Teachers in England and Wales are to take strike action this Wednesday, in their ongoing campaign against the education 'reforms' of the right wing coalition government and their maverick education secretary Michael Gove. The campaign centres around the issues of pension, pay and workload. Young teachers will have to work till they are 68 or even 69 before they can draw their pension, moreover teachers' pay has been frozen and a recent workload survey by the Department for Education showed primary teachers averaging 60 hours work a week and secondary teachers 56.

Although pay, pensions and workload are the triggers for the strike, the anger of teachers is about much more than that. In England the public education service is being broken up as schools are forced to become academies, free of local democratic control and often run in chains by businesses such as Harris carpets. Other schools are being opened with public money but run by private individuals or companies, based on the failed 'free' school model in Sweden. Such schools do not even have to employ qualified teachers.

A punishing inspection system in both England and Wales is causing soaring levels of stress, and suicide among teachers has risen by 80% in the last period according to the Office for National Statistics. Most of all, teachers feel that their professional autonomy has been taken away from them, as they are continually bullied into teaching according to a formula and producing mountains of data, instead of being free to use their creativity and knowledge of teaching and children to develop their work.

All of these policies are accompanied by non-stop denigration of teachers both by politicians and by the media. A blog by one teacher taking strike action puts it like this: 

If UK education was a window, then every single Education Secretary in history has complained that it is dirty. And they have all attempted to clean it, through one method or another. National Curriculum ‘89 and ‘99, National Strategies, Literacy and Numeracy Hours, Synthetic Phonics, Creative Curriculum. Gove is the first to smash the window, pay people to take away the shards without knowing if they even know how to clean and then has the audacity to tell us he’s the greatest window cleaner in history.

Teachers taking action are in the National Union of Teachers. They are involved in a joint campaign, called Stand Up for Education, along with the National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers. On this occasion only the NUT are striking. Nonetheless, thousands of schools across England and Wales are expected to close or partially close on Wednesday.

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