No confidence in Gove by heads

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At their annual conference the largest head teachers union, NAHT, passed a motion of no-confidence in the Tory education minister Michael Gove and the whole government policy on education.

Gove, who was present for a question and answer session with delegates, was also on the receiving end of a bruising encounter with heads who heckled and jeered him.

This is hardly surprising given the onslaught the teaching profession, at every level, is experiencing at the hands of Gove and his special team of ‘advisors’ and super-Ofsted inspectors who, in the words of one head teacher, are only interested in creating a ‘culture of fear’ amongst teachers and not in improving education standards.

Gove is conducting an all-out war against teachers and their unions by vilifying them as lazy incompetents, and through the introduction of measures designed to ‘fast-track’ teacher sackings while introducing performance related pay – measures that have resulted in 6,000 qualified teachers leaving the profession since the coalition came to power.

The massive staff shortages created have been covered by an increase in the number of untrained teaching assistants on much lower pay rates.

The use of untrained teachers is not only allowed but positively encouraged in Gove’s flagship Academies and ‘Free Schools’.

It is this policy that lies at the heart of the NAHT’s anger against Gove – they rightly see all the attacks on schools and teachers as being part and parcel of the drive to force all secondary and primary schools to become academies.

The heads at their conference singled out the policy of ‘forced academisation’ for particular criticism.

According to Gove ‘struggling’ schools are ‘encouraged’ to become state funded independent schools outside the control of local authorities.

To aid schools in achieving academy status the government has set up a number of academy brokers whose job it is to help identify the ‘best possible sponsor to turn around failing schools’.

In practice, these brokers are employed by the Department for Education to strong-arm reluctant schools into becoming academies whether they like it or not.

Nor is it true that only the so-called educationally failing schools come in for what the NAHT describes as ‘unsavoury methods’ of persuasion.

Even the heads and governors of successful primary schools are being threatened with closure by these brokers if they don’t agree to accept becoming an academy and being saddled with a private sponsor who can dictate the curriculum and pay rates for that school.

The entire process of turning every school into an academy or a free school where pupils are taught by untrained staff, and pay rates can be cut at will, is all part of the Tory-led coalition plans for the complete privatisation of the educational system.

This was made clear last February when an internal DfE document surfaced which called for every academy and free school to be privatised outright and the rules changed for schools to become profit making for the first time.

It said that the government should consider ‘fundamentally shifting the basis of our relationship with academies through reclassifying academies to the private sector, possibly coupled with a change in the legal framework such as adopting a licensing or FE-like statutory corporation approach.’

By privatising every school Gove intends to transfer the education budget back into the government coffers to help plug the black-hole created by the collapsed banking system.

Along with the NHS and every other gain made by the working class, free state education will be smashed completely by this government.

Now is the time for teachers and health workers to demand that the whole of the trade union movement take decisive action to halt this destruction, by the immediate organisation of a general strike to bring down this government and replace it with a workers government.