Teachers have declared war on Tory education secretary Nicky Morgan.
The minister wants to trash state education by forcing every school in England to become a privately-run academy and imposing huge funding cuts across the sector.
At the NUT union’s conference in Brighton last weekend teachers voted overwhelmingly for strikes to stop the plan.
The first walkout is planned for the summer term with further walkouts in the autumn.
Alex Kenny from the executive said the ballot would begin “within five weeks of this conference”.
He told Socialist Worker, “Every teacher in every school needs to understand the threat this poses.
“Whether you work in an academy or a state-run school, it affects us all. We need to move quickly.”
Alex spelled out what this means in schools. “Activists should break down schools in their areas into clusters,” he said.
“We need ballot committees to make sure all members are contacted and get to meetings to discuss building the ballot.”
Deputy general secretary Kevin Courtney discussed the ballot and action at a sixth form college fringe meeting. He said, “It won’t just be one day. We will be specifying more days of action.”
The first walkout is expected to take place in the first week of July.
Many teachers are already organising. NUT activists in Islington, north London, have called an emergency mobilising meeting across the borough this week.
Jan Nielsen, a teacher in south London, said, “Some teachers from my school are visiting a junior doctors’ picket line on Wednesday. After that we will discuss how to build our ballot.”
The government faces a fight with two major groups of public sector workers—teachers and junior doctors.
And the Tories are tearing themselves apart over the European Union referendum.
Delegates passed an amendment calling on the union to try and co-ordinate action with the doctors’ BMA organisation. Sue Caldwell, a teacher in east London, said teachers “should invite junior doctors to our union meetings to speak to teachers”.
Audrey Glover, president of Morecambe and Lancaster NUT, agreed. She argued that teachers should help organise “meet the doctors and teachers” events, echoing what junior doctors have already done to put their case forward.
The NUT plans to call a national demonstration in London in the next couple of months. And the Anti Academies Alliance has called a parents’ meeting in London for 23 April. Some 70 parents registered in two days.
There is huge potential to build a mass, broad-based campaign to defend state education. Paul McGarr, an NUT rep in east London, told Socialist Worker, “We need a sense of urgency. This isn’t business as usual.
“We need some audacity—don’t wait, take the initiative.”
‘Withdraw Prevent strategy’, delegates tell government
a motion calling on the government to “withdraw the Prevent strategy” was unanimously passed by NUT members.
Prevent targets Muslims as potential terrorists and instructs teachers and others to report evidence of “radicalisation” and “extremism”.
Children as young as four have been referred under the strategy.
Alex Kenny from the executive said, “The NUT believes 100 percent that teachers have a duty to keep children safe.” He said Prevent makes that harder as it makes open discussion in schools “more difficult”.
Paul McGarr from east London said Prevent means that “some students don’t dare express an opinion.”
Lisa Tunnell from Chesterfield said students and teachers were “afraid to express opinions for fear of being reported to police”. She said the government is promoting “Islamophobia”.
Gary Kaye from North Yorkshire said training on Prevent “often involves lazy stereotypes”.
He added that there is a “lack of transparency over what happens with names and information once they are logged”.
The motion instructed the executive to encourage members to “take collective steps to challenge and improve policies and reporting/curriculum practices” relating to Prevent.
It noted lawyer David Anderson QC’s conclusion that Prevent risked “alienating” people.
An amendment called on the government to urgently conduct an independent review of Prevent.
Delegates unanimously backed an amendment condemning the idea that schools could be penalised if staff or students wear the veil.
Zamar Khan from Wakefield said the union must “protect our female membership and students from the veiled agenda of this government”.
Cancel the Sats this year
The NUT has called on the government to cancel this year’s Sats tests in primary schools.
Delegates called on the executive to seek support from other unions to “campaign to cancel arrangements for 2016 primary assessment”.
The motion attacked new assessments that will label many children as “failures” at an early age, increase stress for children and push up teachers’ workload.
Amanda Martin from the executive said tests had led to some children self-harming or making themselves sick to avoid school.
An amendment passed instructed the executive to call on head teachers and schools not to participate in baseline tests for four year olds.
The amendment said the union should actively explore “consideration of a ballot for boycott” of baseline and primary tests “at the most appropriate time”.
Support for victimised rep Simon O'Hara
Small Heath school bosses in Birmingham suspended Simon in January after he helped lead several strikes against the school becoming an academy.
Delegates at the conference showed their support for victimised union rep Simon O’Hara.
Teachers at a fringe meeting on Friday evening gave Simon a standing ovation.
Simon also met Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn at the conference to explain his case.
NUT members at Small Heath met on Wednesday of last week and were committed to taking further action.
Teachers will discuss their next moves when they return from the Easter break.
If workers take more action they can push bosses back—and send a message that union rights can be defended.