Socialist Worker

Teachers' walkout is a fight for education - and against hated Michael Gove

Anger at the pressure Michael Gove piles on children is driving regional school strikes, says Sadie Robinson

Issue No. 2375

Teachers rallied in Norwich as part of a regional strike earlier this month

Teachers rallied in Norwich as part of a regional strike earlier this month (Pic: Helen McGuinness)


Teachers across large parts of England were set to strike on Thursday of this week. 

NUT and NASUWT union members were set to walk out in the London, North East, South East and South West regions. Large rallies are planned in many areas.

It’s the third regional strike in a campaign to defend teachers’ pay, pensions and conditions—and to stop Tory Michael Gove’s attacks on education.

Amy Murch is a primary school teacher who struck in Sheffield earlier this month. She told Socialist Worker, “We struck under the banner of pay, pensions and conditions but it runs much deeper than that. 

“It is about the children that we work with. It is about the government saying it’s ok for five year olds to be told that they’ve failed.”

Wendy Luttrell, an NUT rep in Greenwich, south London, agreed. “I love the children I teach,” she said. “They make me want to get up in the morning.

That’s why I will be striking—to protect their futures.”

Anger at Gove is making many teachers more determined to fight. Teachers report that their colleagues are joining the unions so they can take part in the action.

Nick Grant, a member of the NUT’s national executive committee, said, “Many branch secretaries are reporting deeper support than ever for the strikes.”

Kevin Courtney is deputy general secretary of the NUT. He told Socialist Worker, “Teachers are more angry with Gove than they have ever been with another minister in my political lifetime.

Profit

“The deregulation of pay and conditions is a big step along the way to private companies running schools for profit.

“The Tories can be beaten. If Gove doesn’t change course there is a very wide determination to take more action.”

Previous walkouts won widespread support. Teachers struck in the Midlands, Yorkshire and Eastern regions on 1 October.

Amy said the strike made her feel “empowered”. “The build-up to this strike showed that the public do support us,” she said.

“We need to build on this positive momentum. I urge the unions to announce our date for national action in November.”

Union leaders have said they would call a national stike before Christmas, but have yet to say when. 

They should name the day now. And action shouldn’t be derailed by any promises of “talks” from Gove.

“Our union leaders have tried to talk to the government about what they are doing to us and the education system,” said Amy. “Enough is enough.”

NUT members in Hackney, east London, have started a petition to get the national strike called, available to download at bit.ly/18KvfTD

Teachers have shown time and time again that they are prepared to fight. They must keep the pressure on union leaders to call the kind of action that can beat Gove.

As Wendy put it, “I am willing to do whatever it takes to protect the futures of the amazing children that inspire me each and every day.

“Unity is strength. Together we can win.”


A shameful U-turn by Labour on free schools

Labour shadow education secretary Tristram Hunt has disgracefully said that free schools would continue under a Labour government.

Tory education secretary Michael Gove brought in free schools. Like Labour’s academies, they let businesses get their claws into the education system.

They hand huge amounts of public money to individuals or groups who then run schools outside local authority control.

Hunt claimed that allowing unaccountable groups to control schools is about “enterprise and innovation”.

Like the Tories, he has tried to justify his position by pointing to the shortage of school places. But many free schools open in areas where there is a surplus.


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