By Jeremy Dewar
The boycotts of the ridiculous and cruel tests of children as young as five by parents earlier this year, and the public outcry at the threat by Education Secretary Nicky Morgan to force all schools to become academies prove that families would support action
Teachers have delivered an overwhelming mandate to strike – by 92 per cent – across England and Wales on Tuesday 5 July.
The underlying causes of the dispute are the biggest cut in funding per pupil since the 1970s, the collapse of national collective bargaining on terms and conditions due to academies and unbearable workloads.
In addition the new funding formula has diverted money from schools in Labour-dominated inner-city schools to those in the Tory-held shires. In Lambeth for example this has led to a further 19 per cent cut.
Another change to the rules has burdened schools by forcing them to find a further 5 per cent from their wage bill to fund pensions and National Insurance contributions, previously shouldered by central government.
No wonder schools are increasingly using non-qualified and non-specialist teachers to take classes, while vacancies go unfilled for months on end, all at the expense of students’ education. No wonder there is a teacher recruitment and retention crisis.
“Enough is enough,” as NUT acting General Secretary Kevin Courtney says, “The effects on children’s education are also real and damaging”.
The NUT should be commended in taking this action and supported by every parent and worker in the land. The union also plans further action in September and the autumn.
It is a shame therefore that the other teaching unions and the support unions, Unison, Unite and the GMB, are not joining in. Many school staff will of course either join the NUT – which they can do for just £1 for the day – or refuse to cross picket lines. But this is no substitute to widening the dispute.
Rather than allowing the dispute to drag on for months, we urge all school unions to ballot now, join the strike and threaten all-out indefinite action until the demands are met.
The turnout in the NUT ballot was only 25 per cent. While this is undoubtedly partly the result of the Tories’ refusal to allow modern, electronic voting methods or workplace balloting, both proposed by the TUC, it also exposes a weakness in the union’s grassroots organisation, which must be strengthened if future strike votes are not to fall foul of the latest anti-union Act.
The boycotts of the ridiculous and cruel tests of children as young as five by parents earlier this year, and the public outcry at the threat by Education Secretary Nicky Morgan to force all schools to become academies (forcing her to temporarily withdraw the proposal) prove that families would support such action.
So too would Jeremy Corbyn’s proposals for a National Education Service from the cradle to old age prove popular, as the rapid rise of academies turns more and more communities against privatisation of the state education system.
- All out on 5 July!
- Call on the other unions to join in the action!
- Return all academies and free schools to democratic local authority control!