At the time of going to press it is anticipated that schools the length and breadth of the country will have closed on 30 June due to industrial action.
Teachers (NUT and ATL) were already incensed at the government’s proposed demolition of their pension fund, in other words their future. In essence, “pay more, work longer and get less”.
Now, adding fuel to the fire, Education Secretary Michael Gove has infuriated teachers further by urging headteachers to act as his agent provocateurs in the dispute and keep schools open by hook or by crook. An open invitation to bully and harass teachers which is having the opposite effect – vacillating teachers are now being galvanised to join the dispute and more schools will have closed. And his ludicrous call to parent to keep schools open smacks of desperation.
The hapless Gove refers to headteachers’ “moral duty” to keep schools open, drawing the obvious response, articulated elegantly by Russell Hobby, the general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers: “Heads don't need lectures in their moral duties. They've been keeping schools open their entire careers. And will make the right choices in the coming action.” Stung by Gove’s crass remarks, the NAHT is now preparing to ballot its members on forthcoming industrial action.
Gove sheds crocodile tears about the impact of school closure on working families and single parents, conveniently forgetting that these groups are amongst the hardest hit by government policies, which are designed to hammer home the message that there is no future for workers in Britain. The assault on pensions undermines security and coldly strikes at the heart of the concept of collective care and public service.
We can see what they have in store for us already. Harrowing stories of elderly inmates left in a filthy bed for 18 hours in a heartless institution tell a story worthy of a Hogarth etching. As workers with a sense of dignity and a history of finding collective solutions to our problems, we need to get our thinking caps on. The strike on June 30 could mark the opening salvo in a protracted struggle to find some breathing space while we come to terms with the enormity of what is being proposed for us. Not an ever-diminishing series of empty gestures, but a growing wave of resistance which will put the coalition in disarray. ■