Schools set to strike against privatisation plans

17 April 2016

By Jeremy Dewar

The biggest and most militant teachers’ union, NUT, has voted for a strike ballot against the threat to turn all 15,000 state-maintained schools into academies.

The threat is lodged at the heart of the Tory government’s Educational Excellence Everywhere White Paper. Two other teaching unions, NASUWT and ATL, have also voted to oppose the privatisation of schools. The NUT though wisely agreed to go it alone if necessary.

Education Secretary Nicky Morgan and Schools Minister Nick Gibb were roundly booed and heckled at union conferences. Even Tory council leaders and MPs have openly opposed the cost to schools and the disruption to the planning of places, while questioning the scant evidence that academies perform better.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn was given a standing ovation at the NUT conference, when he said, “The Tories want to shut parents out of a say in how their children’s schools are run. I want schools accountable to their parents and their communities – not to those pushing to be first in line for the asset stripping of our education system.”

White Paper

The White Paper will not make schools more responsive to local needs and concerns; the Paper explicitly gives preference to multi-academy trusts (MATs), i.e., to multi-million pound businesses.

The “not for profit” proviso is easily got around by paying head teachers and business managers hundreds of thousands of pounds. Big business educational service companies will move in and make a killing, as class sizes become too big to teach.

Deregulation will erode teachers’ pay and conditions too. Not only will each academy be able to vary teachers’ pay and working hours, but now they will be in charge of awarding teacher qualifications. A marketplace will open up, allowing schools to compete for teachers and select students: a two-tier school system.

Parents will no longer be guaranteed spaces on governing bodies. Morgan arrogantly said being a parent is not enough to be a governor, preferring a more “business-like” approach. Obviously parents are too inclined to safeguard educational standards and equality.

For good measure, the Tories are also cutting funding. Last year, despite rising student rolls, budgets were frozen. At the same time schools had to pay 3 per cent more towards employers’ National Insurance contributions and the pension scheme, plus fund a one per cent teachers’ pay rise. Vacancies were not filled, unqualified teachers took classes, safeguarding was abandoned. Next year, inner city schools, especially in London, will face swingeing cuts, as resources are switched to the Tory shires.


Faced with this, the NUT is right to ballot for strike action. Other teaching unions and support staff unions – Unison, GMB and Unite – should sign up.

We need joint union meetings in every school, recruiting everyone to the most militant unions, electing reps where there are none. We must invite parents and local residents to public meetings to hear the case in defence of well funded, democratically run, state education, and encourage solidarity. Labour Party councillors, branches and CLPs can also use their networks to back the campaign.

A fighting campaign like this could then lay the basis for joint strike committees on a district wide basis which must assert control of any future strike. Out of this a rank and file network must develop to challenge the inevitable backsliding and delaying tactics our union leaders are notorious for.

The lesson of the disputes of the last five years is that this will take more than a one day protest strike every six months! The Tories are very weak at the moment: overwhelmed by scandal, divided over Europe and with a wafer thin majority. But they need to be pushed; they will not simply fall.

Now is the time to hit them hard with sharply escalating action and the threat of an all-out indefinite strike. The future of our children’s education is at stake – but by being bold, we can win.

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