On 17 October teachers in London, the South East, and South West will strike as part of a campaign of opposition to a whole series of attacks on our pay and conditions.
This is the third and final part of a calendar of regional strikes, each one covering a bigger area than the last. A national strike is planned in November. If the previous strikes in the North West on 27 and Yorkshire, the Midlands, and the East on 1 October are anything to go by, then 17 October will be well-supported, will feature large marches and rallies, and will help build union organisation in schools.
But if the joint NUT-NASUWT dispute is to force Michael Gove to shift, then it needs significant escalation. The leadership of the campaign from both unions so far does not suggest that is very likely. The failure to respond to the final pensions offer in December 2011 for more than a year, the decision to withdraw Wales from the current regional action, and the refusal to name the date for national action later this term all reflect the same uncertain, directionless tone. The action short of strikes at school level has led to some important successes in some individual schools — fewer observations, less punitive appraisal policies, union-agreed calendars. The best it can achieve, however, is to manage and mitigate the effects of anti-teacher “reforms” in a few schools.
And if they are not rolled back at a national level, then even in those strong schools the unlimited pressures and powers of heads will eventually come to dominate. Members can see this and, worse still, so can Gove.
After 17 October, the national strike should be called as soon as possible and the National Executives of both NUT and NASUWT should meet in full to agree the programme of action for next term.
Another two years of occasional one-day strikes, with no indication of the next steps and no opportunity for members to influence the direction, will not only fail to shift Gove but will exhaust and demoralise members. Turning one-day strikes into two day-strikes is only a slightly more disguised version of the same strategy. Continuing this action has to mean deciding on a clear and intense programme of action over a relatively short period of time.
There is no reason why it should not combine national with regional, local, and other selective action as long as it is part of a planned, coherent programme which involves and engages members, reaches out consistently to parents and makes the link between these attacks on teachers and the systematic break-up of state education.