Camden pupils flock to picket line to support teachers

The biggest strike in a generation has inspired Camden pupils to step out of the classroom and onto the picket line to support their teachers.

Putting aside any classroom animosity, two dozen impassioned sixth formers from Camden School for Girls took to the streets armed with placards and banners proclaiming their support for strikers in their row with the government over planned pension cuts.

Among them was Tiyah Hernandez, 16, a lower sixth former at Camden School for Girls who lives in West Hampstead with her mum and stepdad, who works for the investment bank UBS.

While many of the strikers marching through central London shouted slogans attacking the bankers for causing the economic crisis, Tiyah said the pensions dispute was a symptom of a wider “societal problem”.

She said: “Although a lot of people are against what my stepdad does for a living, I think it is a problem with the society we live in.

“I don’t think this is an issue that is going to just affect teachers. It is going to affect us all in the future as we get jobs and struggle on low pensions. It is our future.”

The group of students have pinned up posters around the school in Sandall Road, Camden, and have got advice from old sixth formers who last year occupied parts of the school in protest at hikes in tuition fees.

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They have even penned a chant inspired by a Mary Poppins song to galvanise support for the strikers.

Raising their banner aloft, they chanted: “Chim chiminey, chim chiminey, chim chim cher-ee. We want to bring back democracy.

“Chim chiminey, chim chiminey, chim chim cher-oo. We hate you Con-Dems in yellow and blue.”

Ruth O’Sullivan, 16, another lower sixth former at the secondary school, said: “All these issues have forced us to look at our future.

“You start off by thinking about what university you want to go to, then what course will get you a job, and whether you are even going to have a job in this climate.

“And what job is stable enough to support you for the rest of your life – with a decent penison.

“A lot of people think the student movement has lost momentum. It is important people know that we are still here and concerned about these issues.”

Mordecai Paechter, 16, also at Camden School for Girls, said they were inspired by the Arab Spring and protests sweeping Europe.

He said: “More and more people are looking at our system, where any party in government will have to enact austerity measures to keep their credit rating, and thinking, is this really a democracy?”

Camden School for Girls has a strong tradition of political protest. In 2003 around a hundred pupils walked out in protest at the war on Iraq.

It is a popular school with politician parents, and former Labour cabinet minister Patricia Hewitt and Lord Falconer both sent children there.

Speaking from the picket line, Gary Doyland, head of geography at Camden School for Girls, said: “I think our students are amazing. They have responded so maturely to the speakers who visit the school, and they can see the impact this dispute has on them as well us.”

Hampstead and Kilburn Labour MP Glenda Jackson criticised the strikers, however, which she said were “counterproductive” and would fuel conservative demands for more restrictive employment law.

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