Teachers in some English schools could strike in the summer term in response to Tory funding cuts. Delegates at the NUT union’s annual conference in Cardiff unanimously voted for the plan last weekend (see below).
London delegates voted to call a regional demonstration in the capital on Saturday 24 June. Teachers from the South West region will march on the same day in Bristol. These may be moved forward after Theresa May called a general election on 8 June.
Delegates also instructed the union to call a national demonstration.
General secretary Kevin Courtney said the London protest has potential to bring “hundreds of thousands of people” onto the streets.
The cuts will steal £3 billion from schools in England every year by 2020. But they have generated enormous opposition.
Margaret, secretary of Ipswich NUT association, told Socialist Worker, “I think we’re in a fantastic position to beat the cuts. We’re making alliances we’ve never seen before with head teachers and councillors”.
Alex Kenny is on the NUT’s national executive committee. “We think the campaign is really strong,” he told Socialist Worker. “It is putting the government under pressure.” Alex added that union members plan to talk to head teachers about putting on coaches to bring parents to the protest.
He added, “We’ll also look at possible strikes in different areas. It is possible to have strikes next term.”
The Tories are likely to have to retreat over aspects of their cuts. But they will try and push through slightly different attacks instead. A strong campaign including strikes can make it harder for them to get away with that.
It will take hard work to achieve the potential high turnout on the London demonstration. And more NUT regions should call their own demonstrations.
Some teachers worry that strikes could threaten the coalition that is developing against the cuts because people won’t back them. They fear there isn’t enough awareness about the cuts.
But there’s evidence that this isn’t true. Parents have organised meetings and protests of hundreds of people in towns and cities across England. People new to political activity are setting up and running campaigns.
At one anti-cuts meeting in Hackney east London last month, parents were asked if they would back a teachers’ strike. Every parent said they would.
Lesley, a NUT member in Nottingham, said she backed strikes to stop cuts. “I think there’s a lot more public support over this than if we struck over pay or pensions,” she added.
“And the campaign has got into the media—a lot of people know about it.”
Teachers are now organising to make the strikes a reality—and get as big a coordinated walkout as possible.
How union activists can win support for walkouts
NUT delegates agreed that the union must “take immediate steps to identify regions where national strike action could be called”.
They instructed the union to “call a one-day strike in those regions before the end of the 2016/17 academic year”.
Ealing in west London could be one of those regions. Teachers there are fighting to get agreements over workload in several schools.
Stefan Simms is on the union’s national executive committee and a NUT rep in Ealing. He told Socialist Worker, “We had a reps’ training session a few weeks ago—40 reps attended.
“I put it to them that we should go back to our schools and get strikes over cuts, because this will impact on workload. They voted unanimously to do that.”
Teachers in schools that don’t reach any agreement over workload could strike in June or July. The NUT has an existing strike ballot that will expire in August and so will not have to hold new ballots to strike in the summer term.
Union leaders are likely to consult divisional secretaries about the possibilities for strikes in their areas. It’s critical that ordinary teachers organise to get their voices heard.
Paul McGarr is an NUT rep in east London. He told Socialist Worker, “Most associations will meet at the start of May. We should build those meetings to be as big as possible and go beyond the usual suspects.
“At those meetings teachers can vote to say we want the union to call us out on strike in June or July over cuts.”
Teaching assistants from Derby and Durham spoke at a fringe meeting at the conference and urged teachers to strike.
Several unions had planned a lobby of parliament over the cuts on 6 June. But this was called off after Theresa May called a general election - meaning parliament will be closed on the day.