Link to this page: http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/247/24826
Trade union action can...
Teach Labour A Lesson
NEW LABOUR were elected promising education would be their top priority. Five years later, schools are in crisis. Poor pay and conditions are driving teachers out of the classroom.
Linda Taaffe, National Union of Teachers (NUT) national executive, personal capacity
The Department of Education and Skills' own figures show that teacher vacancies have doubled in the last year. It's not that there aren't enough qualified teachers, they just don't want to be in the classroom. Official figures show 85,000 teachers have never gone on to teach after qualifying!
The only solution is to tackle teachers' excessive workload, inadequate pay and the stress caused by working with disaffected pupils and insufficient resources. But that requires money and chancellor Gordon Brown is talking tough on public spending.
Shortages are sharpest in the schools at the bottom of the government's league tables. Yet, Blair's education policies allow more selection, widening the gap between those that can succeed in Labour's education marketplace and those that cannot.
Labour has turned its back on the idea of comprehensive education, of meeting the needs of every child. Now right-wing maverick Labour MP Frank Field is even proposing letting children leave school at 14!
Schools minister Estelle Morris blames parents for not supporting their children. But doesn't she think the record levels of child poverty that her government presides over might explain the problems facing so many working-class families? And her imposed curriculum - where pupils in England are the most over-tested in the world - is destroying the self-esteem of too many youngsters.
She even blamed London's teachers for 'undermining progress' when thousands took strike action to oppose teacher shortages and demand decent pay. But it's only action that can make this government listen.
For too long, unions have held back. The one-day strike in London boosted the confidence of teachers and made sure the problems facing schools hit the headlines. This needs to be the start of a campaign to defend education for the sake of pupils, parents and school staff.
Socialist Party NUT conference meeting
Monday 1 April 8pm, Speakers:
Steve Score, Socialist Party national committee,
Linda Taaffe, NUT national executive.
Whitehall Hotel, Exeter Park Road, Bournemouth.
In The Socialist 29 March 2002: