With the upcoming teaching unions’ strikes, is Michael Gove battling the teachers? Just days after the new school term has begun, the unions have announced the dates of the strikes — including one in the middle of the Tory conference — while blaming the Education Secretary for not listening to the concerns of their members.
As Christine Blower, general secretary of the NUT, said on the World at One today:
‘With pay, pensions and working conditions being systematically attacked and an education secretary who refuses to listen or negotiate teachers now have no other choice’
Gove has hit back in a Policy Exchange speech, accusing of unions of choosing politics over pupils. If you look closely at what he had to say, the language was carefully targeted to blame the union leaderships, not their striking members:
‘I fear the reason for this strike is there are people in the leadership of the teaching unions who are on, for ideological reasons or whatever, some sort of kick. The problem with industrial action is that parents suffer as their routines are disrupted, they have to get childcare – the poorest lose out most. Children suffer because they lose valuable time with teachers, learning and achieving more.
‘I unhesitatingly condemn this action. I’m happy to talk any time, any place, anywhere to the trades unions to try and get them to see the errors of their ways. But one thing we need to have is political unity on this and we need to have uncompromising condemnation for the damage it does to children from the Labour Party and so far when it comes to the unions the Labour Party has either been acquiescent or silent.’
Elsewhere in the speech, Gove highlighted that his policies have given teachers more freedom and choice over their careers:
‘And it is because the teaching profession is so crucial that our programme of education reform has been designed to empower teachers; to give them more freedom, more power and more prestige.’
‘I know that – sometimes – the speed with which I want to improve our schools, and – occasionally – the style with which I have made my case, have led some to argue that I am – implicitly or explicitly – seeking to criticise teachers. But nothing could be further from the truth. I want to defend teachers - and teaching – from the critics and cynics.’
By targeting the union leaders, the Education Secretary is attempting to put himself on the side of teachers who feel torn between the welfare of pupils and the demands of the militant leaders. When the strikes kick off in October, the number of teachers on strike will point to whether Gove’s attempt to make himself their friend has succeeded.Tags: Michael Gove, NASUWT, NUT, Teaching unions, UK politics