Turn our schools into academies and we'll strike, teachers warn

Union delegates fear Government's desire to promote academies is 'just about privatisation'

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The Independent Online

Widespread strike action against schools planning to convert to academies was demanded by teachers yesterday.

Delegates at the National Union of Teachers' annual conference in Torquay backed a motion calling on teachers in every school planning to become one of the Education Secretary's flagship academies to be sounded out on whether they would be prepared to go on strike.

In addition, they urged their union to ask teachers in neighbouring schools to support them and to investigate if it would be possible to back council-wide strike action if a school decided to become an academy – on the grounds the council would lose government funding.

Steve White, of Waltham Forest, proposing the move, said that – even if the strikes did not go ahead – it would put pressure on schools planning to become academies and free schools to withdraw proposals. Doug Morgan, of Birmingham, added Education Secretary Michael Gove was not promoting academies because "he cares about our kids... This is about privatising education".

Under the academies programme, every school that converts has the freedom to run its own affairs along private school lines – and opt out of the national curriculum and national pay scales for teachers. Currently just over half the secondary schools in the country have either become academies, or will do so by September, and 900 primary schools. Free schools, of which there are 24 in the country run by parents', teachers or faith groups, have similar freedoms.

Yesterday it was revealed teachers at Downhills primary school in Haringey, north London – which is being forced into academy status despite opposition from parents and teachers – are planning strike action. Mr Gove has labelled his opponents "Trotskyists" and "enemies of promise". The academies vote came after teachers earlier voted in favour of strike action over the Government's proposal to scrap national pay scales for teachers.

Education Secretary Michael Gove has ordered the profession's pay review to draw up a report on linking teachers' pay to local market rates – seen by teachers as an attempt to pay those working in poorer parts of the country less.

Tony Dowling, of Gateshead, told the conference: "We need a national strike of the unions to make sure we don't have to put up with this dictatorial government any longer."

The Department for Education has said it is "far too early" to consider strike action over pay. A spokesman said: "These strikes will benefit absolutely no-one – they'll simply damage students' education." He added: "Schools are queuing around the block to become academies with the majority of secondaries now converted or in the process."