Online Archive  
Issue 3 - March 1972
Sunderland SAU
The brief life of the Sunderland Schools Action Union was a catalogue of disaster.

It met almost every conceivable obstacle before finally expiring after two months.

Not least of the problems was apathy. According to George, a member of the now defunct action committee, only ten people showed any real interest, even after the idea had been canvassed thoroughly.

The International Socialists refused to help and the group got short change from the London branch of the Schools Action Union, which George claims has been taken over by Maoists.

The Sunderland branch never did have any central organisation. "We were left to do it all ourselves and none of us knew where to start", he added.

A local newspaper interviewed some of those involved and duly tore the group to pieces in its columns.

Then, the first meeting had to be cancelled after the landlord of the pub which the group had booked changed his mind and asked them to go elsewhere.

"The police had been to see him", claims George.

They found a new venue and set off to redirect people from the original pub. Outside, claims George, were three policemen.

"They were carrying some of our leaflets, so we decided not to bother", he said.

Three of the group distributed leaflets to pupils outside the gates of South Moor School in Sunderland in late October.

The Headmaster, Mr Budge, sent his prefects round the school to collect the leaflets. These were then burnt.

Mr Budge then contacted Mr Armstrong-James, Principal of Sunderland College of Education (Langham Towers) after he found out that the three action group men were students there.

Subsequently, Cary Smith, George and another member of the action group were hauled in before Armstrong-James.

He told them distribution of the leaflets must cease. The penalty for refusing to comply would be immediate suspension.

The third man then dropped out. But Smith and Alan Kell decided to make a stand.

They distributed leaflets again the following Thursday outside the gates of South Moor School.

Reaction was swift. A day later, they were both suspended. A week later, they were expelled.

They were granted an appeal before the Board of Governors but lost their case.

In desperation, they appealed to the National Union of Students for help, but none was forthcoming.

Smith and Kell then went home and with them went all current hopes of establishing a schools action group in Sunderland; a place which, as we all know, has an outstanding record in the field of staff-pupil relations.


Alan at MG would like to hear from anyone interested in Schools Action Unions, as we think it would be useful for SAU's to co-ordinate for mutual support and transfer of information.