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‘Much recent discussion has boiled down to the rather simplistic question - whether to strike or not to strike’

Christine Blower, general secretary of the National Union of Teachers, writes:  

There has been much discussion both on this site and in the national media since our annual conference at Easter about the NUT’s strategy for defending education and teachers. It has boiled down to the rather simplistic notion of to strike or not to strike.

The motion we passed at conference states very clearly that we will take strike action again should the government fail engage in meaningful talks to achieve improvements for teachers. It also instructs the union to engage in talks with other organisations including the NASUWT to look at taking both strike action and ‘action short of strike action’ together.

What does not get reported are the other strands to the same motion by which conference agreed to continue the NUT’s “Stand Up for Education” campaign.

This gives the union a clear direction in our fight for teachers and education. It involves engaging the general public through our “Stand Up for Education” Saturday stalls, pressuring MPs through arranging individual meetings between teachers and their local MPs, and organising for the mass lobby of parliament on the 10 June.

We have already had great successes. It has been truly inspirational to see the number of teachers who, on their days off, have set up stalls in shopping centres and town centres to distribute our leaflets and talk to parents and the public about why we are so very concerned about the direction this government is taking education, its woeful treatment of teachers and the rushed changes to the curriculum. Thousands have been keen to sign up to help in the campaign.

Many members have fed back successful outcomes from meetings with their MPs who have been surprised at the strength of feeling in opposition to government reforms.

The NUT is proud of its 144-year history of defending what matters to teachers. I do not need to rehearse on a TES site the problems that we face. Nor do I have to state the fact that many teachers feel that their profession is no longer one they can continue in when faced with an unmanageable workload and threats to pay and pensions. All of which contribute to making an already difficult job impossible and unattractive. 

Teaching is one of the best careers in the world and is certainly one of the most important. However this government is responsible for totally undermining it. The NUT will do all it can to ensure that the voice of teachers is heard. Strike action is an important part of that strategy as are the other elements to our campaign. But let us be very clear, the legacy of strike action will be that of Michael Gove’s not any union. The secretary of state has the power to resolve our disputes and it is time he listened.

The NUT will be surveying members in the autumn term to gather views on the next phase of our campaign. This is not the campaign of a few individuals. It is a campaign of the members of the largest teachers’ union in England and Wales and one of which I am very proud to be the general secretary.   

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