But Gove's attempts to bully Heads into strike-breaking on June 30th will backfire. NUT and ATL teachers have already shown in their overwhelming majorities for strike action that, this time, we are going to stand up for ourselves - and the NAHT Heads Union (having already, if too briefly, made a stand on SATs last year) has also made clear that it will join teachers in its own ballot for strike action to defend pensions.
Gove's strike-breaking instructions to Local Authority leaders include reminding schools that "there are no maximum general pupil-teacher ratios set out in law; with the exception of the infant class size limit" and that "schools should deploy all available staff and consider the full range of local resources available to them, both from within the school staff and the wider school community to ensure that wherever possible they remain open".
In other words, "Stick anyone you can in front of classes on June 30, no matter how large and unsafe the class sizes, to help me break a strike so that we can rob teachers of their pensions"
But as Christine Blower has rightly reminded Mr Gove: ‘It is a legal duty for key managers in schools to ensure the health and safety of their pupils. If there is insufficient teaching staff to run the school effectively and safely then the head should consider closure very seriously. Head teachers need to bear in mind that staff members of other TUC affiliated unions do not have to take on the work of those teachers who have taken strike action. Furthermore, it is unlawful for schools to employ agency staff to undertake work that would have been done by teachers striking.’
Regrettably, a few Heads are putting undue pressure on cover supervisors and support staff to cover for striking colleagues. The best way to protect staff will be for UNISON and GMB - and the NASUWT - to ballot as well so that ALL school staff can be on strike together next time.
However, as is clear from the reports of school closures on June 30 coming in from across the country, most Heads are ignoring any instructions to undermine teachers' strike action. I hope that Gove's attacks will only strengthen their resolve to stand firm on pensions - just like Danny Alexander's threats last week helped to spur the NAHT into calling their strike ballot in the first place.