Socialist Worker

Strike was for pupils, not against them

Simon Jones, NUT executive member, defends the teachers’ strike in Lancashire

Issue No. 2247

Teachers at Darwen Vale High School in Lancashire went on strike last week. The media spun the strike as being one against “unruly children”.

It absolutely was not—it was about a bullying head teacher.

Teachers aren’t trying to demonise children. But the head is refusing to support staff who are trying to deal with disruptive pupils.

The school is in a very deprived area. The local authority faces cuts of around 40 percent.

There’s challenging behaviour in the school because of deprivation and the cuts.

Until last September teachers were dealing with it well.

We had a clear behaviour management policy that included yellow and red cards, detentions and, in rare cases, permanent exclusions.

This policy was enforced properly. But the new head is not implementing the policy.

She is very target-driven and doesn’t support the staff.

In other schools with challenging behaviour, school management supported staff, talked to the unions and resolved the issues.

I spoke to the head informally months ago and never thought we’d be on strike. But then the head refused to meet me again.

The NUT union had a

29 to one vote for strikes.

I think there are wider political issues that are important in understanding the dispute. It’s part of a bigger problem.

We are losing educational welfare officers and school psychologists.

Some parents of pupils will have been made redundant—and that trauma will lead to less stable behaviour.

And the government is undermining educational aspirations for lots of children. It has cut Education Maintenance Allowance and raised university tuition fees.

If I tell a pupil that they should work hard at school so they can go to university they’ll tell me it’s rubbish. And they’ll have a point.

I blame the government.

The mainstream media say the strike was against the children and use it for their own agendas. I’ve lost count of the number of times reporters have asked me if I think we should bring back caning, for example.

I think we can undercut this kind of interpretation by always linking the problems to the cuts.

I think schools need exclusions as a last resort—but they shouldn’t be the first.

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Article information

Tue 12 Apr 2011, 18:33 BST
Issue No. 2247
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