Teachers at St Aloysius school in Islington were on strike yesterday against dangerous building work being undertaken by multinational Balfour Beatty During the course of the strike they occupied the headquarters of the infrastructure services corporation Balfour Beatty. Islington schools are run by the private firm Cambridge Educational and teachers say that the unsafe works going on at the school are typical of the penny-pinching practised by the company. The new government in the UK wants to see more and more schools and local authorities run by private companies and events at St Aloysius are a foretaste of disasters to come if the campaigns by teachers' unions working with local communities are not successful in saving state education from private contractors. The problem of unsafe school buildings is not of course confined to the UK. It has been a particularly horrible feature of the variouis natural disasters that have taken place - such as the hurricane and earthquake in Haiti or the earthquakes in China that school buildings have not been properly built and thousands of children and their teachers have been killed and injured as a result.  (see previous posts) It is yet another example of the contempt held by those who run our world for the safety and well being of children. Pasted below are two press releases from the teachers at St Aloysius: Press release 2/6/10 

Teachers at St Aloysius College, Islington, are currently voting on proposals for discontinuous, sustained, strike action to make their school safe an fit for purpose. The ballot closes on Monday 14 June and NUT members at the school are anticipating achieve a good turnout and a big yes vote.

 

Since refusing to teach students at the school in dangerous conditions, one day last month, and instead supervising them in the playground, the teachers and support staff campaign for a safe and healthy school, suitable for a a 21st century education, has been gathering strength.

 

At a recent meeting of Islington Trades Union Council, local MP Jeremy Corbyn spoke powerfully in support of the St Aloysius school workers' campaign and called on the Trades Council to intercede on their behalf with the newly elected Labour Council.

 

This was agreed and Jeremy and Council leader, Catherine West, visited the school to see for themselves the dangerous state contractors Balfour Beatty had left the school in and the obvious unsuitability of the new buildings, despite their £17 million cost.

 

Staff concerns about these issues have been confirmed by an independent consultant who inspected the school. During his visit he found numerous instances of works not conforming to regulations and official advice.

 

L-shaped design and technology rooms instead of square or rectangular ones, for example, with too little space around potentially dangerous machinery, inadequate storage facilities for hazardous chemicals and materials and insufficient display space are just some of the problems he identified.

 

Last week a group of teachers from St Aloysius met with local NUT officers to plan future campaigning activities. They decided to produce an open letter to parents and call a public meeting.

 

Putting things right at St Aloysius might cost money - but not as much as it will cost the students and their families if anyone gets injured or even by comparison with the damage done to their education likely to be caused by the incompetence and penny-pinching of Balfour Beatty and Cambridge Education, the private firm that has been running Islington's schools for the last decade.

  

For more information, telephone: Ken Muller on 07950075088

Teachers at St Aloysius school in Islington refused to begin lessons on Friday because the school building work being carried out by contactors Balfour Beatty had left the school in a dangerous condition - with malfunctioning fire alarms, confused evacuation procedures  and water dripping on to electrical wiring Instead, they took their students to the playground and supervised them there for several hours until the head teacher escorted them to a school hall. The previous afternoon 45 teachers at a school NUT group meeting had voted unanimously to be balloted on strike action over dangerous working conditions but also over the poorly designed building staff and students will soon be forced to move in to if an existing building is demolished on 20 June, as planned. Design faults identified by teachers at St Aloysius in the school being rebuilt under the government's Building Schools for the Future programme include:
  •  L-shaped Design and Technology classrooms which don't allow the teacher to see what's going on despite the room containing dangerous tools and machinery
  • rooms with insufficient seating space for the number of students in them
  • tiny windows which provide very little natural light
Before the BSF project in Islington began, the Council's Educational Vision promised: "The health and safety of all people using Islington secondary schools will be a major factor in the design and implementation of the BSF build and refurbishment programme." One teacher at the school said:  "For two and a half years we've been losing staff due to the stress caused by the building work. It all just boiled up on Friday. The problem with the fire alarms were the last straw." "Although the new building has got its good points, you'd think for £17 million they could have done better than this. Originally, there were only going to be two unisex toilets for all the staff. Now they're giving us one more that was meant for student use. And the classrooms are smaller than before. It's a complete shambles" Ken Muller, Assistant Secretary of Islington NUT , commented: "We hope the new Labour Council will see the folly of what has been going on at St Aloysius and stop the demolition of the old Block B so that it can continue to be used until the design faults in the new building have been rectified. It's not just our members who will suffer if things go on as they are. Teachers at the school are as least as concerned about the welfare of their students as they are of their own. They were not striking last Friday: they were exercising the their right not to put themselves or the students in their care in danger."