The NUT and the NASUWT rallies for education, which have so far taken place in Leeds, Birmingham, Liverpool and Manchester, have been a huge success bringing together teachers, headteachers, governors, parents and students.
The rallies show that there is a mounting anger and sense of injustice at what is being done by this government and this secretary of state in particular.
Hundreds have turned up to the rallies because they are concerned and passionate about education. A good education provides the greatest likelihood of a life characterised by self-confidence and success. For every child and young person to be able to fulfil their educational potential we need more teachers, properly trained and we need them to be motivated to stay in the classroom.
This government should be doing better for children and for teachers and of course the whole of our communities. We are not as Michael Gove would have it, the enemies of promise. It is not teachers who robbed students of their GCSE grades last year or imposed synthetic phonics and a phonics check which many believe is likely to make five-year-olds feel like failures.
It is not teachers who are seeking to impose a curriculum which the profession finds unacceptable and which of course will not be compulsory in academies or free schools. And we are not the ones who believe that it doesn’t matter who is a teacher.
Michael Gove’s persistent criticism, name-calling and undermining of teachers and young people is counter-productive. This secretary of state has lost the confidence of the teaching profession and it would seem parents. A YouGov survey commissioned by the NUT showed only six per cent of parents thought that Michael Gove’s policies had had a positive effect on education.
The travel of direction of this government is quite clearly about privatisation, about driving down costs and undermining the public sector ethos. It is also about holding down public sector pay and attacking benefits and those who receive them.
Some teachers will have in their classrooms children who are worried and upset at the prospect of losing their homes because their parents simply can’t afford the bedroom tax. Many young people will have had their chances of staying on in education ruined by the reduction in the Education Maintenance Allowance and the trebling of tuition fees.
Meanwhile there is continued profligate spending from the Department for Education (DfE) on the unnecessary academies and free schools project. It is quite clear that these policies are being implemented with no real thought to either their effective delivery or accountability.
So out of control is it that, as SecEd revealed earlier this month, a middle third tier has had to be created in the DfE to manage it. There was a perfectly workable middle tier, it was the democratically accountable local authority.
We need teachers who will stay in the profession because they can earn fair pay on a fair basis, not the divisive basis envisaged by this government. Nowhere in the world is there any evidence that relating teacher pay to student outcomes does anything to improve what students achieve.
Teachers do their best because they want to and need to, not to get a rise at the expense of other colleagues. Teachers deserve decent pay. Our demand put to the secretary of state on pay is that he halts the move to deregulate national pay and conditions. In our survey 60 per cent of parents supported a national pay system.
Members of the NUT and NASUWT in the North West of England will take strike action next month as part of our rolling programme, not because we want to but because everything else we have tried hasn’t changed Michael Gove’s mind or his policies. Together we will work together, campaign together, our unions will strike together – and together we will win.
Christine Blower is general secretary of the National Union of Teachers. Visit www.teachers.org.uk