Teachers called yesterday for strike action against schools planning to convert to academies.
Delegates at the National Union of Teachers' annual conference in Torquay overwhelmingly backed a motion calling on teachers in every school planning to become an academy to be sounded out over whether they would be prepared to strike.
In addition, they urged the NUT to ask teachers in neighbouring schools to support striking staff, and to investigate whether it would be possible to back council-wide action if a school decided to become an academy – on the grounds that the local authority would lose government funding.
Steve White, an NUT member teacher from Waltham Forest, east London, who proposed the idea, said that even if strikes did not go ahead it would heap pressure on schools planning to become academies and free schools to drop their proposals.
Doug Morgan, from Birmingham, said the Education Secretary, Michael Gove, was not promoting academies because "he cares about our kids". "He couldn't give a t*** about our kids," he added. "This is simply about privatising education."
Under the academies programme, every school that converts has the freedom to run its own affairs along private school lines, and to opt out of the national curriculum and national pay scales for teachers.
Currently, just over half of the secondary schools in England have either become academies or will do so by September, as have 900 primary schools. Free schools, of which there are currently 24 – run by parents', teacher or faith groups – have similar freedoms.
Yesterday it emerged that teachers at Downhills Primary in Haringey, north London, which is being forced into academy status despite opposition from parents and staff, are planning strike action. Mr Gove has labelled his opponents "Trotskyists" and "enemies of promise".
The NUT vote on academies came after teachers backed strike action over the Government's plan to scrap national pay scales for teachers. Mr Gove has ordered the profession's pay review to draw up a report on linking pay to local market rates. This is seen by teachers as an attempt to pay less to those working in poorer parts of England.
The Department for Education has warned teachers that it is "far too early" to consider strike action over pay. On academies, it added: "Schools are queuing around the block to become academies – with the majority of secondaries now converted or in the process, and almost 1,800 open voluntarily, an eightfold increase is under two years."