Jim Thomson
NUT protest outside the Department of Education by teachers and parents opposed to the GCSE regrading in August 2012, photo Neil Cafferky

NUT protest outside the Department of Education by teachers and parents opposed to the GCSE regrading in August 2012, photo Neil Cafferky   (Click to enlarge: opens in new window)

Teachers, parents and students will be happy about the Con-Dem education minister Michael Gove’s climbdown over the English Baccalaureate Certificate (EBC).

Gove’s retreat shows that the coalition can be forced to backtrack in the face of united pressure.

The EBC was designed to replace certain GCSEs, supposedly reversing the “dumbing down” of secondary education and making the testing of students “more rigorous”.

In reality the EBC was part of the Tories’ political ideology; testing knowledge rather than developing the skills of the students in a positive way.

This knowledge-based approach benefits students from wealthier backgrounds.

It ignores much of the excellent educational philosophy and child psychology of the last 20 years that shows that skills-based learning is far more beneficial for individual child development and, inevitably, social mobility.

Back to the future?

The EBC was designed to move education back to the 1950s – where students rote learned kings and queens, 19th century poems and times-tables.

Gove’s defeat was due to united opposition from the unions, educationalists, the media, the Welsh Assembly and the Education Select Committee.

However, the EBC was just one small facet of a wider dangerous education policy. Gove is determined to privatise education completely.

Aspects of this have included attacks on national pay and conditions, the academisation of comprehensive education, the expansion of the ‘free school’ programme and significant cuts to pensions.

These attacks need to be fought by teachers, parents, students and the community; otherwise we will see the end of comprehensive education as we know it.

However, on these battles we cannot expect to be supported by anti-working class MPs or the media.

Therefore we need a much stronger leadership from teaching unions, especially the NUT and NASUWT.

This should include a programme of action, starting with a 24-hour strike before Easter and escalating to a 48-hour strike early next term to coincide with May Day.

While we welcome the end of the EBC, the government’s Dickensian policies will continue to plague education until united opposition, led by the unions, forces the Con-Dems to backtrack completely.

Lobby the NUT executive: No more delays! Call national strike action now!

Wednesday 27 February, 5pm

NUT HQ – Hamilton House, Mabledon Place, London WC1H 9BD (Kings Cross/Euston tubes)

Fight performance-related pay

The news on 10 February of a ‘secret memo’ revealing the “full extent of Michael Gove’s plans to revolutionise education”, allowing academies and free schools to make a profit, will come as no real surprise to teacher trade unionists.

Gove wants performance-related pay (PRP) for teachers to cut costs for his big business friends. Gove also hopes PRP will divide the workforce and undermine collective trade union action too. A strike against PRP is also a strike to help stop privatisation.

The Mid-Staffs hospital scandal is also a stark reminder of what can happen to public services when they are dominated by targets.

But time is running short to stop Gove’s pay proposals becoming implemented. Agreement across London Region NUT for a demonstration against Gove on Wednesday 13 March is a good way of mobilising for national strike action – but when will that action be called?

Wednesday 13 March could have been the first strike day, but the NUT executive narrowly voted against this.

Warwickshire NUT and Liverpool NUT have added their names to the list of London Associations that are lobbying the NUT executive on 27 February. The executive needs to call strike action this term.

Martin Powell-Davies, NUT executive member