Socialist Worker

National strikes need to be a part of the fight against the Tory attacks on education

by Sadie Robinson
Issue No. 2549

A protest as part of the England-wide teachers strikes in July 2016

A protest as part of the England-wide teachers strikes in July 2016 (Pic: Socialist Worker)


The education funding cuts are a national attack and require a national response.

The scale of anger against them means there is real potential to build successful strikes in schools that would win wider support.

NUT general secretary Kevin Courtney held a press conference last week, ahead of the union’s annual conference in Cardiff this weekend.

He said, “National strikes are a possibility. I don’t think that’s where we are immediately.

“National action is not where our planning horizon is at the moment.”

Courtney said that the Trade Union Act means that “barriers to national action are higher”.

Mobilisation

He added, “But the degree of mobilisation among teachers I think is also higher.

“We would have to do an awful lot of work to pass the 50 percent threshold and the 40 percent yes vote thresholds that apply in education.

“But if these cuts carry on, I think it’s not ruled out that we can beat those thresholds and have that sort of industrial action.”

School workers have power that other groups don’t have

It’s true that the Trade Union Act is draconian. But unions shouldn’t simply accept its limitations—and they should defy it.

Courtney said the union hopes to work with parents, other unions and campaign groups. “We’re looking at lobbies of parliament and demonstrations,” he said.

NUT general secretary Kevin Courtney

NUT general secretary Kevin Courtney (Pic: Dave Gilchrist)


He added that NUT members in some schools are already taking action over cuts.

The parent-led resistance is inspirational. And it would be good to see more demonstrations.

But school workers have power that other groups don’t have.

Strikes in schools would seriously escalate the crisis for the Tories—more so if they were national.

This would mean more chance of stopping the cuts.

Paul McGarr is a teacher and NUT rep in east London. “The union must put itself at the heart of the campaigns—and go beyond local actions,” he told Socialist Worker.

“Ideally we want a national strike. But if we don’t have that, we shouldn’t have nothing at all. We should fight for as many teachers as possible taking action together.”

Assault

Jess Edwards is on the NUT’s national executive committee. “This is the most serious assault on schools’ funding in a generation,” she told Socialist Worker.

“The money is there. Corporation tax has been repeatedly cut.

“Getting the government to spend that money in schools won’t happen without a fight.

“We will need more than meetings and lobbying to win.”


Key debates will shape the future of education

Education funding cuts will be a key debate at the NUT union’s conference—but there will be plenty of other important debates too.

Delegates will debate Sats tests on Sunday and there’s a fringe meeting on the campaign against Sats on Saturday.

Delegates should vote to back an amendment on Sats. It commits the union to hold an indicative ballot of all members working in primary schools on their willingness to boycott the tests.

Next Monday conference will debate anti-racism and vote on a motion for affiliation to Stand Up To Racism.

There will also be an important debate on the kind of union we want. We should argue for a union based on building school-based organisation and reps.

There is likely to be a debate on transgender rights on the Monday. Socialist Worker and its supporters back people’s right to self-identify their gender.

A new union, the NEU, will come into existence on 1 September after NUT and ATL union members voted for a merger. There will be discussions throughout conference about how to build a new left in the new union.

Jess Edwards, NUT national executive committee member


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