First Published: The Marxist, No. 10, April 1969
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Sam Richards and Paul Saba
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MOST SCHOOL STUDENTS, and some teachers too, can imagine why people at British schools are organising, through the SAU and other groups, to flight for their interests. The educational mill is frequently a very unpleasant experience. In schools young people are subjected to petty viciousness, intolerance and general academic bullying. Some schools are more liberal than others but everywhere power in the school is concentrated in the hands of one man or woman. At best students and staff have some sort of collective ’advisory’ capacity. In these circumstances change comes very slowly, especially as the undemocratic school boards often contain very backward elements in the community.
So in face of this hierarchy of academic bullshit, school students and teachers have begun to create groups dedicated to struggle within and outside schools for various programmes. About a year ago in North London schools branches of the Revolutionary Socialist Student Federation were set up. About the same time in South London the Free Schools Campaign began activity and from members of these groups, other smaller groups and individuals in London and School Unions in Manchester, Scotland, South Wales, Leicester and the rest of the country a national conference took place in January. Then a London conference was held and the Schools’ Action Union has crystallised out with about twenty affiliated branches throughout Britain.
In London our struggle is led by an elected Executive Committee and the London Union has set up area branches and branches in individual schools.
On Sunday March 2 about 700 came along on an SAU demonstration to the Department of Education and Science and County Hall, headquarters of the Inner London Educational Authority. The slogans of that march summarise issues on which SAU is fighting for:
1 Control of the schools by all students and Staff
2 Freedom of speech and asembly (sic)
3 The outlawing of corporal punishment
4 The abolition of school uniforms
5 Coeducational comprehensive schools
6 More pay for teachers
These demands should not be taken as final, all the work of the Union is open to debate and criticism. It should be pointed out that the demand for ’coeducational comprehensive schools’ is no blank cheque for many of the schools that masquerade under that name are class and sex discriminatory, elitist and quite reactionary and anti-human institutions. However gathering different sexes and social strata under one roof is a step forward to a decent educational system which serves the people.
How does the Union intend to fight for its demands, demands that we consider reflect the ideas of hundreds of thousands of young people? At the moment we are developing our organisation. Our aim is to have groups throughout the schools which can carry out a propaganda work and lead the bulk of students at their schools to fight unitedly by any means possible – meetings, strikes and sit-ins for instance, all of which have occurred in schools up and down the country.
Nationally the SAU produces a printed monthly magazine ’Vanguard’ with news from schools, discussion articles about education, organisational and other material.