Julie Hyland |
Education Secretary Michael Gove’s demand that head teachers take “robust” measures against staff involved in industrial action is a declaration of war by the Conservative/Liberal Democrat coalition.
Its immediate target is an assault on the pay and conditions of teachers, which are to be decimated as part of the government’s drive to complete the carving up of public education by private sponsors under the guise of academies and Free Schools. But the government intends to create a precedent that will be used against all public sector workers to force through the privatisation of all social provision from the National Health Service to welfare.
Gove’s demand was made in a letter to the heads of all state schools in England. Referring to the current work-to-rule by members of the National Union of Teachers (NUT) and the National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers (NASUWT) over jobs, pensions and working conditions, he published legal advice asserting that those taking action are in breach of their contracts.
“Pay deductions represent a lawful response, and the advice sets out how deductions can be made in a proportionate and reasonable way,” he threatened.
Demanding head teachers “support your school(s)” Gove wrote, “I am convinced that by working together in a coordinated way we can protect the pupils, parents, teachers and headteachers who would otherwise suffer because of this irresponsible industrial action.”
His claim to be acting in defence of pupils, parents and teachers is a barefaced lie. Public education has been deliberately run down and deprived of funds by successive governments for decades. The coalition is preparing to finish the job through a major offensive against teachers. Gove is considering legislation to outlaw industrial action by teachers and give schools new powers to dismiss staff, while Chancellor George Osborne has announced the government is to break-up national pay bargaining for teachers in favour of performance-related pay based on individual assessments.
This was backed by the School Teachers’ Pay Review Body. Chair Patricia Hodgson argued, “Individual schools are best placed to understand pupil needs and local circumstances and should be free to spend their money as they see fit, within the national framework.”