The joint action by the two biggest teacher unions is creating some sharp battles between classroom teachers and their immediate bosses across the country.
For the most part, it seems that workers are winning back some control over their own workplaces and challenging the endless expansion of their workload demands.
Probably the most common success is that limits are being put on the number of formal observations of lessons to which teachers are subjected.
Union groups have also drawn a line under excessive planning, meetings and reports. Schools in several areas have cancelled mock inspections (“Mocksteds”) after union members decided they would not co-operate.
The most impressive examples of this have been where Heads insisted the inspections would go ahead regardless and teachers decided to escalate the dispute to strike action. The first national victory on this was at Bishop Challoner School in Tower Hamlets and that has sent the message out that members will be supported in pushing for their demands.
There are further schools where strike action has been called to win our demands.
At Mount Carmel School in Islington, teachers voted to refuse all co-operation with lesson observations and requested strike action after the Head refused to agree to a maximum of three observations per year.
At Deptford Green School in Lewisham, the Head took a bullish and dismissive attitude to requests for a more acceptable monitoring regime, insisting that he would carry on as he pleased and ignore the industrial action. NUT and NASUWT members promptly met to consider their response, and voted to request strike action from their national unions. Wherever managers throw down the gauntlet in this way the response should be to escalate and to do so with a substantial programme of strike action announced in advance.
By far the most serious battle is taking place at Stratford Academy in Newham, East London. There the unions had not even decided on their action before the Head launched an aggressive union-busting attack. He demanded that all teachers sign a letter by Friday 19 October to confirm that they would not be taking part in any of the joint union action.
Those who did not return the letter signed would then have 15% deducted from their pay every day starting immediately.
The first deductions would be in their October pay slip. Last week members of both unions met in school with their officials and agreed to call six days of strike starting on Thursday 25 October, and increasing to two days in the first week after half-term (beginning 5 November) and three days the following week.
The response of teachers in these schools and their wider union organisation is absolutely right and it is critical that they win. It is especially important that union-busters like the Head at Stratford Academy are not allowed to succeed. The most significant and impressive victories in this campaign are those in schools where the staff were previously too cowed to challenge the bosses.
School reps are saying that messages of support and solidarity are incredibly helpful in building morale and demonstrating to members as well as managers (they are posted on staffroom notice-boards) that we have the strength to win.
l Send messages of support to:
• Steve Charles (NUT rep at Stratford Academy): firstname.lastname@example.org
• Karen Wheeler (Deptford Green School): karen_wheeler@
• Katherine O’Sullivan (NUT Rep at Mount Carmel): osullivan@
• Phil Davison (NASUWT Rep at Mount Carmel):