The NASUWT, the largest teachers’ union, has today warned that the Coalition Government’s austerity programme risks making educational opportunity the preserve of the rich.
Moving a motion at TUC Congress in Brighton, the NASUWT has called for an end to the attack on aspiration being brought about by the Coalition Government’s ideological programme of cuts, privatisation and reform of the education system.
Chris Keates, General Secretary of the NASUWT, said:
“In the middle of the worst economic downturn in the last sixty years, the future social and economic prospects of our society depend upon the work of teachers, lecturers and support staff in schools and colleges.
“Our prospects depend upon a state education service that supports all learners to make the most of their skills, talents and potential and strives to transform the life chances of all children and young people.
“The Government’s education, social and economic policies are stifling rather than supporting the aspiration and entitlement of working class children and young people.
“Teachers, lecturers and their unions will not stand by and let this Government destroy state education.
“Later this month, NASUWT and NUT members will be taking escalated industrial action to protect the professional working conditions, pay, pensions and jobs needed to deliver world class education for every pupil in the country.
“Our state education system is too precious to allow it to be wrecked by Government ministers driven by ideology, and determined to recreate what they consider was a golden age when working people knew their place, when death and injury at work were considered merely an occupational hazard and when education was for the few, not for all.”
Notes to editors
The full text of the motion is below.
Education for all
Congress congratulates teachers, lecturers and education support staff for their continuing commitment to transforming the life chances of all children and young people. Congress applauds the work of schools and colleges in ensuring that record numbers of young people from all socio-economic backgrounds are achieving record levels of qualifications. Congress deplores the constant denigration of the efforts and achievements of teachers and students by many coalition government MPs and some sections of the media.
Congress condemns the coalition government’s austerity programme that means many young people now face a difficult and uncertain future, with spiralling levels of youth unemployment and access to education based upon ability to pay. Congress deplores the attack on aspiration and entitlement of working class children and young people brought about by the coalition government’s ideological programme of cuts, privatisation, and the return to a 1950’s two-tier system of education for the haves and have-nots.
Congress asserts that educational opportunity should be a right for all and must not be the preserve of the rich. Congress continues to be concerned at the effects of social and economic deprivation on the educational achievement and attainment of young people across the United Kingdom. Despite the numerous initiatives and programmes developed by governments, little has been achieved in terms of counteracting the educational barriers that are directly associated with the poverty that blights the lives of at least 10 per cent of our young people.
Congress expresses its grave concern that the government has approved the first taxpayer-funded school to be managed by a profit-making firm and deplores the stated intention of the Secretary of State to open to profit the whole of state-funded education.
Congress continues to oppose the academies programme as a stepping-stone to privatisation and notes that despite coercion almost 90 per cent of England’s schools have not applied to become academies. Congress opposes the forced conversion of schools against the wishes of parents, staff and governors.
Disregarding parents is the antithesis of the government’s claim to empower them and these tactics are profoundly undemocratic. Academies lack democratic accountability to their local communities, one outcome of which is an increased potential for fraudulent use of funds provided by taxpayers.
Congress urges all education unions to work ever more closely together by all means necessary to oppose and defeat the process of opening up schools for profit.
Congress believes that education is a right for all young people in our society regardless of socio-economic status and calls on all governments to ensure that:
i. targeted expenditure is provided to address specific issues of poverty
ii. detailed research is carried out on the social contexts of schools in order to develop clear and coherent anti-poverty strategies at school and local authority level
iii. teachers are provided with a clear understanding of the nature and impact of poverty as part of initial teacher education and continuing professional development
iv. maintained nursery school provision is protected from marketisation; school food meets nutritional standards; free school meals are expanded not cut under Universal Credit; specialist local authority education staff are retained; face to face careers guidance is a right; an education maintenance allowance boosts 16-19 participation and higher education cuts reversed.
Congress, therefore, calls on the General Council to campaign publically for additional resources, planning and coordination to be made available to tackle the educational inequalities that continue to be directly linked to poverty in order that all of our young people can benefit from the opportunities provided by the education services and not have their life chances blighted by the economic conditions in which they start their lives.
Congress endorses industrial action by unions in defending education and standing up for high standards of educational entitlement as a right for all children and young people.