The National Education Union (NEU) is the largest union for school workers. It has been formed from the National Union of Teachers (NUT) and the Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL), currently it carries forth the existing leaderships of both unions.
The ATL’s leadership is conservative, against industrial action and generally has a service union approach. The NUT’s leadership considers itself left, being largely taken from the Socialist Teachers’ Alliance (now a total misnomer) which is supported by the Socialist Workers’ Party (also a misnomer). However, it is a leadership that has in the past used industrial action as a token to register discontent but with no strategy for winning real material gains, this has squandered the memberships' militancy and led to disillusionment - why strike and lose money when we don’t win anything and the leadership don’t seem to have an idea how to.
More recently, this same leadership, having demoralised the members now blames their lack of appetitite for struggle amongst the membership for its inactivity over a series of potential struggles. In particular year after year it has avoided leading a fight to boycott SATs in Primary schools which most primary teachers recognise are at the best pointless and at the worst are no more than abuse of our children. A boycott would allow teachers begin to regain control of the curriculum, lessen our workload and most crucially stop us harming children.
This year the STA leadership has failed spectacularly over the teachers pay claim, conference voted for a 5% rise. However, when the minister announced this year’s deal (3.5% rise for main scale teachers, 2% for Upper pay spine and 1.5% for leadership and not fully funded by government) the first response of the leadership was to welcome it. They then proceeded to start a campaign with the wholly inadequate demands of 3.5% for all teachers, full funded. They have folded this in to the campaign against school cuts. Had the leadership demanded 5% across the board, fully funded (in line with conference’s decision) it would be far easier to mobilise members to vote and take up the fight.
There is real anger amongst many school workers and with effective leadership this could become a powerful movement to defend schools and those who work in them. The Education Solidarity Network (ESN) is a rank-and-file campaign which is the successor to Local Associations National Action Campaign in the NUT. It is based on the structures of the union. The Network wants to build a lay-led, democratic and fighting union. Workers’ Liberty school workers have been centrally involved in setting it up and sustaining it. ESN is standing candidates in many areas in the forthcoming NEU Executive elections. We urge members of the NEU to vote for these candidates, for a new leadership and approach in our union. To begin to make our union the democratic, lay-led and campaigning union we need.
We are calling for a vote for -
South and West Yorkshire: Patrick Murphy
Notts, Derby, Leicester, Lincolnshire Northamptonshire: Jenny Day and Rob Illingworth
The Northwest: Peter Glover
West Midlands: Nicky Downes
Warwickshire, Worcestershire, Oxfordshire: Eileen Hunter
Brighton, East and West Sussex: Phil Clarke
Wales: Mairead Canavan
Inner London: Cleo Lewis, James Kerr and Kirsty Paton
By David Pendletone