Tens of thousands of teachers struck on Tuesday of this week. The walkouts by NUT and NASUWT union members shut schools across the Midlands, Yorkshire and Eastern regions of England.
The action was part of an ongoing fight to stop Tory education secretary Michael Gove ripping up workers’ pay, conditions and pensions—and destroying education.
Anger at the way Gove’s attacks are affecting children drove many teachers to take action.
NUT member Kris Jonsberg teaches at a secondary school in Birmingham. She told Socialist Worker, “The worst thing is the changes to the curriculum. They are being rushed through without consultation with no concern for how that will affect students.”
Primary school teacher and NASUWT member Abigail Ward added, “There’s so much pressure and we never seem to be good enough.
“The pace is non-stop. There’s never the freedom that children need to learn properly. There’s no time to get to know children—but if I don’t know them then I can’t know what their strengths and weaknesses are.”
Abigail added that parents had told her they backed the action.
Stephen, a rep at Carleton community high school in West Yorkshire, agreed. He said, “Members have confidence that they were right to strike after leafletting parents.”
Strikers said Gove’s attacks on their pay, pensions and conditions would harm children too.
NUT member Amy said, “If we have to work longer hours and children are in classes for longer, it won’t benefit them.”
NASUWT member Lee Williams added, “Gove is doing everything he can to make teaching unattractive. They’re forever demanding more from us while putting fewer resources in. Our morale is damaged. That isn’t good for education.”
Nursery teacher Dawn was picketing in Cambridge. “It’s profoundly depressing to have to follow the will of someone who doesn’t know what he’s talking about,” she said.
“There needs to be more national action with no 22-month gaps,” she added.
The size of the turnout on strikers’ marches and rallies showed teachers’ anger and determination to fight.
More than 5,000 teachers and supporters marched through central Birmingham and over 2,000 in Sheffield, waving union flags and chanting, “Gove must go!”
Union leaders have said that if Gove agrees to talks, he could avoid national strikes. But many workers felt that strikes are the only way to stop him.
“I don’t think Gove is someone who negotiates,” said Kris. “Teachers have to keep protesting.”
Amy agreed. “Gove is quite a stubborn man,” she said. “This probably won’t be my last strike.”
Carry the fight forward
The unions have called a further day of regional strikes on 17 October. This will see walkouts across London, the North East, South East and South West of England.
Union leaders have also pledged a one-day national strike in November. But they still haven’t named a date for the action—and teachers want to know that their union leaders have a serious strategy to win.
Paul McGarr is a teacher and NUT member in east London. He told Socialist Worker, “It would be much better if the date for a national strike had already been announced as it would make it easier to build the October strikes.
“Members want to know that this time there is a serious plan to carry the fight to Gove with the aim of winning.”
Teachers in Hackney, east London, have launched a petition calling on union leaders to name the date for a national strike as soon as possible.