Monday 8 July 2013

Greenwich teachers ask - 'when are we going on strike?'

I was invited to speak as a National Executive member to Greenwich NUT tonight. One of the first questions I was asked as we gathered in the pub was, "when are we going on strike?!"

Before any more cynical readers suggest that this must have been asked by a seasoned 'activist', let me stress that this was from a primary teacher attending her very first Union meeting. She, like so many other teachers, had simply had enough of the barrage of attacks - and wanted to know what the Union was going to do about it!

A wide-range of contributions during the discussion on pay all made clear why teachers were so angry. Here are just a few:
  • the teacher whose husband had been offered a new post - as long as he accepted taking a pay-cut by giving up his Upper Pay Range salary;
  • the local Academy where a teenager had committed suicide, reportedly under the pressure of having to keep up with exam expectations
  • the teacher who, after three years of teaching, was thinking of resigning from the profession
  • the victimised union rep who had been told that she should drop her union role if she wanted to continue as a 'middle-manager'
  • the rep in a school that was facing a huge budget shortfall who knew savings would be made by blocking pay-progression
  • the teacher in a school where pupils had been trained to carry out observations on teachers that could count towards pay-decisions ...

In Greenwich - as in my borough of Lewisham - negotiations over the model pay policies to be recommended by the Local Authority were reaching a critical stage. In both Associations, NUT school groups are, therefore, preparing to request strike action as part of our national dispute against Gove's performance pay plans.

Of course, this was the same day that Gove announced his new National Curriculum, to be rushed in without any consultation with the teaching profession, and apparently with scant regard to what is known about how children learn and develop.

But then, as I explained, this curriculum is not intended to really promote learning for all - it is planned to restrict success to the lucky few. This Government wants to cut back on educational opportunity, and cut back on the cost of education. Cutting teachers pay and conditions is part and parcel of these anti-educational plans. His imposed curriculum could also help make the ' freedom' of academisation a more attractive scenario.

Luckily, I was able to conclude by assuring members that we would soon know when the next strike days will be taking place - as they are due to be be announced after this week's meetings of the NUT and NASUWT Executives. 

All members of those Executives should be in no doubt that the mood of teachers in the Greenwich meeting tonight, as in many other areas, is that it's time for decisive action to be taken - before it's too late to protect teachers and education from disaster.

 (... and thanks to Greenwich NUT for also voting unanimously to nominate me to stand for NUT Vice-President - and to Hillingdon and Oldham NUT Associations who have also confirmed that they have nominated me as well )

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