'This is why we are taking industrial action' - says County Durham teacher and union leader (From The Northern Echo)
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'This is why we are taking industrial action' - says County Durham teacher and union leader
AN undeclared war is raging between teachers unions and the Government. Michelle Williams, history teacher at Durham Johnston School and national executive member of the NASUWT union explains why feelings are running so high.
Just a few months ago over 500 teachers, parents, ordinary families and members of the public from across the North-East packed out the Centre for Life in Newcastle to share their deep concerns and fears about the Coalition Government's education policies and their impact on children and young people.
The event was just one of a series of national Rallies for Education organised by the NASUWT teachers' union, together with the NUT, to galvanise the growing strength of public opposition to the Coalition Government's agenda on education.
It was clear from the passionate display of feeling from those attending that concern is turning to anger. Parents movingly described the despair of seeing their children's life chances being stripped away. Articulate and thoughtful young people who are a credit to our public education system described their frustration as doors to higher education and employment have been slammed shut in their face through the abolition of financial support and the fear of lifetime debt.
Teachers and school leaders described the impact on pupils and the profession of the constant denigration of the professionalism of the school workforce, the standards achieved in our schools and the punitive inspection regime now designed only to enforce coalition policy rather than act in the public interest.
The momentum established at all of the rallies has continued as recognition deepens that the real coalition is the parents, grandparents, ordinary working people and families who are being ill-served by the arrogant and elitist policies of the unelected Coalition in Westminster.
Teachers care about the children and young people they teach. Their pay and conditions of service are inextricably linked to providing high standards of education, but due to the relentless assault on and denigration of teachers and schools, the profession is now in crisis.
An NASUWT survey of members shows that over half of teachers are now seriously considering leaving the profession and that three quarters of teachers feel professionally disempowered. Recruitment into initial teacher training is plummeting and resignations from the profession are at an all time high.
Teachers have been driven to industrial action by a Secretary of State who arrogantly and recklessly refuses to listen to the concerns of the profession.
The NASUWT has sought to ensure that the industrial action has been pupil, parent and public friendly, concentrating on in-school strategies to enable them to focus on teaching and learning. Not a single child has had their education disrupted by the NASUWT and NUT's action short of strike action but the attacks on the profession have continued, the Secretary of State has failed to listen or respond positively and therefore the industrial action now regrettably has to be escalated to include strike action.
The adverse impact of government policy is not just being felt by teachers. Now when parents send their children to school they can no longer be confident they are being taught by a qualified teacher, following the outrageous abolition by the Secretary of State Michael Gove of the requirement on schools to employ on qualified teachers.
Increasing costs of educational visits, school meals and school uniform, the requirements increasingly in too many schools to ask parents to pay for more and more provision which was once free is leading to admission to schools being increasingly based on parents ability to pay.
Children and young people have fared no better. They have lost their entitlement to a broad and balanced curriculum. Vocational subjects at which many young people excel have been downgraded. Those sitting examinations this summer having worked tirelessly with their teachers to do well entered the examination room with the sound of Coalition ministers' claims that the exams were too easy and the qualifications were not worth the paper they are written on ringing in their ears. Youth unemployment is at record levels Reforms to special educational needs provision are predicated on reducing the number of children able to access the support and resources they need rather than meeting the needs.
Despite the overwhelming evidence that our public education system ranks in the top six of the highest performing countries in education in the world, the Coalition perpetuates the myth that our public education system is broken so that it can pursue its ideological policy to hand over our schools to privateers and marketers.
Children's education is not being damaged by teachers or their actions. The damage is being wreaked by the economic, social and education policies of this government.
Our children and young people deserve better and it's the responsibility of all of us to make our voices heard and stand up for our world class schools and public education system which is the engine of economic recovery.
Find out more about the NASUWT action campaign at nasuwt.org.uk/IndustrialAction
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