Bradford NUT members marching in June 2011

Bradford NUT members marching in June 2011

The month of May has seen a significant escalation in the struggle by teachers against the governments continued attack on pay and their latest ‘brainwave’ to cut holidays and increase the school day. At last we are seeing a joint effort by the two biggest teaching unions the NUT and NASUWT to organise their members and show a united front against these attacks. This was evident in the well-attended rallies in Manchester, Leeds, Liverpool and Birmingham which the NUT estimate were attended by around 2,000 people.

An agency contracted teacher

It is also encouraging to note that more than mere talking is taking place, a calendar of action has been drawn up and the first wave of industrial action will take place on 27 June in the North West of England. Other areas will also be called upon by the NUT to take strike action at the beginning of the next academic year. Mr Gove wants to break up the ability of teachers to negotiate and take necessary action on a national scale, so, a nationwide strike including all regions is clearly the way forward. Organisation needs to take place with other unions too through the TUC in a move towards a one day general strike. In terms of the wider struggle plans for a London NUT march and rally has been confirmed for 27 June and leafleting and stalls will be taking place on the 8 June in order to explain why such action is taking place.

There may be hostility to such action and some people may see an increase in the school day and the cutting of holidays as a positive step forward. It could be seen as a way of giving direction to disaffected youth, however, such a move is likely to have the opposite effect. What they are really trying to do is provide childcare on the cheap as opposed to any real commitment to providing good quality education.  Teachers, in reality, use a large portion of their holidays to get through the great mound of paperwork they don’t have time to do when they are in the classroom – assessment, marking, tracking sheets, schemes of work, setting targets, lesson planning and creating innovative resources (etc). If this ‘holiday’ time is taken away the quality of lessons and education will plummet significantly. If the government was really committed to giving direction to youth in their spare time it would invest in out of school youth activity programmes rather than yielding the axe.