academies. The GMB website has the two lists – ‘the outstanding schools’ which can be ‘fastracked’ by September, and ‘non-outstanding schools’ that will be considered later.

If you haven’t seen these lists look here to check which schools in your area have expressed an interest.

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The Role and Future of Trade Union Education Tue, 09 Mar 2010 14:22:28 +0000 Continue reading ]]> An invitation to engage in a discussion and debate:

Saturday 27th March, Ruskin College (Walton Street site), Oxford

(For travel information please email Ian Manborde on

In 1909, Ruskin College students and their supporters formed an organisation called the Plebs League to fight so-called ‘reforms’ which threatened the independent and working-class nature of their education. Over a hundred years later the relevance of their arguments remains with us. A new campaign for independent working-class education (IWCE) has convened this event to discuss the future of trade union education as a feature of working-class organisation and politics, and to examine the challenges which now confront us.


10.30 – 11.30 Tea and coffee available

11.30 Welcome and opening comments – Sheila Cohen (NUJ, author of Ramparts of Resistance)

11.45 Independent working-class education – historical background Colin Waugh (author of ‘Plebs’: the Lost Legacy of Independent Working-Class Education)

12.15 Key themes of the focus on TU Education and IWCE Ian Manborde (Ruskin College)

12.45 Lessons from activist education in the US Kim Moody (Labor Notes)

1.15 Lunch – not provided but plenty of places to buy lunch nearby

2.30 Session for practitioners:

What is TU education for ?

The post-election scenario?

The role of TU educators – an established profession?

A need for a labour educators’ network?

3.30 Proposals for further activity

4.30 End

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