Momentum activist and teacher trade unionist Laura Rogers spoke at the Jeremy Corbyn rally at Heartlands, Cornwall.
As a teacher I know something about bullying and what Jeremy Corbyn has endured would not be tolerated in any classroom. Thank you Jeremy for not being cowed because the other thing we know about bullies is that they act from a place of fear. And they are right to be afraid.
Ten years ago, I chose to become a teacher in the belief that it is one small way to help change people’s lives and in doing so change the world. Schools are communities which teach children how to be in the world. Classrooms should be like beautiful and productive gardens. Gardens in which children are nurtured to grow into people with opinions, principles and an unshakable sense of self-worth. Our classrooms should be teaching kindness, curiosity, determination, hope, openness and respect as well as a life-long love of learning and the skills that will allow people to flourish and blossom and fulfil their potential.
The reality of what we find in most classrooms, led by the best intentioned teachers, is something quite different. What we have are exam factories. If you can’t test it, don’t teach it. Children are now assessed within six weeks of starting school. Not only are there far too many of these tests, the tests themselves are not fit for purpose. They test surface knowledge. Most devastatingly, these tests teach too many children that they are failures.
For the system flourishing under the Tories and in part conceived under New Labour, a system of privatisation, competition and uniformity, is designed to produce just the kind of obedient, brow-beaten, compliant citizens capitalism relies upon to be the profit-makers for the bosses, ripe for exploitation. The last thing capitalism wants is education for liberation which creates bold, passionate, free-thinkers. We now have schools being run for business, the publically accountable comprehensive system of the past has been ripped up and sold off. We have academies that exclude the faces that don’t fit and free schools that put children in detention because their parents can’t afford to pay the dinner money bill.
So now is the time to be bold, I ask Jeremy to make a commitment to bring all schools back under local authority control. We must not be ashamed of fighting for workers’ rights in our schools, the public sector or anywhere else. In fact, it is only through an industrial fight by workers alongside a political campaign that sets out a vision for a different society, that we will succeed in transforming the system as we know it.
We now have a Labour leader who has spent his life on picket lines, shoulder to shoulder with workers in struggle. This should embolden our movement to go on the offensive. Our opponents will say there’s not enough money — well there definitely is enough money, it is simply held in too few hands. The education budget was £85 billion last year while the richest 25 people have a combined wealth of £1180 billion. Tax the rich to pay for public services.
Under Corbyn, Labour must pledge to abolish all the anti-union laws, not just those imposed by the new Trade Union Act. We are the strength behind Corbyn’s leadership and it is our collective strength that terrifies the establishment so much. It is up to us now to become better organised, to get active and to win the political arguments that will bring a Corbyn-led Labour Party to power. We need a Labour government that fights as hard for workers as the Tories fight for the rich. We need a workers’ government.