Teachers in the two largest UK teaching unions voted this weekend to carry on with their campaigns to defend public education in the country, which is coming under ruthless attack from a right wing government, bent on an agenda of privatisation, punishing 'accountability' regimes and attacks on teachers pay and pensions.
The National Union of Teachers (NUT) voted for another day of national strike action in June, if there was no progress in talks about pay pensions and workload. Meanwhile the NASUWT have threatened more action in individual schools and possible national action before the next general election in 2015. A recent government survey showed that primary teachers in the country are working an average of 60 hours a week, the vast majority of which is not spent on teaching children but on pointless data collection and other bureaucratic tasks, to satisfy an ever more punitive inspection regime.
Teachers described the dreadful demoralisation of being judged as inadequate on the basis of subjective and invasive observations. This is as a result of massive cutbacks in spending, which mean that many headteachers are looking to force older, and therefore more expensive staff out of the profession, to be replaced by a revolving door of cheaper, young teachers or even, in the case of semi-privatised 'academy' or 'free' schools, people with no teaching qualifications at all.
The NUT is stepping up its campaign to involve the wider community in the struggle to defend education, with regular street stalls at weekends, when the issues are discussed with parents and community members. These will culminate in a lobby of parliament in early June, prior to the one day strike. Both conferences were clear that the campaign will continue well into the next academic year.
Decisions were also taken to look into the possibility of a national campaign of non-compliance with changes to the curriculum, which will see the youngest children being tested and forced into formal learning, which is totally inappropriate for their age and development. Early years teachers described their distress at being forced to make their children learn concepts like fractions and sentence construction, when they know that the way young children learn is through play.
Both unions also passed motions in support of other teachers in struggle in the rest of the world, paritcularly in Iraq and Palestine.