From the “Rally for Education” called by NUT and NASUWT on 14 September in London, I conclude that to combat Gove and the government, we will also have to organise at rank-and-file level, and challenge the leaders of our unions.
We will have to challenge the supposedly left-wing leaders of the National Union of Teachers as well as the openly professionalist NASUWT leadership.
The rally was supposed to be the first step in a renewed campaign about pay, pensions, and quality of education.
The next step is strikes in some regions on 1 October and others on 17 October. I know that from socialist leaflets distributed at the door of the rally. I can confirm it on the NUT website, though that website leaves me puzzled on why Wales has been deleted from the list of strike areas published earlier.
If I relied on the speeches at the rally, or on the official union leaflets about “what next” placed on the chairs at the rally, or any other official union posters or placards there, I still wouldn’t know about the strikes at all.
I left the rally at 12:15 for another meeting. The rally was due to close at 12:30. Up to 12:15, no speaker from the platform — not NUT exec member Alex Kenny, introducing the rally; not Patrick Roach, deputy general secretary of the NASUWT — had even hinted at the strikes.
In effect, “the dispute” is being narrowed down to an appeal to Gove to negotiate with the unions, with very few specifics about what the unions will ask for in, or hope to get from, the negotiations.
The necessary groundwork for any effective action on pay and standards is strong union organisation in the schools, and that has to be built in the first place by effective action on the day-to-day issues of workload, management bullying, and the blighting of education by performance appraisals.
The left needs to define a new strategy, rather than a stepped-up version of the current tactics. I hope for a new direction to come out from the Local Associations for National Action Campaign (LANAC) steering committee on 21 September.
• Abridged from the NUTLAN website.