Sunday 13 June 2010

Should the Executive call a national ballot?

The Academies Bill threatens both the future of comprehensive state education and teachers' national pay and conditions.

Activities in schools, Associations and nationally can all play a role in the campaign to defeat the bill - but the NUT National Executive must look at calling national action in particular at our meeting this week.

A lot of good work is going on trying to persuade individual schools not to take up Gove's invitation - with some successes as have been reported. However, as we have found in previous anti-Academy campaigns, we know that some governors will vote to proceed in any case. Similarly, some school groups will be ready to take action, others may not be. This strategy is therefore important, but can't be the only way forward.

Across Associations, we also have to involve members whose school is not immediately faced with becoming an Academy but who will face the consequences on their admissions/future of the Local Authority/pay and conditions. Local meetings and protests will be important but is an action route also possible? For example, could we make clear that, in the event of a school taking up Gove's offer, we would ballot members across the Local Authority ?

Last , but not least, we need national action to raise the sights of everyone and to send a clear signal to the Government. As I have said, I would support a call for a national ballot coming from the June Executive. Presuming we can avoid any legal barriers, there have been concerns raised about the timing for action this term - which would be tight - and about whether we can get the message out in that timescale quickly enough to win the ballot. However, if we do not start with some action at the end of term, then wouldn't this mean delaying any national ballot until mid-September once teachers have got back into the swing of things again? Any national action would not take place therefore until October. How many schools will have 'opted-out' by then - and will the Bill be well into law? Do people judge that this is quickly enough? If not, then we have to go for an early ballot and go all out to win it.

National/regional protests and demonstrations could be called as a build-up to a ballot - or to coincide with any day of action. I understand that there have been discussions about a possible TUC-called demonstration in September which could be linked to both cuts and privatisation - this can't be a determining factor for our timescale, however.

I'd be interested in other opinions before the Executive meets on Thursday.

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