I had the opportunity to introduce the opening session on ‘Campaigning for London Teachers’, starting with the importance of building teams of trained and confident school reps in every area – teams ready to build the action we need to defend teachers.
Some of that campaigning and action will be built around local disputes, such as those reported at the London Reps Meeting last week (see http://electmartin1.blogspot.co.uk/2014/01/london-nut-reps-meeting-local-victories.html).
As I stressed from our recent experience in Lewisham, showing your strength over one issue will help make the employer think twice over further attacks. Our successes over pay and appraisal policies, where the threat of six days of co-ordinated strike action in seven schools helped win the changes we were seeking, were then followed by the Council also confirming that they weren’t pressing ahead with the plan to cut 8 weeks half-pay from our maternity provisions either! We are now considering what co-ordinated action we could take across schools over workload using the ongoing ‘action-short-of-strike-action’ instructions.
We have to show the rogue Head, the rogue Academy chain or Local Authority – and that rogue Secretary of State – that they shouldn’t take on the NUT!
In those local struggles, we’ve shown these employers that the NUT are serious – and won gains for our members. But, as yet, we have failed to do that in our national dispute over pay, pensions and conditions.
Despite us telling members that we had won talks, for the last 14 weeks, Gove has refused to meet with us. So how do we show the strength needed to put Gove in the position where he is the one that will have to back down over pay and pensions ? … where he dare not risk acting on whatever the Review Body’s report has recommended on worsening our conditions?
We know what they’d like to try – with a Tory urging last week that children are taught for 45 hours a week, 45 weeks a year. Of course, in our schools, teachers are already working well over 50 hours a week, too many ground down by bullying, observations, Ofsted, threats of capability – and now threats that they won’t get pay progression up the mainscale this summer.
Those conditions mean, as even Michael Wilshaw has confirmed, that 40% of teachers leave within five years of qualifying. He complains that it’s our ‘moaning’ that causes the problem, not the demoralising regime that Gove and Ofsted – whatever their present differences – both impose on schools!
Of course, it’s true that moaning alone won’t change anything – what we have to do as a Union is to harness teachers’ discontent into the collective campaigns and action that will make a difference.
That’s why last week’s NUT National Executive agreed a series of campaign actions – including lobbying and leafleting to get our message across to politicians and parents (with March 8th being agreed as a date for public activities in London) , and seeing if we can build support for a national demonstration to defend education.
Of course, to make Gove take note, above all we need national action. That’s why it was so good to be able to confirm that the NUT Executive last week did set a date for further national strike action in March – with the exact date to be announced officially next Friday.
We want those campaigns to involve all our teaching colleagues, but, if others won’t act, then we cannot wait to take the action vital to defend teachers and education. We have already waited too long.
Of course, one-day alone won’t shift Gove – and we will have to discuss and hammer out what should follow next term. However, that day will show Gove that the NUT have not gone away, and that we’re not going to let him wreck teachers’ lives, nor wreck children’s education.
After this weekend, we hope we’ve made plans that can help make sure that the strike action is as strong as possible right across London.