Education unions

Letters: Marsha de Cordova and the Equalities Act; On-the-spot strikes

My article last week referred to a tweeted comment by Shadow Minister for Women and Equalities Marsha de Cordova, and her failure to respond to calls to apologise. It’s worth spelling out the detail. The Law Society had published some good guidance on how to support gender-transitioning employees. A transphobic response was published by a blog called “Roll on Friday”. It criticised the Law Society for saying transitioning employees should be able to use the toilet that they are comfortable using, saying that it meant abolishing “single sex spaces” and implying that it went against the Equality...

NEU can prepare strikes

Throughout this exchange between myself and leading AWL members I have been hoping someone might convince me that I’m wrong. I’ve been disappointed. Instead I have been offered only misrepresentations of my position to the point where now, after thousands of words of clarification, I feel the process has been exhausted. This is not a complex theoretical disagreement but a simple matter of industrial strategy. Yet I appear unable to make myself understood. In the latest episode Colin Foster says he sympathetic to my supposed advocacy of a national ballot for “school guarantees” (?) including...

Letters: What about musicians?; Full employment; NEU can prepare strikes

Full employment In the arguments about job cuts, we need Full Employment as the driver of economic policy across the board, not profitability, financial markets, or the growing wealth of the richest. Sunak says we will have to put up with millions of unemployed to “save the economy”. He does get criticised by Labour and left for not supporting jobs, but the fundamental idea that you can separate the health of the economy from the number unemployed has been internalised by the labour movement after 40 years of neoliberalism. Full Employment speaks to general working-class consciousness as a...

Keeping schools as safe as possible

Schools are large institutions which are fully open. In most there is little possibility of social distancing and the wearing of face-coverings is impossible during lessons and difficult at other times. The virus is being spread in schools, albeit at possibly a lower rate than other institutions. Last week in my London borough there were around 15-20 schools where Year Group bubbles had been closed, the majority with more than one Year Group closed. We have had already had two schools in the borough closing entirely for two weeks. The situation is far worse in other parts of the country. It is...

Scrap GCSEs for 2021 now!

The conference on 10 October of the Socialist Educational Association decided to call on the government to stop SATs and other high-stakes primary assessments this year. It also demanded that moderated teacher assessment be used instead of examinations for GCSE and A levels in 2021, and that the Labour front bench take up that policy. The Scottish government has already decided to replaced Scotland’s equivalents of GCSEs with moderated teacher assessment. On 3 October the conference of the NEU school workers’ union voted to campaign for the replacement of SATs in 2021 by a system of moderated...

Some gains at NEU conference

The National Education Union (NEU) held an online Special Conference on 3 October. Over 600 people attended, with around 550 delegates. Conference voted on various rule changes. They were not taken as a job lot, as I wrongly reported in Solidarity 565. The rule change to allow the General Secretaries to extend their tenure beyond five years, if they had announced they were retiring, was withdrawn due to rank and file pressure. In a significant victory for the left of the union, the proposal to reduce the executive from 70 to 55 failed to get the two-thirds majority required, following strong...

NEU conference: support amendments!

The National Education Union (NEU) is holding a virtual conference on 3 October. The union’s annual conference in April 2020 was cancelled due to the Covid-19 crisis. The virtual conference will deal with rule changes. Most of them are benign. Some, such as the possibility of job-sharing elected roles, are probably positive. However, the ones reducing the Executive from 70 to 55, and allowing the General Secretaries to extend their term in office beyond five years if they announce they are retiring, should be opposed. Unfortunately, it seems the rule changes will be taken as a job lot, making...

Letters: US election; Exams and algorithms; Ballot school workers?

Help defeat Trump Socialists in the US should be trying to build a working-class campaign to throw Trump out of power. In the last six months the Trump Administration has moved decisively in the direction of open fascism. Violent racist, transphobic and anti-left rhetoric was always part of his repertory. Since the start of the pandemic and the resurgence of Black Lives Matter protests that has stepped up decisively. Trump has effectively celebrated far right shootings of anti-fascists and Black Lives Matter protesters. He encourages followers to take up arms against BLM and Antifa. He is...

Schools: build health and safety committees

At the end of our first week back from school summer holidays a colleague of mine rang the parents of a Year 8 boy in her tutor group. The boy had done very well in school, and was clearly delighted to be back with his friends. So my colleague talked to the boy’s dad and told him how well the boy had been doing in class. The boy’s dad burst into tears. Presumably a mix of relief, intense long-term worry, and happiness, all coming to the surface at once. The kids really need to be back in class. That the Tories are saying it does not make it any less true. And the parents need to see their...

Tim Hales: a tribute

On Sunday 6 September my good friend and comrade Tim Hales passed away several months after a diagnosis of pancreatic cancer. Tim will be known to many readers of Solidarity for the colourful and vibrant cartoons he produced regularly for the paper over recent years. He had been an art teacher since the 1980s, first in Barnsley and then Leeds, and was able to devote more time to his own artwork after retirement. He took the responsibility for producing cartoons very seriously and was always proud to see his work published in the paper. I first met Tim as an activist in the Leeds division...

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