Rearguard action in Haringey

24th February 1995 at 00:00
It was predictable really. No sooner had Gillian Shephard and Doug McAvoy announced peace in our time than a full-scale war broke out. But, as ever, the war did not break out according to plan.

It is not, at the moment, the Left of the National Union of Teachers that is causing problems for the Government. It is their own erstwhile supporters in the shires. Plunged into running schools at the Government's behest, they see the real consequences of cuts and they do not like it.

But as a socialist I am aware of other ramifications in other places.

For the war has taken a distinctly odd turn in Haringey. First, there are hardly any Tories left here - just two, compared with 57 Labour councillors. You would expect nothing less from Tottenham but Haringey also takes in Muswell Hill and Crouch End - areas not noted for their proletarian affiliations.

It all started in Tottenham. Tiverton School has, like much of the rest of Haringey's educational estate, been falling down. The reason is simple: no government funds. But early in the new year, part of the roof fell in, the school was closed and parents marched to the education offices to complain. This was the starting signal for much else.

The NUT which had been taking action over the council's refusal to pay the London allowance to new or promoted teachers, escalated its strike action in some of the borough's schools to two days a week. The Labour chair of education, Lucy Craig, condemned it by taking out adverts in the local papers.

Soon, however, Ms Craig herself was in the news. Her daughter had left Fortismere School in Muswell Hill, a top performer in the borough, in favour of a private establishment to do her A-levels. a leaked letter revealed the Craigs' criticisms of Fortismere.

Uproar and special meetings of the Labour group ensued. At the moment, Ms Craig remains in post. Which is just well because the head and deputy head of Langham School in Tottenham have just been suspended prior to it being named by OFSTED as a failing school.

These broadly are the facts. But what does it all mean?

The real problem is that, unlike Conservative voters in the shires who are standing up for their teachers and pupils, the Labour council is standing up for Government policy and trying to face down its own voters - people who gave them the 57-2 majority in the first place.

What a mess! Which is why I am thankful for the action of the NUT that does at least have the ability to put its money where its mouth is and stand up for education in Haringey.

I am less thankful for Labour councillors who place managing the system for the Government above defending the interests of those who voted for them.

Keith Flett is a research student at London University's Institute of Education.

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