The National Union of Teachers (NUT) was set to announce a national strike this week as Tory education secretary Michael Gove went on the offensive.
Gove’s “education week” is aimed at promoting the government’s schools policies. They include imposing tests on four year olds, privatising more schools and inflicting stricter punishments on children.
At the heart of Gove’s “reforms” is the idea that teachers are to blame for problems in schools.
Gove hopes that if people accept this it will help him get away with attacks on teachers’ pay, pensions and conditions.
Teachers in the NUT and NASUWT unions are in dispute over these attacks. But many of them are furious with everything Gove is doing and see the fight as being part of defending education.
The NUT national executive committee met on Thursday of last week. It unanimously agreed a strike date and promised that it would be published on Friday of this week.
This follows three successful and popular regional strikes last year along with the NASUWT union.
NUT deputy general secretary Kevin Courtney spoke to London union reps last week.
“We will be declaring national strike action,” he said. “There is still a chance that we’ll be declaring a joint strike with the NASUWT. But we have to be ready to take action on our own.
“It will be challenging taking action on our own, but we can’t avoid the challenge. If we don’t take the action now, it will look like we are incredibly weak.”
Teachers will be relieved that their union is planning a national strike against Gove’s attacks.
But many reps at the London meeting expressed frustration at union leaders’ delays in calling the action.
And they stressed that teachers will want to know that the strike is part of a serious campaign of action that can win.
As one rep from Haringey in north London put it, “We need national action to build members’ confidence.
“Of course it would be better to have joint action between the NUT and NASUWT.
“But worse than that is having no action at all. So yes, call the action—but make clear that it’s not just a token one-day strike.”
Another rep from west London added, “We need to name more dates so that members know this is a genuine campaign.”
Union leaders postponed a planned national strike last year saying that Gove promised talks. No serious talks materialised.
Yet for all the delays in calling action, teachers remain determined to fight. They need to prepare now to make any strikes as big and powerful as possible.
A serious campaign of national strikes has the power to force Gove back—and inflict a major defeat on the Tories.