Socialist Worker

Teachers vote for strikes against forced academies and cuts

by Sadie Robinson at the NUT conference in Brighton
Issue No. 2496

 Delegates vote yes for strikes to defy the Tories academy plans

Delegates vote yes for strikes to defy the Tories' academy plans (Pic: Socialist Wroker)

Teachers have voted overwhelmingly for strikes against the impact of forced academies and funding cuts today, Saturday.

Delegates at the NUT union's annual conference in Brighton also instructed the union's executive to ensure the first walkout takes place next term.

The Tories plan to turn every school into an academy, scrap parent governors and get rid of qualified teacher status in schools. The attack is the key issue for delegates at the conference.

Hazel Danson from the executive told conference it would "put a wrecking ball through state education".

Delegates passed a motion calling the plan "hugely expensive and unnecessary" ultimately aimed at "privatisation".

The motion said forced academies and funding cuts threatened "jobs, pay and non-pay terms".

It instructed the union's executive to approach other unions to "seek agreement on a common plan for a ballot for discontinuous strike and non-strike action".

It instructed the executive to present a timetable "to begin with a one-day strike before the end of summer term".

An amendment passed stressed that the NUT should "enact this timetable and action with any union willing to join us in the summer term, but otherwise to enact it ourselves - and then seek to coordinate further strikes in the autumn term."

Alex Kenny from the executive moved the amendment. He told delegates that the union needs to move quickly because the scale of opposition means "we might be able to force [education secretary] Nicky Morgan back."  He added that some think the attacks are a "done deal". "We have to send a signal that we don't accept that. We are prepared to fight." 
Debs Gwynn from Halton seconded the amendment. She said, "This is a serious attack and we need a serious response. It's right that we act now. We cannot afford to wait."

Delegates from across the country told Socialist Worker they are furious at the forced academies threat - and willing to fight. Jenny, who teaches in the north west of England, said the plan is "Crap with a capital C". She added, "I'm not happy. The academies in my area are the lowest performing schools."

Katy works in an academy in Devon. "I recently had to buy my own felt tips - yet they've got new TVs in the school," she said. "They aren't getting the basics right. I don't know who my governors are anymore. It's much more cloak and dagger with academies."

Helena from Leicestershire said the plan would mean "disaster". "I will definitely support strikes over this," she added. "All my friends are going down with stress. I had a breakdown.

"But I think the Tories have made a big mistake because now everybody's talking about it."

Dave from Luton also stressed the potential to build a broad campaign to win. "It is possible to stop this," he said. "In Luton we had Lib Dem and Labour councillors come out and support our protest over forced academies last week.

"Tory councillors have come out against it. There is a lot of political momentum around this."

Teachers know that academies are a drain on resources - and that there's a nasty profiteering agenda behind them. Hilary from the north east of England said, "Fat cats in academies get a load of money, but that should be spent on children.

"This will take money away from where it's needed. In a meeting of local NUT reps all were in favour of strikes."

Sue from Bath added, "I work in an academy and we're being told we can't survive alone. We're being pushed to become part of a bigger chain.

"But some of the big chains aren't getting good results. People are being misled. I think the long term plan with this is for schools to make profit."

Alex Kenny told delegates that winning a strong result in the ballot is a "serious task". "Within five weeks of this conference we will be starting that ballot," he said.

"This will require incredible effort and energy. I'm convinced that we can do it."

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