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We are Norwich

Saturday 10th November was a historic day as over 1500 anti-racists came out to tell the English Defence League (EDL) that they are not welcome in Norwich. We are Norwich – a group formed in response to the EDL’s planned visit to the city began with small, simple campaign stalls, manned by a couple of activists at Norwich Pride and at the Kick Racism out of Football event at Morrisons towards the start of summer and has grown steadily into a rainbow coalition of over 25 affiliated groups.

Our day began at Chapelfield Gardens where over 20 different people, representing a range of political parties, faith groups and community groups spoke from the bandstand – sending clear messages as to why, in the eyes of their supporters and members, the EDL were not welcome. Speakers included Clive Lewis from Norwich Labour Party, Samir Jerajfrom the Green Party, Jack Brinded and Josh Bowker from UEA Union of Students, a large group from the Norwich Progressive Jewish Community and Michelle Savage and Mike Stonard from the Norwich Pride Collective. We were also joined on the day by Chloe Smith MP for Norwich North and a large group from the Norwich Quakers. This was clearly a very broad coalition opposed to the EDL and their message of hate, despite claims from the EDL that we are only “lefty freaks and Muslims”. Jo Rust from Kings Lynn Trades Council said “We sent a clear message that their hateful and divisive politics are not tolerated in Norfolk.” HelenMcGuinness from the National Union of Teachers said “If we allow this language of hatred to seep into one classroom, that is one too many.” There were a large amount of families making the most of the freefacepainting. As a very large crowd began to gather we were entertained by live music from Jonathan Williams, Acivilian and the Red Flags.

norwichcampaignjpgAt around 12.30 we began our march to city hall were we waited for some time for the EDL to arrive. The calm, peaceful but determined crowd kept themselves amused and energised with a range of chants. The most popular included “Black and White, Unite and Fight: Smash the EDL”, “We are black, white asian and we’re Jew…and we’re gay”, “You could have come in a taxi”, “This is just embarassing” and “We are Norwich, Tommy’s eating porridge” alluding to the imprisonment of their leader Tommy Robinson, real name Stephen Lennon, currently in jail for using a fake passport to travel to America (following previous convictions for violent offences). Meanwhile the EDL were causing ugly scenes in the city centre, such as this one in Castle Meadow (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pnVydOw7KTM) and over the day four members of the group were arrested. The EDL did exactly what we said they would do on the day, we hope that We are Norwich can now help to get out the positive message that such a diverse group of people, young and old, black and white, gay or straight came together to oppose them.

Before We are Norwich left City Hall we turned our backs on the thefascists and held a minute’s silence in respect of those that fought in the war fighting fascism. As one person on the demonstration said to me “Today we oppose them, tomorrow we remember why.” It was especially poignant that one poppy seller left his position on the market and joined us on the counter-demonstration. The EDL do not in any way represent those that gave their lives fighting against the evil that they promote. Emma Corletta, a nurse said “I found it very distressing that one of the EDL members had a red poppy in one hand whilst doing a Nazi salute with his other hand.” Whilst we held a victory march back to ChapelfieldGardens, the EDL were being chased out of the city by locals and an angry group of 150 young people chased the fascists down Prince of Wales Road and onto their trains. As Lesley Grahame, Green Party Cllr said “We showed that we are everywhere, as overheard from one EDL member”.

We are Norwich said that we would prevent the EDL getting to the steps of City Hall and the War Memorial – we did. We said that we would build a massive and broad Coalition to oppose them – we did. We said that we would be peaceful, family friendly but loud and determined – we were. At a time when we often bemoan the fact that people don’t care about others any more and won’t get up and do something positive, our countermobilisation has been a beacon of light and hope. We are Norwich will stay together for as long as we are needed. The EDL will never be welcome here.

For more information about WE ARE NORWICH, call Nick O’Brien (07717504210) OR www.wearenorwich.co.uk

Save Our Pension

pensionThe NUT has been involved in serious talks with the Government for months now, our negotiating team are taking it very seriously but alas the Government does not appear to be. They are not prepared to make any concessions at all. As part of the 2006 agreement we agreed to something called “cap and share” whereas we would pay more into the pension scheme if it was shown that the costs of the scheme were increasing.

At the moment the Government are refusing to carry out a full valuation of the TPS however the National Audit Office has confirmed what the Trade Unions have been saying, which is that the costs of the scheme are falling due to the changes made in 2006.

Hutton Review and Nut Submissions

Fun at the Forum

Well over 700 teachers, civil servants, lecturers, parents and children, gathered on a warm, cloudy afternoon to hear a magnificent line up of speakers. The main message was the fury and disappointment at the government for their attack on the pensions of teachers and civil servants; at a time of pay freezes, rising inflation and rising costs for food, petrol and energy prices, in addition to redundancies and cuts to front line services. However, the afternoon was not all doom and gloom, with the crowds being entertained by Street Theatre, music and face-painting to lift the mood.
The main speakers were Kendra Deacon of the NUT National Executive, Andrew McCandlish , County Secretary for ATL, Nick O’Brien from ‘Right to Work’, Julie Bremner of PCS, Mark Hughes of UCU and Alex Fitches a student from the UEA.

Chrissie Smith, NUT Association Secretary for South Norfolk and Breckland commented that the day had been “A roaring success” and that it was “fantastic to see so many different Unions, and people of all ages, from all walks of life, coming together in Solidarity.

norwichprideOverall the mood was extremely positive and united. The central message which was shared by all, was summed up by Bridget Sutton – a parent from Wymondham who said “Our teachers and Public Services Staff have worked hard and paid into their own pension funds, only to have the government pull the carpet out from beneath them with no way of making up the shortfall. It’s wrong and everyone should support this strike action”. She further added, “It is to the credit of Norfolk teachers that they have all turned out here today when schools were already closed because of the Norfolk show”
One teacher from Lynn Grove in great Yarmouth reported that their school had been scheduled to open to their pupils but that it had been shut due to striking ATL and NUT staff. However most Norfolk schools had planned a training day well in advance of the decision to act, because of the Norfolk show.

Anti Academy

Potential Academies refuse to allow speakers against academies to address their parents.
The academy scene in Norfolk continues to move on at a pace. There are now a number of High Schools looking at their options. However, all is not well in academy land. The expected funding from Government has not materialised. The number of students entering the academies is less than expected. One academy is already making colleagues redundant. The number of disciplinary and capability procedures against staff in the Academies is proportionally much higher than in the Local Authority schools. Interestingly both Wymondham High and Sheringham High who are looking at academy status have refused us permission to address parents meetings. I wonder what they are trying to hide!
It is not all gloom and doom for those of us concerned about the threat the academies programme makes towards good, local, comprehensive education. It does seem the message is starting to get through to more Governors and Heads. A number have made it clear they don’t believe the figures suggested by the Government hold water. They are realising that as the schools are responsible for such things as maternity and paternity leave; redundancy payments; early retirements etc. that they could end up with enormous bills that they won’t be able to pay. This is before we consider the cost of buying in services. The Government says that “becoming an academy should not bring about a financial advantage or disadvantage to a school”. The Government has said that the changes planned to academy funding will seek to ensure this.

Academies receive annual funding for their running costs based on the local authority funding formula for schools. They also receive an additional grant in respect of the LA’s spending on services to schools. Academies still need these services. They will not necessarily be better off, because these services may cost them as much or more, whether they buy them from the LA or elsewhere. Academies may not benefit from the economies of scale that the LA can offer. Academies are at the mercy of private companies, currently offering loss-leader prices which could rise significantly in the future.
There is a huge risk that the additional funding academies receive will not cover the extra costs of obtaining services currently provided by LAs. The current funding system for academies is also under review. Proposals to convert to academy status may be even more of a risk than their supporters understand.

bannersThe Government admits that its £25,000 grant to schools will not cover all the start-up costs – project management, consultancy, transitional staffing costs – and that schools will have to “devote some of their own resources” to becoming an academy. Some estimates show schools having to pay out up to £100,000 for these costs. We know that two academies in Norfolk, despite receiving much larger budgets than under the LA control are having to make staff redundant either this year of next, to balance their books. We suspect the same will be true in others.
So by the time the academy has paid the start up costs, bought in the services it needs; made up for the short fall, had colleagues on maternity leave and had to pay for redundancies due to falling rolls there will be little left for them to control!

Remember we will continue to support members in the academies and we hope the education of a generation of pupils doesn’t suffer too much in the name of Tory centralisation. However, we urge all members not yet in Academies to oppose any plans to convert. We are more than willing to come in and address meetings to put forward the views of the NUT and explain why we believe conversion to an Academy equates to giving up so much for a possible short term gain.
Mike Smith