Tuesday, 25 June 2013

Stand up for schools

A blog from Our Community, Our Schools supporter and local parent and teacher Kiri Tunks, explaining why teachers in the North-West are taking industrial action on Thursday and why teachers are demonstrating in central London today:


On June 27th teachers in the North West of England will be on strike. This strike will be the first of a series of joint NUT & NASUWT strike in defence of education and teachers’ pay and conditions. Strikes will follow in other regions (including the SE in the autumn).

Around the rest of the country, teachers in these unions are organising solidarity actions (demonstrations, parents meetings & stalls) to show support for colleagues taking the lead in the North West but also to try and communicate to people outside education just what this government’s education policy will mean for our young people and our communities.

To hear the Michaels Gove & Wilshaw, it would be easy to think that schools are terrible places where our young people are failed on a daily basis by their teaching and support staff, and where their promise is snuffed out by uncaring and unskilled educators.

To be a teacher means waking every morning to some new alleged horror or failure that must be accounted for. To be a parent, without experience or knowledge of schools, these stories bring fresh fears about the schools they will send their children to.

The government & OFSTED claim that schools are failing our young people yet, claiming that standards are too low, yet their evidence is widely disputed or taken out of context.

Gove & Wilshaw refuse to accept that factors outside the control of schools or teaching staff can impact on the achievement of young people, and yet all the evidence shows that they do. And, whilst berating schools for ‘failing’, they are guilty of removing strategies and structures that, properly supported, have been shown to make a difference.

Instead they have just attacked community schools at every level, moving the goal posts such as the changing of grade boundaries in GCSE exams last year after the exams had been taken or changing the OFSTED lesson criteria so that to be judged a ‘good’ or ‘outstanding’ teacher requires almost superhuman powers.

There are numerous examples to show that schools do well when working in partnership with their neighbouring schools, pooling resources and sharing expertise; when there are strong links with parents and the community; when teachers are given time and resources to plan, prepare and give feedback; when the obstacles children face in their lives are not ignored but dealt with by society and not just left for schools to sort out.

Despite the relentless rhetoric of this government, it is not teachers or schools who are the enemies of promise but this government.  Since coming to power they have been responsible for:

  • Worsening ratios in nurseries; and no longer requiring schools to employ qualified teachers.
  • Rushing through a new curriculum, without resources and against the advice of many teachers. Introducing expensive, unnecessary new tests for 5 and 11 year olds.
  • Reducing young people's opportunities by trebling tuition fees and abolishing the Education Maintenance Allowance.
  • Wasting the Olympic legacy by undermining sport in schools.
  • Building free schools for secondary age children in places where they are not needed (instead of primary schools which are needed) and paving the way for private companies to make a profit from running our schools.
  • Making it illegal for your Council to build new schools where they are needed.
  • Causing chaos in teachers' pay and pensions and making teaching a less attractive prospect for young people

These are some of the reasons that NUT & NASUWT members will begin a campaign of rolling strike action in the North West next week. Teachers know that unless we take a stand then the right to a free and fair education system for all will be severely undermined.

In London on June 25th, there will be a march to, and demonstration outside, the Department of Education under the banner ‘Stand up for Schools – march for education’ which hundreds of teachers, parents and children are expected to attend. This demonstration is a gesture of support for striking teachers in the North West, but also an appeal to the wider community to join our campaign to defend education.

Details of the demo are here:




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