Link to this page: http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/196/8130
Teachers vote for action
Staffing Cover-up Exposed
IN LONDON and Doncaster, both the main teacher unions, the NUT and NASUWT, have voted. by over 90% to refuse to cover for staff shortages from 12 March.
They are likely to be joined by teachers balloting in several other areas including Leicester, Kent, Portsmouth, Southampton, Middlesbrough and Nottingham.
Thanks to years of government underfunding and mounting pressure on teachers, schools are facing a recruitment crisis. Thousands of classes are without a permanent teacher.
Yet ministers have been trying to deny that there is a problem. They have only been able to get away with this thanks to teachers taking on even more work to cover up the shortages.
Time intended for preparation and marking has been taken away from teachers so they can cover vacant posts. Children -of different ages have been put into one class to cover absences. This is childminding, not education.
Now teachers are refusing to allow this cover-up to continue. As with any industrial action, ministers and the press will be quick to condemn teachers for "damaging" children's education. But the government are to blame for the shortages and the damage they cause through the lack of qualified staff and the constant splitting of classes.
The action deserves the wholehearted support of school students, parents and trade unionists. It may well mean that some children are sent home but this seems the only way to make sure the government can no longer cover up shortages at the expense of teachers and pupils.
The crisis will only be solved when schools are adequately resourced and staffed to reduce the unbearable workload that is driving teachers out of the classroom. Schools don't only need to cover existing vacancies, they need more staff to reduce class sizes and give children the individual support they need.
The government also needs to attract staff by. giving all teachers a £2,000 pay rise as of right, instead of divisive performance related pay. To win these demands will take much wider action than refusing to cover for shortages. Socialist Party teachers think the next step should be a ballot for a nationally co-ordinated one day strike.
That would help unite teachers in all schools, rather than just those worst hit by shortages as with the present action. It should be linked to mass demonstrations that parents and pupils can support.
These would also boost the confidence of teachers to take further action to demand a decent education for all.
In The Socialist 9 March 2001: