|The News Line: Editorial
Tuesday, 4 September 2012
Sack Gove not teachers, stop privatisation of schools
TEACHERS in England returned to work this week facing an all-out assault on their jobs, their pay and the very existence of free state education from the Education Secretary, Michael Gove, and the coalition government.
From this week, new powers have been introduced to make it easier for head teachers to sack ‘underperforming’ staff in a move described by Gove as representing ‘zero tolerance’ for poor teachers.
Under this proposal, a head will have the right to sit in a teacher’s class to ‘observe’ their teaching abilities for as long as it takes to establish that the teacher is sub-standard.
Anyone found wanting can then be fast-tracked to being sacked with the timescale for dismissal procedures being reduced from one year to nine weeks.
To subject teachers to the threat of constant observation while they try and teach a class is tantamount to declaring a reign of terror against them, setting them up to fail in the most brutal way.
Not for nothing did the deputy general secretary of the head teachers union, NAHT, complain that ‘no other profession would accept this level of scrutiny and mistrust.’
Along with these new procedures to make sacking teachers a simple task has come a renewed attack on the very principle of national pay rates.
A recent study by academics from Bristol University – a body which receives substantial funding from the government’s Department of Business, Innovation and Skills – made the astounding claim that national pay rates were the cause of pupils achieving low grades in exams.
This same body conducted another study into hospitals which reached a similar conclusion, that national centralised pay rates for nurses led to worse health care for patients.
Conveniently for the government, all the failures in education and health can now be put at the door of national pay rates and not blamed on a government that has cut billions from the health and education budgets in order to pump these same billions and more into the bankrupt banking system.
The attacks on education do not stop at teachers’ jobs and pay. Gove has instructed the government regulator, Ofsted, to remove from schools the category of ‘satisfactory’ in their assessments.
In future, a satisfactory mark will be replaced by ‘failing’, meaning that any school previously judged to be satisfactory will now be judged as a failing school and if still under the control of the local authority will be taken over and turned into an academy or closed completely.
With 34% of secondary schools rated as satisfactory or worse last year, it is clear that Gove is preparing an all-out war against state education, a war that will involve the closure or takeover of hundreds of schools throughout the country.
One area where the government is prepared to spend money is on the so-called ‘free’ schools with the announcement this week that fifty five new ones would be set up this year.
Free schools can set their own pay rates for teachers and are not obliged to employ qualified teaching staff – this is the future that Gove and the government want for the entire education system, leading eventually to the privatisation of education at all levels.
Teaching unions are already discussing strike action in defence of their pay and conditions, but the defence of the entire education system is a matter for the entire trade union and working class movement.
If capitalism cannot afford free state education and to pay teachers a decent living wage then it is capitalism that must perish, not schools.
The teachers’ unions must demand that the TUC act to support education with a general strike to kick out Gove and the entire government and replace them with a workers government.
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