Teachers in England and Wales have set a new date for strike action, members of the National Union of Teachers will stage a one day strike on March 26th. They will be joined by the Welsh teachers' union UCAC and the other large teaching union, the NASUWT, is going to announce next week whether it will be joining the strike.

Michael Gove, the education secretary in the right wing UK coalition government, is determined to destroy teachers' national pay and conditions, both through the creation of so-called academies and free schools, and also by giving each school the power to set its own. In a situation where local authorities are facing the worst cuts in history, teachers' pay can only be eroded further and teachers will be pitted against one another as their pay is based on 'performance' and pupil results. It was in the fight for national pay and conditions and against payment by results that the teaching union movement was built in the UK in the nineteenth century.

Not only is pay being attacked but young teachers will now be expected to work until they are 69, before they are able to draw their pension. And the workload and stress from endless inspection and high stakes accountability measures is becomiong so unbearable that thousands of teachers are the profession. 

However this fight is about much more than pay and pensions. The UK government is engaged in a project to dismantle the state education service and privatise it. Ironically, in one of Gove's wilder pronouncements, he suggested that his aim was to make sure that no-one going into a school would be able to tell if it was a state school or a private school. This was widely mocked, since British private schools are famously well endowed and serve about 7% of children - those of parents with the largest disposable income. They also incidentally provide most of the members of the government. One pointed out that if Gove's dream was to be realised then apart from anything else it would take up half the open countryside of England since private schools typically have vast playing fields, athletic facilities, swimming pools and rambling buildings.

What the playful Gove in fact meant though, was surely that the reason no-one would be able to tell the difference would be that all schools would be private schools - the ultimate aim of the neo-liberals in government. Teachers in England and Wales are framing their fight as one to 'stand up for education'. Increasingly they are winning the support of local communities, who are seeing schools closed and starved of cash in order to provide cash for 'free' schools and to make cuts. Meanwhile the government is doing all it can to clamp down on protest. It is threatening to make the anti-union laws from the Thatcher era, which are some of the harshest in Europe, even more oppressive. It is also attempting to terrify students into quiescence by encouraging universities to bring police onto campuses to arrest students who dare to take action. However these moves are only generating more militancy, with a lively 'cops of campus' campaign among students, anti-cuts movements growing, and teachers now preparing for more strike action.