This weekend’s NUT teachers’ union conference is the last to take place during Tony Blair’s premiership – and looks set to get ready to fight many of his “legacies”, from war to academies.
A motion on affiliation to the Stop the War Coalition looks set to be passed.
And a number of motions discussing pay, workload and racism will be put before delegates.
The fact that Mark Serwotka, general secretary of the PCS civil service workers’ union, has been invited to address conference is a significant movement towards linking up teachers’ campaigns with the wider movement against government attacks on the public sector.
It comes at a time when workers throughout the public sector face below inflation pay increases – and in the run up to the 1 May strike of 250,000 PCS members, which we should be organising to support.
Conference is also set to discuss a motion to set up a union political fund.
This is an opportunity for the union to intervene in campaigns that affect both teachers and pupils, such as Unite Against Fascism and environmental campaigns.
Ten years of New Labour rhetoric that “Every Child Matters” has seen the criminalisation of young people through the mechanism of anti-social behaviour orders, ever increasing tests and the marketisation of education.
The NUT needs to be at the forefront of defending education.
We need to embrace school students’ needs by taking more control with them of how schools work.
We need to question and challenge the government’s market-based vision of education.
When schools set up themed projects, enhance creativity and deal with real issues in concrete ways then truancy and misbehaviour evaporate, learning soars and greater mutual respect returns.
Instead of tolerating longer hours, often for less pay and with less and less say in what we do, we urgently need to fight back.
This year’s conference should be seen as an opportunity to take stock of what ten years under Labour has meant – and to prepare for the very real battles ahead.