'Gove has achieved what once seemed impossible - uniting NUT and NASUWT. And you know what? We like working with each other. Unity is strength, and if Gove doesn’t listen, it will be his downfall'
With chants of “no ifs, no buts, no education cuts” young students joined around a thousand teachers from the eastern region as they marched through the historic streets of Cambridge. Onlookers clapped and cheered as the march went from Parker''s Piece to the Cambridge Debating hall. The venue quickly filled up leaving 600 teachers in the streets. Speakers had to speak to the crowd outside before entering the hall.
The rally kicked off with Patrick Roach, Deputy General Secretary of the NASUWT stating that teachers have been standing together for 17 weeks defending education.
“We are ready for conversation, but instead of listening they (the government) have declared war. They have adopted politics of intimidating and bullying. Gove wants to return to a time when teachers had no rights. The changes are not about paying teachers more, but about paying more teachers less.”
He went to say that teachers are passionate about children’s education and understand the disruption that strikes can cause. However, the real threat to children’s education comes from this government. No country in the world can expect to get the best from teachers by attacking them.
He reminded the crowd of teachers that we have the second best education in Europe and the sixth in the world. This is due to working conditions won by the unions that allow teachers to focus on teaching. Forcing teachers to work until they drop; replacing qualified with unqualified staff in not how standards are improved. “It’s about time Michael Gove stopped picking fights and engaged in dialogue with the NUT and NASUWT”, said Patrick Roach.
The next speaker was Amy Crain, a special needs teacher, was cheered when she said “We are not alone in this fight. We stand together in solidarity will all public sector workers.”
Martin Gould, President of SERTUC, the regional TUC for London, the South East and the East of England was the following speaker. He started off by stating that “the aim of this government is to destroy state education.
“They start by demonising teachers as lazy who only care about their pensions and holidays. State education improved in the last Labour government due to the professionalism of teachers." Martin continued:
“Michael Gove is the enemy within. This strike is courageous, historic, principled and timely.”
"The movement is courageous because teachers are standing up against the intimidations from the government. It is historic because for the first time NUT and NASUWT are working together. It is principled because teachers are standing up in defence of the basic right of free education.
Finally, it is timely because public opinion is turning against the government. The People’s Assembly is not a fantasy. Across the country hundreds of local people’s assemblies are being organised to fight against the cuts and defend a welfare state. Martin ended his speech by encouraging teachers to “go back to your schools with your beliefs strengthened. Let’s stand together and fight for a better society.”
Kevin Courtney, deputy general secretary of the NUT, was the last speaker. He also agreed that the mood in the country is changing. He held up a copy of The Times with an attack on Gove and his constant testing of students. This was on the day Michael Gove was to deliver his speech in the Conservative Party’s conference. According to Kevin the unions would call off these strikes if Gove engaged in talks. “This strike is Gove’s responsibility.”
Michael Gove is asking every school to write their own pay policy. This doesn’t even happen in TESCO. They don’t ask every manager in every store to write up their own pay policy. Worse there is no evidence of success of PRP (Pay Related Performance) anywhere. Every school setting up their own holiday would be a nightmare for parents. Only 8% of parents think education has improved in the Coalition government. Michael Gove is presiding over the biggest attack on working class aspiration. He got rid of EMA and triple university tuition fees.
Kevin ended his speech by stating that:
“Gove has achieved what once seemed impossible: uniting NUT and NASUWT. And you know what? We like working with each other. Unity is strength, and if Gove doesn’t listen, it will be his downfall.“
Gove will judged by his deeds, not by his words.
Orlando was born in Brazil and was involved in the successful struggle for democracy in the late 1970s and 80s in that country. He teaches A level Economics. He is a member of the NEU, Counterfire and Stop the War.
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