Gove invokes spectre of Winter of Discontent to condemn teachers' industrial action

Janet Downs's picture
Michael Gove invoked the spectre of rubbish piling up in streets and unburied bodies as he accused teachers of resorting to “70’s style tactics” in their industrial dispute, says the Mail which cranks up teachers’ industrial action as if it’s an impending apocalypse.

Parents are “demanding” that teachers return to work, says the Mail, as if schools were being closed permanently. The paper prints the views of an angry parent from Dunston Primary School implying she spoke recently. But the quote had been culled from an article dated 19 December 2012 in the Derbyshire Times which had been followed by a comment from “Supportive Parents of Dunston” who backed the teachers.

“Referencing the 1970s will trigger uncomfortable memories of the strikes that shook the country that decade,” says the Mail. And that’s why Gove said it. He wanted to exaggerate the effects of teachers’ industrial action to draw attention away from the reasons for teachers’ anger. And it’s not just about appraisal as the Mail implies.

So, this is why parents should support striking teachers:

The education system in England is being undermined because:

1 Academies and free schools don’t have to employ qualified teachers.

2 The Government is rushing through a new curriculum which has been heavily criticised.

3 It’s introduced new tests for children as young as 5 and for 11 year-olds when our children already take more exams than in most other countries.

4 The Government’s reduced young people’s opportunities by trebling university tuition fees and abolishing the Educational Maintenance Allowance (EMA).

5 It’s setting up free schools, especially secondary schools, in areas where they’re not needed while the real need is for primary places.

6 It’s paving the way for private companies to make a profit out of running schools.

7 It’s making changes to the exam system at age 16 when most developed countries now have their main exams at age 18.

8 It’s causing chaos to teachers’ pay and pensions which will make teaching a less desirable profession.

9 Government changes to teacher training are likely to produce a crisis in teacher supply in a few years.

So, a series of one-day strikes announced in advance and voted for by a majority of those who responded to the strike ballot* will not lead to scenes of rats climbing over garbage and overflowing morgues. But they might draw attention to the damage this Government is doing to the education system in England.


* 40% of NASUWT members voted in an industrial action ballot (82% voted to strike). The turnout in the NUT ballot was 27% of whom 82.5% voted for strikes. (Source: BBC). Accusations have been made that this turnout is too low for the decision to be declared valid. But the average turnout for the election of police commissioners was only 14.9%. And the BBC estimated that the average turnout in the May 2013 local elections was 31%. Neither the police commissioner elections nor the local elections have been deemed invalid because of a low turnout.

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