Teachers at an east London secondary school are set to strike for three days from Monday of next week. The NUT union members at Bishop Challoner school in Tower Hamlets would be the first to strike as part of their union’s workload campaign.
The union began action short of a strike on Wednesday of last week. The campaign, which sees teachers boycotting certain duties, also involves the NASUWT union.
The walkout was sparked after the head teacher refused to drop a planned “mock Ofsted” style inspection. It signals a serious intent to enforce the boycott.
The mock Ofsted was planned to take place over two days next week. But the NUT has called a three-day strike to show it means business. And the union will ensure strikers get full pay.
The same issue of mock Ofsted inspections has arisen in some other Tower Hamlets schools and members there have also made clear they won’t cooperate.
NUT reps from across the east London borough met on Monday of this week following a wave of school meetings to discuss coordinating the campaign.
Similarly vigorous responses to the workload campaign have taken place elsewhere. Jess, an NUT member in Lambeth, south London, reports “one of the best NUT meetings I have ever attended” at a small primary school last week.
She said, “When I said that from now on nobody had to hand in plans anymore, they cheered. They agreed unanimously to tell the head they will be following union instructions to the letter.”
This spirit needs to be spread as widely as possible, and as quickly as possible. Where management refuse to accept the workload action, or try to penalise anyone for taking part, the Tower Hamlets strike shows the way to respond.
The national executive of the NUT teachers’ union met on Thursday of last week. It failed to take crucial steps towards calling a national strike this term. NUT members backed strikes overwhelmingly in a recent ballot.
Socialist Worker supporters argued that the NUT could make a concrete proposal to the NASUWT union and others for a national strike this November. But only eight of the 42 executive members backed it.
It voted to seek talks with NASUWT to “discuss the circumstances in which joint strike action will be called and to consider when we set dates”. This effectively means that there will be no national teachers’ strike in 2012.
The union leaders did pledge full backing for strikes in response to any management opposition to the current action short of a strike. But it is ten months since our last national action. The government needs to be challenged far more robustly.
Teachers should support a petition launched by East London NUT calling on both unions to call national strikes as soon as possible.
Nick Grant, NUT executive (pc)