Councillor Brigid Jones, cabinet member for children’s services, comments on the situation at Small Heath school.
As negotiations continue and further strike action by the NUT takes place at Small Heath school, I wanted to share an email I sent to the regional representative at the NUT expressing my concerns about what is happening there and the potential damage to young people’s education. The content of the email is as follows:
I have held off for getting involved in Small Heath personally for a long time now, as my officers and BEP have been leading talks with you all. I feel now however that I have to write to you personally as it is my view that the NUT is taking a fundamentally misjudged course of action.
The right to strike is to me a fundamental one, but that right should be used only in the most serious of circumstances. In previous weeks, whilst I have disagreed wholeheartedly with the decisions of all unions to strike, I have respected your right to do so and the fact that you did it with some clear principles. The principles on which the unions went out before were not just fear for their members, but for the future of the education of the children in their school, and whilst striking was not the path I would have chosen or thought was right, it is the one you thought was. However, this week is very different.
It is my view that the NUT is crossing a line this week in deciding to strike on a principle which I cannot see on any level has either the best interests of the staff or these students in mind. When it comes to representing individual members, unions have a vital part to play. I myself have sat beside and helped scores of students through disciplinary hearings and appeals in a former student union life, and lobbied for fairer hearings and procedures at my university. Unionists through the years have fought for and secured the rights your member will have through his suspension and hearing, and any subsequent appeals: that battle is won, and justice for him will prevail through the processes that generations of our forebears secured, and that people around the world still dream of having. There are kids around the world who still dream of having an education, and it shames me to say that joining them tomorrow will again be hundreds sat at home in Birmingham.
Small Heath has a long recovery journey ahead of it if it is to return to the state that our young people deserve, and we need all the staff to throw their efforts into this if the school is to make it. For the most of the staff body, that journey began today. I hope very much that your members take the decision to join them.