Schools in England could be hit by strikes in July if teachers vote for action over the education white paper. The NUT union was set to begin a strike ballot next Monday.
Teachers are furious at drastic funding cuts to education and the Tories’ drive to turn schools into academies. Activist after activist has described their local NUT meetings as “the biggest meeting I can remember”.
One of these took place in Halton, Cheshire, last week. Teachers drew up lists of schools without NUT reps and organised to visit them. They plan to leaflet in a number of local town centres and at a Rugby League game.
Around 45 teachers met in Birmingham last week, including many who had never been to a union meeting before.
Paula Champion, an NUT rep in Cambridge, told Socialist Worker what’s at stake. “We can’t provide decent education for children if the funding cuts go through,” she said. “The crisis is such that even head teachers are coming to union meetings and speaking out.”
Simon Murch from the union’s national executive committee (NEC) said, “This will be just the tip of the iceberg if we don’t stand up now and say, enough is enough.”
The government’s retreat on forced academies has caused some confusion. Paula said, “Some people thought it meant we weren’t striking. We’ve got to make it clear that the fight is still on.”
Some people on the union’s NEC may oppose the ballot. It was to meet on Thursday.
The scale of opposition to the Tories means there is a real chance to push them back. The union must grab the opportunity. The dispute is energising new teachers.
Redbridge NUT rep Mike Dance said, “Redbridge isn’t as brilliantly organised as some areas of London.
“We usually have meetings of between ten and 15 people. But last week we had a meeting of 50.
“There were a load of people we haven’t seen before.”
In Sheffield teachers are organising “ballot buddies” in their schools to get the vote out.
Teachers have signed up to ring other teachers in the city.
Mike said many primary school teachers in Redbridge had already met in their schools and begun preparing for the ballot.
“Some are going to hold ballot parties, where everyone gets together and fills in their ballot,” he said. “It’s a more collective approach.”
Mike said attention to detail will be key. “We have a committee of people in different departments,” he said. “We will meet up, go through our lists and make sure everyone has voted.”
Paula added that teachers should build on the wider anger over the Tories’ education attacks.
“The funding issue is central,” she said. “But the Tories’ crisis goes much wider than that,” she said. “They have lost the confidence of parents and teachers.”