Socialist Worker

Teachers' strikes can beat hated Tory Michael Gove's attacks

Tory education secretary Michael Gove is weak. The first national teachers’ strike since 2011 is a chance to turn the tide on him, writes Sadie Robinson

Issue No. 2396

Teachers marching in central London against Michael Gove

Teachers marching in central London against Michael Gove (Pic: Socialist Worker)


Teachers across England and Wales were set to strike on Wednesday of this week to defend their pay, pensions and conditions.

The action can be the start of turning the tide against hated Tory education secretary Michael Gove.

Gove wants to bring in performance-related pay for teachers. Pension changes mean teachers pay more, work longer and get less when they retire. 

For many teachers, already struggling with unmanageable workloads, the idea of working until they are 68 is terrifying.

Tim Hodge is secretary of the NUT in Devon. He said, “Teacher workload is unsustainable and morale is at dangerously low levels. 

“Children need teachers who are fresh and well-motivated, not tired and demoralised.”

And Gove’s reforms leave children with a worse education.

Sue teaches in Manchester. She told Socialist Worker, “I’m going on strike because Gove is destroying the education of our kids. Also I have no home life—I work all week and most of the weekend.

“We can’t go on like this. We need to get the Tories out.”

The Tories say strikes are unpopular. In reality many working class people want to see the Tories beaten and don’t oppose strikes.

As Plymouth parent Martin Freeman put it, “I’ve got no problem with teachers going on strike. They have that right.”

The strike follows a series of successful regional walkouts alongside the NASUWT union. The NASUWT has now retreated from strikes.

Some in the unions want to focus on electing Labour to get change instead of striking against the Tories. 

But shadow education secretary Tristram Hunt backs many of the attacks, such as performance-related pay.

Permanent

Nick Grant is a member of the NUT’s national executive committee (NEC). He told Socialist Worker, “Gove has no friends left. We need to take action while he is weak—and before he does permanent damage to children’s education.”

Gove claimed that fewer schools would be fully closed than during previous strikes because the NASUWT is not involved.

But Nick said, “Some schools will be open to sixth formers. But most people will stay at home.”

And the absence of the NASUWT hasn’t dampened the mood to fight.

Debs Gwynn is equalities officer at St Helens NUT and is standing in upcoming NEC elections. 

She told Socialist Worker, “Across the north west we’ve had more requests for picket line materials than we’ve had in the past. I think people are up for the fight. 

“The fact that the NASUWT isn’t out is making people even more determined to make the strike a success.”

Some mainstream newspapers have claimed that teachers are suffering “strike fatigue”. Yet the last national teachers’ strike was in November 2011.

Chris Denson, a teacher in Coventry, said the long gap was “absolute madness”. 

Many teachers agree that the union should use the momentum from this week’s walkout to escalate the action.

“People have said that one day isn’t enough,” said Debs. “Some teachers want to see a series of strikes called after 26 March.” 

Chris said, “We need a minimum of two days out next term, then we need to escalate.” The NUT’s annual conference next month will discuss the next steps. 

Teachers have a chance to beat one of the most hated Tories in the cabinet—and weaken the Tory assault on workers as a whole. 

They must grab it.

Let us know how your picket lines, protests and rallies go on the strike day - email reports@socialistworker.co.uk

PCS members at Ofqual to strike on same day

Exam regulators at Ofqual’s headquarters in Coventry are set to walk out on Wednesday of this week. 

The PCS union members are in a dispute to get sacked union rep Sofia Azam reinstated.


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