Link to this page: http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/435/5142
NUT conference: Stop New Labour's old Tory policies
EVERY CHILD should have the right to a good education at their local school. But too many parents fear that their children may not be getting the opportunities they deserve. Now New Labour's Education Bill is going to make things even worse.
Martin Powell-Davies, secretary Lewisham National Union of Teachers
Selection and underfunding has already opened the gap between schools at the top and bottom of the league tables. Labour's latest plans to encourage schools to break away from the local authorities will only widen that divide.
These schools would be allowed to set their own separate admissions policies. Instead of schools working together, they will compete with each other for the pupils they want to choose.
For every family that wins the place they're hoping for, there will be many more that will lose out. For every school that succeeds in selecting the pupils it wants, another school will be plunged further into difficulties.
New Labour's ideas on education aren't "new" at all. They are just what the Tories tried under Margaret Thatcher. Blair even had to rely on the votes of Tory MPs to get his proposals through Parliament. New Labour are carrying out Old Tory policy.
When Labour are in trouble, they turn to "spin", but who believes them any more? Gordon Brown claims he is going to fund state education as generously as private schools! But his actual spending plans go nowhere near it.
We have some of the highest class sizes in Europe. Teachers work some of the longest hours. Schools are struggling to find the resources to meet the needs of every pupil.
Parents, teachers and students must not allow New Labour to get away with fragmenting and privatising our schools. Together, we must fight for schools to be united through a common agreed admissions policy and genuinely funded so that they can meet the needs of every pupil.
Local community campaigns, such as those that have successfully fought off the threat of privately-sponsored Academy schools, will be vital. But these campaigns need to be linked together into a national campaign to defend comprehensive education and all our public services.
The National Union of Teachers, meeting for its Annual Conference in Torquay over Easter, must take a lead in carrying the campaign against the Education Bill into local communities and the wider trade union movement.
Delegates must also make sure that the union builds on the recent victories that have been won where school groups have taken strike action to oppose pay cuts threatened by imposed salary restructuring.
Such a collective approach will be vital to win campaigns on pensions, pay and workload, as well as to defeat the threats from the Education Bill.
But while fighting these battles, more and more teachers will conclude that trade unions need a political voice as well.
That's why the Campaign for a New Workers Party will be calling on NUT delegates for support in building a new party that can challenge the big business parties that work together to tear apart comprehensive education.
Socialist fighter re-elected
SOCIALIST PARTY member Linda Taaffe has been re-elected to the executive of the National Union of Teachers, on an increased vote. Linda has one of the four seats in the Outer London area.
The left is continuing to make steady gains on the executive as more and more teachers look for a trade union which will defend their interests in the face of government attacks. Over the next two years, the life of the new executive, the union will have to fight back in particular, against the privatisation of education inherent in the Education Bill.
In The Socialist 13 April 2006:
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