Socialist Worker

Over 40 percent back escalating action at NUT conference

by Sadie Robinson in Harrogate
Issue No. 2448

Delegates backing the motion on workloads

Delegates backing the motion on workloads (Pic: Socialist Worker )


Over 40 percent of conference backed an amendment calling for an "escalating campaign of national strike action" over workload and putting a timetable for action.

This was despite some on the left in the union, including national executive committee (NEC) members, arguing against it.

The amendment called for a 24-hour national strike in October, followed by two further days in November.

Mandy Hudson, who represents disabled people on the NEC, spoke to Socialist Worker in a personal capacity. "I'm disappointed we didn't vote for the strike over workload," she said.

"We hear all the rhetoric celebrating the Chicago teachers - but they had an all-out strike.

"It's true that it's difficult to gauge the enthusiasm for strikes across the union. I just think anything else will get us anywhere."

Some in the union argue that previous strikes were "uneven" and more walkouts should be delayed while more "preparation" is done.

Swindon NUT member Pete Smith disagreed. "I'm in one of those areas that weren't as strong as they could have been," he told Socialist Worker. "But that wasn't inevitable. When you have one day of strike and then wait around for months, it can lose momentum."

Conference passed an amended motion instructing the leadership to "prepare and ballot for a national campaign of strike and non-strike action if no progress is made in talks with the new government".

It said this should ideally be with other unions. But Graham White from the NEC told delegates, "We must be prepared to go alone if that's what it takes."

Facing 

Delegate after delegate told Socialist Worker that workload is the key issue facing teachers. Hertfordshire primary school teacher Katy said, "The work-life balance is the hardest thing about teaching. Most nights you are taking work home and things have got worse."

Surrey teacher Joshua Onduso said, "So many teachers are stressed out. And the Tories are making a lot of cuts. I would support more strikes to stop cuts."

Rose Holden from Lancashire told Socialist Worker, "The problem in schools is the 60-hour week and the 12-hour shifts. I'm on holiday for easter but I'll be going into work.

"During the last few strikes my school's been shut as people have come out. I would support more strikes."

Rose echoed a widespread view that teachers should be left to get on with teaching. "It's time teachers got back to being the autonomous professionals that they are," she said.

Retired teacher Frances agreed. "Teachers used to have a lot more autonomy and opportunity to be creative. But if everything is focused on tests that spirit will go.

"I think we can make a difference if we shout loud enough. As others at this conference have said, there are more of us than there are of them."


Teachers are determined to fight 'Germ' privatisation drive 

Teachers pledged to organise against a vicious attack on education known as “Germ”. The Global Education Reform Movement (Germ) aims to open up schools worldwide to privatisation and profit-making—and worsen children's education.

Jon Reddiford from North Somerset described proponents of Germ as a "thoroughly disgusting grouping of people who've got a very different vision of education to what we have".

Private firms produce lesson plans and standardised tests for use in schools. The results can be used to sack teachers and close schools.

"It's a vision of education that sees children as products to be processed," said Jon.

Laura Chisholm from Portsmouth said that Germ "threatens out education system. We must be the immune system."

Several denounced the Tory lie that privatisation is about giving parents "choice". Dennis Charman from Hammersmith and Fulham, west London, summed up the reality as, "You can have any autonomy you like as long as it's the autonomy the government says you can have."

Teachers passed a motion calling on union leaders to "oppose vigorously both forced and voluntary conversions” to academy status “and the creation of free schools". It committed the union to continuing to work with the Anti Academies Alliance.

Around 100 people attended a fringe meeting on Germ. Delegates described how excessive tests are used to rank teachers and schools—and drive out so-called "failing" teachers.

Teacher Emma Hardy said part of its aim was saving money. “They don't want professionals because professionals are expensive” she said.

Anti Academies Alliance secretary Alasdair Smith said, “Germ is a mechanism for getting profit out of education”.


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