On this homepage, the following was written in early July
“Within a few days of the General Election result, the new Government had already announced new ways it will attack teachers and education. Two stand out. First they intend to restrict our right to take action by making all strikes illegal unless 50% plus one of the entire membership vote yes to action. Second, they plan a huge extension of the free school and academy programmes, giving more power to Multi Academy Trusts and restricting your right to individual or collective trade union representation. Effectively, they are planning the privatisation of the entire state education system, minus, for now, the profit motive.”
Since then nothing has changed about the Government’s intentions and the Trade Union Bill is already rolling through Parliament. However, something new did happen in politics that may have profound implications for education, perhaps positive ones.
The Labour Party held a leadership election. At first this seemed of little consequence because the most common view at the time was that Labour had lost the election in May because they had been too left wing, too pro public services etc. But something unforeseen happened.
A relatively quiet but radical back bench MP named Jeremy Corbyn managed to get on the Labour Party leadership ballot paper with the help of people who vehemently opposed his strong anti-austerity politics. The MPs who put him on the ballot paper can not have known that Labour Party members, new and old would swing left and back Corbyn in the hundreds of thousands. As a result Corbyn romped to victory on the morning of September 12 and a new era in British politics had begun.
Why is this important to teachers and education? The departure of Tristram Hunt as Shadow Education Minister gives a big clue here. The political differences between Hunt and the Tory Government on education were paper thin. Hunt supported the academies and free school programme, supported PRP for teachers, was enthusiastic about testing and the standards agenda and so on and so forth.
Corbyn on the other hand was completely opposed to the Tories on virtually every policy. On Education Corbyn made it clear that he supported a fully comprehensive system of education, the end to tuition fees, a creative curriculum geared to the individual student and backing for teachers and their trade unions.
Six months ago the Tories and Labour were like two political peas in a pod. Now there is a huge gulf between them. Nowhere is that gulf wider than on education policy.
Corbyn’s views on education chime very closely with policies agreed by the National Union Teacher at Conference after Conference over many years.
On Wednesday, September 23, 2015, Nottinghamshire NUT Council unanimously endorsed a motion welcoming Corbyn’s stance on education. Nationally the NUT must engage with Corbyn and Labour using our tremendous research and school based experience of what works in education and what will ensure equal opportunities for all in schools.
This is an opportunity the NUT cannot afford to miss. We should embrace the new politics with open arms.
See below for a short video of Corbyn’s speech in Nottingham in August in which he made clear his vision of education.
Liam Conway, Secretary, Notts NUT
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