Hundreds of students at Deyes High School in Liverpool, part of a multi-academy trust, have walked out in protest against bureaucratic decision-making by management. To fight academisation, staff and students must unite and strike.
On Friday 8 July, around 200 students at Deyes High School – part of Lydiate Learning, a multi-academy trust – staged a walkout during their final lesson. This protest was sparked by the management’s decision to make changes to the school’s form tutor system.
The proposed changes would mean that each department will become the form tutors for a certain year group. For example, the English department will be the form tutors for next year’s year 7 cohort.
This has left students furious – especially those in the older year groups. This is because the form tutor who they have had since they started high school will be taken away from them and allocated elsewhere.
Over their time at school, students form a close bond with their form tutor, who is often their first port of call when they have problems.
Deyes management have shown absolutely no regard for the interests of students, however. Undemocratically, without consulting students or staff, the decision was made to tear away form tutors from the students they pastored over the years.
This is not the first time Deyes has bore witness to student strikes as a result of bureaucratic mismanagement.
In July 2011, students, parents, and staff were overwhelmingly opposed to the conversion of Deyes into an academy. But they were simply ignored. Parasitical governors and management pushed through these plans regardless of what anyone thought.
This left students with no other option than to stage a protest outside the school to get their voices heard.
An eye-witness said that the teachers, who were initially sent in to coax the students back into class, began standing with the students, united in their opposition to academisation.
Management, knowing staff and parents were on the side of the students, called the police in to disperse the protest.
Deyes was closed the next day – a clear tactic to prevent any further action being taken. Then began the campaign to disparage the students.
Management attempted to belittle them by saying that the protest was merely over the fact that the student vote over the name change was ignored. But everyone, management included, knew this was over something much deeper.
Today, students are carrying the chalice of militancy left to them by the brave students that stood up against academisation.
Following the recent student protest, management is once again attempting to blame the students for causing disruption to learning by walking out of their lessons.
As in 2011, however, it is clear that this situation was created by the managers and governors, who have concocted a perfect storm of discontent.
The students tried a number of ways to express their dissatisfaction – all of which were ignored by management. As one student commented: “[Higher management] ignored us…they left us no other option when they didn’t listen to us.”
One student put together a letter expressing their anger at the decision to strip them of their form tutor and sent it to the headteacher. This letter was ignored. Students then circulated a petition in another attempt to get their voices heard. This petition was ignored too.
A number of students then had a meeting with the governors and managers to discuss the matter. The school’s higher-ups, however, used this meeting as an opportunity to intimidate the students by threatening them with suspensions and disqualification from their prom.
Rumours began to circulate about a protest, which was to take place in the last period on Friday.
On the day of the walkout, the management decided to put the student who wrote the polite letter into isolation. They were later released from isolation when they protested the decision to lock them away from their peers.
At the protest, students from across the year groups united in solidarity with one another. Management were powerless to stop them; all they could do was stand around and watch. They could only hope that as time dragged on, the students would return to lesson one by one.
The fury of the students was clearly displayed on their placards, featuring slogans like ‘SAVE OUR TUTORS’ and ‘STOP AFFECTING OUR FUTURES’.
Clearly, this student walkout is an expression of much deeper resentment felt against the school, which is failing their education.
One student stated that they were protesting not just against the decision to strip them of their form tutor, who they had been with for four years, but also at “SLT [higher management] in general”.
For example, students are also angry that supply staff are being used more regularly. Without a regular permanent teacher, the quality of their education deteriorates. This is a direct consequence of management’s corner-cutting approach to teaching.
Management, revitalising the tactics used in 2011, are now trying to delegitimise the walkout by blaming it on the unruly behaviour of a minority of the students. This completely ignores the fact that the walkout was largely carried out in an orderly manner, by sensible and disciplined students.
This is a clear attempt at divide-and-rule tactics from management.
Students and staff, unite!
Management is keen to sweep the present protest under the rug, as they have done before. Their attempts to ignore the discontented ferment that continues to build up, however, will only lead to future protests, and possibly strikes.
Students aren’t the only ones who are fed up with the situation at Deyes. It is rumoured that many members of staff will be leaving Deyes at the end of the academic year.
This matches the mass exodus of teachers from the profession nationally, due to the race to the bottom in terms of pay and conditions.
Members of staff have shown already that they are sympathetic towards the students. One said that the students “have a good point”, and another even remarked that they were tempted to join the students’ walkout.
This comes as no surprise. With an undemocratic bureaucracy mismanaging the school, pay and conditions plummeting, education standards falling, and staff leaving in droves, it is clear that the current system does not work.
It is no coincidence that this school is run under the academy system. In academy trusts, all decisions are made behind closed doors, by an unaccountable cabal of trustees, headteachers, managers, and governors.
These people are not interested in improving education, but in lining their own pockets with eye-watering salaries – at whatever expense. Their interests are diametrically opposed to the interests of staff and students.
The students at Deyes have shown immense courage in the face of the management’s intimidation. They have also shown that militant methods are the only way to get the ear of fat-cat managers.
But this energy must be combined with the power of the workers at Deyes, who truly have the power to bring the school to a standstill.
Students and staff both feel a deep resentment towards the bureaucratic mismanagement of Deyes. But this needs to be channelled into a united fight against academisation; for genuine control over the school by staff, students and parents; and for a fully-funded education system as part of a socialist planned economy.
At the Marxist Student Federation, we say:
- Solidarity to the Deyes High Students!
- No punishments for student protestors!
- Students and staff, unite and strike!
- Push the fat cats out of education!