The Tories are in crisis over education. Schools minister Nick Gibb cancelled a Sats test for seven year olds last week because it had been published on the Department for Education’s website.
The fiasco follows the scrapping of baseline tests for four year olds.
And Tory MPs are demanding that a plan to force every school in England to become an academy is removed from the education white paper.
People are furious at the attack.
The NUT union plans to ballot teachers next month for strikes over the impact of forced academies and funding cuts.
A series of big teachers’ meetings reflects the anger among workers—and the determination to resist.
Sara Tomlinson is a NUT member in Lambeth, south London. She told Socialist Worker, “We had 87 people at our union meeting last week—we usually have 20 or 25.
“Lots of people were volunteering to be reps. And lots had already had school meetings to discuss the ballot.”
In Ealing, west London, 105 teachers met last week. NUT divisional secretary Stefan Simms told Socialist Worker, “Normally our union meetings have around 20 people at them. We got so many people this time by phoning members and talking to them about the issues.
“Lots of teachers volunteered to ring people, to go and speak in other schools and to do street stalls. There are 22 school meetings set up so far across Ealing.”
In Lancaster workers ran a “meet the teachers and junior doctors” stall last Saturday for the third week running.
Audrey Glover is president of Lancaster and Morecambe NUT. She told Socialist Worker, “A lot of parents stopped to give contact details.
“People were really angry about forced academies and testing. There was a buzz about people wanting to get organised and work together.”
A recent union meeting in the district drew 62 people, compared to the usual ten.
And many parents in Lancaster, and across the country, plan to keep their children off school on 3 May as a “student strike” against Sats tests.
The Tories are on the rocks over their education attacks and there is real potential to beat them.
NUT deputy general secretary Kevin Courtney told Socialist Worker that teachers must fight even if the government retreats on some parts of its assault.
“The government may have to drop forced academies,” he said. “But even if they do, their direction of travel is very clear.
“They want more academies and they are attacking local authority funding. It’s absolutely right to press the point now.
“There is profound anger among teachers and I think it will lead to a strong ballot result.”
A win in education could encourage other groups to resist.
Anti-union law can still fail
Teachers could be the first group of workers to have their right to strike challenged by the Tories’ new anti-union laws.
The Trade Union Bill was set to return to parliament on Wednesday. Whatever divisions may exist among Tories they are very unlikely to pass up a chance to attack trade unions.
While the bill’s passage through the Lords has changed it, it is still a ruthless attempt by the Tories to stop struggle against their assault on our services.
The TUC says the bill took a “battering” in the Lords—and we can celebrate the concessions made.
But union leaders’ focus on changing the minds of some Tories has been the wrong approach.
The bill could have been defeated through mass workers’ action—and it must be defied and made unworkable if it passes.
But we can’t wait for a lead from the top.