Poundswick: 1985 City-wide Teacher’s Strike Provoked by Graffiti

An incident in 1985 of graffiti by a group of pupils and ex-pupils at Poundswick High School triggered a series of events leading to strike action in schools throughout Manchester. The school at the centre of these events was closed for a whole term and the pupils in the critical exam years lost a vital term of their education. The issue challenged the Left administration being on the opposite side of the negotiation table than they were used to, and left scars on the Education Committee councillors for many years.
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Graffiti Incident at Poundswick High School
Chief Education Officer Intervention
Education Committee District Sub-committees
Teachers Refused to Teach the Five Boys
Teachers Across Manchester Went On Strike
The Issue Became a National Interest
On Reflection
Appendix 9A : Assistant Chief Education Officer Andrew Cant’s Summary and Analysis 24/10/85
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Editor’s Comments

The editing has involved adding sub-headings, minor typographical and layout amendments. I have struggled to understand why this incident has been given a chapter of its own and why it is in the section ‘Putting Policies into Practice’. I see that it was a matter of considerable time and effort and stress and has merit to be included because of the very matter of the Left being the employer and being on the other side of strike action. I wonder if it was of greater significance to Kath because of her Education interest. With my 2016 viewpoint, I can’t help agreeing with the quote from Ed Glinert that the Headteacher should have made the offenders wash the graffiti off and that would have been the end of it. Clearly there were other forces at play.


[1] See Appendix 9A for more detail – names redacted.

[2] Age 14-15 years old.

[3] National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers (NASUWT), National Union of Teachers (NUT), Assistant Masters and Mistresses Association (AMMA)

[4] Val Dunn was on sick leave. In getting off a train, she had slipped through the gap between the platform and the train and broken her leg.

[5] Aged 15-16 years old.

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8 Responses

  1. So the teachers sho were involved were “paid for the rest of their working lives”?…. My fellow pupils and I lost a whole valuable year of education but,those teachers who decided on not committing to they’re jobs still got paid ?…

    • karencropper says:

      It must have been a big disruption for you.

    • karencropper says:

      I’m just coming back to this to clarify what the bit you are referring to in the section ‘The Issue Became a National Interest’ says:

      “NASUWT members remained on strike for the rest of the year, losing their annual pay increment because of it. Their union compensated them for this for the rest of their working lives.”

      NASUWT is the National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers. This was one of 3 unions that were on strike and in the negotiation. The other two unions reached an agreement, but the NASUWT didn’t at that point. The increment referred to is an annual increase in salary that is awarded based on length of service, so by being on strike those union members will have not received their increment, and that would have affected them for each subsequent year that they were still in teaching (or wider than that perhaps while in local authority employment?). The compensation would have been for the difference between what they were paid compared to what they would have been paid if they hadn’t been on strike. It would have been paid from the union funds contributed to by the other union members. Other than that difference, they would have simply been paid their salaries direct by their employers for the work that they did. Except, from my knowledge of local government pay structures, I think that would not have been for the whole of their working lives, since there comes a point with annual increments that you hit a ceiling on your grade and then you only get inflationary increases. So thanks to your comment, I am now pondering whether the statement “Their union compensated them for this for the rest of their working lives” is actually correct, but I can’t think of a way of checking. And it doesn’t mean they were paid for not working for the rest of their working age lives, if that is what you maybe thought.

      I’m not involved in any union or left-wing politics, so I don’t know all the nuances of this dispute and what was going on at the time. I wonder how the effect upon the pupils would have been justified in the discussions that happened? From what I know of the catchment area of Poundswick, I think there was a large council house estate in Wythenshawe that a proportion of pupils lived. It seems to me that this left-wing struggle actually disadvantaged a group of people who were supposedly those the Left wanted to support. I feel it seems to have escalated out of all proportion.

  2. Jason Talbot says:

    Same here went from studying English Language and literature, maths and 5 options in my 4th year to coming back almost a year later struggling to study and completely disinterested in school

  3. Alison Dickinson was Cussell says:

    My education was affected not only during the year of disruption but the following year and beyond, to be honest. To my recollection, not all teachers went on strike, as it depended on which union they were with. I, in fact, had a handful of subjects that continued to be taught and the teachers who were still working through the strike gave the kids, who bothered to turn up to school, loads of additional support. I believe that there was some deal struck with the exam boards too, and whereas originally we would have had to provide 10 Eng Lit essays, we were able to present just 5, for example. I worked my backside off and came away with 6 O Levels/16+(remember them?!) qualifications, went on to college but had a complete meltdown with regards further education and quit after 6 months. Found a job and continued to move around various fields of work and industries, never really settling. Ended up in the travel industry for the best part of 16 years, which gave me the opportunity to travel and eventually gain some promotion. I’m convinced though, that if my year 10/11 had not been disrupted my career path and life would have turned out very differently…

    • karencropper says:

      Thanks for sharing your experience, Alison. Well done on working so hard and getting the qualifications that you did. I did a few 16+ exams too where you got an O level and CSE certificate. I often wish if only we could go back and find out how life would have been if a particular incident hadn’t happened or a decision hadn’t been made. Only in the movies, alas! I wondered if because of losing that time of school any of your peers gained an enthusiasm for education, valued it more than they would have done if it had just been the normal situation? I know of two people from my school who had problems at school but caught up later in life, one of them getting a degree in Physics. I think recording what happened to the people affected is an important part of the history of it.

  4. Nikola Pancaro says:

    I was just moving into the upper school when all this happened. At 46 now I’m really lucky to be in a position where I’ve had a good career ! NO thanks to the people who signed up to educate me! Thanks for that!
    I remember feeling punished for things that we hadn’t done! And if the punctuation isn’t correct we can blame the missing English Teacher lol!

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