Teachers in the UK are taking part in the first of a series of strikes against the right wing coalition government's plans for schools. The two largest teaching unions in the country, the National Union of Teachers (NUT) and the National Association of School Masters/Union of Women Teachers kicked off their campaign with series of rallies for education and a march through London on Tuesday supported by parents.

The education minister, Michael Gove is pursuing a policy of pay freezes and performance related pay which will see headteachers determining if how much teachers are allowed to earn. Increments based on experience, which teachers have been entitled to for the first few years of their career ,are to become a thing of the past. Teachers will have to work to 68 before they can claim a pension.

Gove has not only attacked teachers pay and pensions however. Tied in with this is a sustained attack on the fabric of public education itself – through the creeping privatisation represented by academies and now so-called free schools – which can be set up by anyone, are funded from the local education budget and do not even have to employ qualified staff. One school is to be set up and run by ex-soldiers for example.

As well as moving towards privatisation of education, Gove has also been systematically changing and controlling the curriculum – for example forcing one method of teaching reading on primary school teachers and tying it to high stakes testing. He recently rewrote the history curriculum so that it covered a series of 'facts' mostly about the history of Britain and the British empire – however he has had to retreat on that after a huge uproar – particularly from historians, academics and of course history teachers.

Today teachers in the North West of the UK will be on strike and will hold a series of rallies and demonstrations. Other regions will follow next term, to be followed by a national strike and further action if the government does not change its policies. Inspired partly by struggles of teachers in the rest of the world, particularly recently in Chicago, the unions are emphasising that this strike is part of a broader based campaign the future of education itself.