Teachers will take part in an England-wide school strike next Tuesday over the impact of Tory policies and funding cuts.
NUT union members voted by 92 percent for the action on a 25 percent turnout.
They want more funding for schools and guaranteed protection for teachers’ pay and conditions. But underlying the action is fury at the Tories’ attacks on education and their impact on children.
Doug Morgan is assistant secretary of Birmingham NUT. He said, “The magnificent result shows the strength of feeling among teachers. We are not going to be bullied by the government and are committed to standing up for education.”
Fleur Patten, an NUT member in Cambridgeshire, said, “The law means we ballot over pay and conditions.
“But our working conditions are students’ learning conditions. We have to get across that this is about education.”
Tory cuts could slash more than 20 percent from the education budget in some London boroughs. And the Tories remain committed to pushing schools to become privately-run academies.
Jess Edwards is a primary school teacher and member of the NUT’s national executive committee in London. She said, “The government agenda of austerity and privatisation threatens to destroy our schools.
“We are striking because schools budgets are being cut by a minimum of 13 percent and our kids are not worth 13 percent less than last year.
“We want national terms and conditions for teachers in all schools. This government is weak and divided. We can win if we fight back.”
Leeds NUT rep Kauser Jan explained what the attacks meant for children. “Class sizes are increasing and the curriculum is narrowing,” she said. “It’s just testing after testing.
“If teachers don’t stand up we will be steamrollered.”
Teachers also stressed the need to use the strike to speak to more teachers about the dispute.
Some said education secretary Nicky Morgan’s announcement of a retreat on forced academisation earlier this year wrongfooted some people.
Fleur said, “When I was campaigning on the streets, there were people who felt Morgan had backed off.
“We need to make sure members understand that this isn’t true, especially in schools without reps.”
Doug agreed. “We have to think about how we can get into more schools in the run-up to the strike,” he said. “We need as many people on the streets and on picket lines as possible.”
The Tory attacks have sparked widespread anger and resistance. More parents got involved with anti-academy campaigning.
The strike can win a high level of support—and parents and others can join regional rallies on the day.
NUT members in sixth forms weren’t balloted for action this time, but they hope to join future strikes. And they are organising to support those on strike this time around.
Jean Evanson is an NUT rep at Shrewsbury Sixth Form and Shropshire NUT divisional secretary. “We plan to wear the NUT green T-shirts on the strike day,” she said.
The government crisis after the European Union referendum means the strike has an even better chance of winning. And it provides a uniting focus, however people voted, to shape a positive outcome to the crisis.
Unison union members in schools could also join future strikes. Unison’s local government conference voted to declare “a legal dispute and lawful national action and coordinated strikes in the autumn term”.
The NUT previously said a summer strike would be just the start of a battle to drive the Tories back. The notes for members about the 5 July strike says, “We will be announcing at least two further dates for strikes in the autumn term.”
An escalating programme would be a big blow for the Tories—and teachers want a fightback that can win. Fleur said, “Members are realistic, they know it will take more than one day. People are ready to be out again.”
Kauser added, “Armchair activists will not change a thing—you have to show you mean business.”
Workloads walkout in east London
Teachers at an east London school struck on Tuesday over workloads. Bosses at Connaught School for Girls want them to work an extra 90 minutes a week.
NUT union members joined picket lines on the strike day.
Paul Phillips is a NUT rep at the school. He told Socialist Worker, “We had a good turnout of pickets and the school was closed. We had supporters on the picket line too.”
Paul said workload problems were “not just specific to our school”.
“This is a national problem as austerity and funding cuts kick in,” he said.
Paul added that an England-wide NUT strike next week (see above) is “an opportunity to stand up for children”.
“This is not just about our conditions,” he said.