Teachers vote for summer strike as they chant 'Gove must go'
Delegates at the NUT's annual conference in Brighton voted for national strike action in June
Richard Garner has been Education Editor of The Independent for 12 years and writing about the subject for 34 years. Before becoming a journalist, he worked as a disc jockey in London pubs and clubs and for a hospital radio station. His main hobbies are cricket (watching these days) and theatre. On his days off, he is most likelt to be found at Lord’s or the King’s Head Theatre Club.
Monday 21 April 2014
Hundreds of teachers stood chanting “Gove must go” as their union forged ahead with plans for classroom disruption this summer as a result of national strike action.
Delegates at the National Union of Teachers' (NUT) annual conference in Brighton voted overwhelmingly for a motion threatening a national teachers' strike in the week beginning 23 June - followed by the drawing up of plans for further strikes in the autumn term.
They then went on to warn of strikes in sixth-form colleges where jobs are being threatened because of cuts in funding at a time when the Government is proposing to spend £45 million on a new selective free school for sixth-formers in Westminster - as revealed by The Independent.
Anne Lemon, from North Somerset, told the conference: “We must stand up for an education system that our students deserve.”
She added: “The motion does not exclude us from taking strike action with other unions (in addition to a one-day walkout). If that means more than one day, there is nothing to preclude that in this motion - 400,000 nurses on the streets and 300,000 teachers, that's a very clear indication to the Government of the strength of feeling.”
The union is jointly engaged in a campaign of industrial action with the National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers (NASUWT) over Mr Gove's plans to introduce more performance related pay for teachers, increase their pension contributions and encourage schools to open for longer hours - from 8am to 6pm - to provide more after school clubs. The NASUWT at its conference on Sunday refused to rule out further national strike action - although failed to set a date for it.
Christine Blower, general secretary of the NUT, demanded Mr Gove attend talks with the unions over the dispute after Easter and address the unions' concerns.
“If the strike happens, it will be Mr Gove's fault,” she said.
“Teachers' morale is at a dangerously low ebb. Changes to pay, conditions and a working week for teachers of 60 hours are driving many teachers out of the classroom.”
Last time the NUT went on strike in March at least 3,000 schools closed for the day and a further 9,000 were partially shut.
Delegates went on to back unanimously a call for strikes in sixth-form colleges facing cuts in spending - as the Government's pledge to maintain education spending only covers five to 16-year-olds.
NUT representative Philippe Harari,, from Cambridge, said the cuts meant larger classes and some subjects like law, modern languages and history no longer being offered as A-level options in some areas.
In addition to the cuts in funding, the sixth-form colleges were also having to pay VAT on goods and services - unlike academies and private schools which were exempt. “This is a systematic ideological assault on the sixth-form sector,” he said.
Jerry Glazier, for the union's executive, accused Mr Gove of acting with “disdain” by cutting funding for sixth-form colleges “and then splurging £45 million on a single selective free school in Westminster”.
Delegates backed a call for a national campaign against the new free school - which is jointly sponsored by Westminster independent school and the Harris Foundation academy chain and will take in 500 of the country's brightest pupils from poorer backgrounds.
Patricia Hartley, from Islington, said the campaign would include a national lobby against the school attended by representatives of sixth-form colleges throughout the country.
“We should stand up for sixth-form college education for all working class students - not just all those with three A's who can go on to Oxford or Cambridge,” she added.
A spokeswoman for the Department for Education condemned strike action - saying it would only “damage the profession”.
Ministers, she said, had been meeting with teachers' unions and would continue to do so. Strikes would only disrupt children's education.
Mr Gove has praised the new Westminster free school, saying it will give a “fantastic opportunity” to disadvantaged young people - giving them the option of an education previously only reserved for the better off.
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