By Paul McGarr, east London
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NUT conference – union must fight now to stop Tory attacks on education

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Issue 2597
School workers have shown they are willing to fight now - such as NEU union members in Brent who fought academies
School workers have shown they are willing to fight now – such as NEU union members in Brent who fought academies (Pic: Guy Smallman)

The final annual conference of the National Union of Teachers takes place in Brighton over Easter weekend.

It does so as the union is merging with the ATL to form the National Education Union.

There is a developing crisis in education. Funding cuts, and a new funding formula which will hit schools in deprived urban areas hardest, are beginning to bite.

Unless reversed, the result will be staff cuts, larger class sizes, poorer education and less support for the most vulnerable students.

Teacher workload is still at crisis point. And after eight years of below-inflation pay awards, living standards—even by the government’s admission—have been cut by over 10 percent on average.

The government plans not just to keep the hated end of primary Sats test, but plans a baseline test for four year olds as well. And schools minister Nick Gibb wants more tests in early secondary school too.

Gibb and others in government, backed by giant edu-business corporations, want to destroy any notion of a child-centred education.

Schools are also being used to push racism, most recently with the Islamophobic attack on students wearing the hijab by Ofsted boss Amanda Spielman.


Almost all delegates will back calls for sustained campaigning on all these issues.

Conference is to hear a priority motion opposing the attack on the hijab.

It will also debate a call for a national demonstration on cuts, action on pay, and a major conference on pedagogy and the curriculum.

Most delegates will share the aim of seeing a Corbyn-led Labour government, with its promise of a National Education Service.

But for some, including the union leadership, too often this can mean that good campaigns shy away from a fight to win change now.

This is dangerous. An election could be several years away, and without fights now the Tories will continue to inflict real damage. A lack of open struggle can undermine the prospect of a more radical government being elected.

And passivity can then undermine the basis for ensuring any such government withstands the pressures it will inevitably come under.

That is why Socialist Worker supporters, alongside others, will be arguing at conference for building on the excellent campaigning work the union has done.

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