‘MICHAEL Gove has got to go!’ chanted over 600 teachers, parents and pupils as they marched along Victoria Street to the Department for Education (DfE) at Westminster on Wednesday evening.
Angry teachers and their supporters braved a snow shower to the lobby of the DfE organised by the National Union of Teachers (NUT).
Speaking to News Line before they set off, NUT member Cath Ollerton said: ‘I’m concerned for the future of education in this country, for our children.
‘I truly believe all (education secretary) Gove’s and the Tories’ policies are to undermine and dismantle state education.
‘These academies and free schools are being pushed because Tories like Toby Young see that to educate poor children privately is expensive.
‘So the Tories, and Labour before them have started these free schools so anybody can start a school with state money, which is wrong.
‘There is no overall control and monitoring by the state.
‘There has to be strike action.
‘We have to send a strong, clear message that we are not accepting this dismantling of education, which people have fought for for hundreds of years.
‘Gove is also out to dismantle the pay system and our pensions.
‘It’s all part of an agenda to make the rich, richer and the poor, really poor.’
NUT rep at Regent High School, Camden, Ty Miller said: ‘We’re expressing that we are very concerned and frustrated at the changes that Gove is making.
‘These are damaging the learning experience of our children.
‘One of the many gripes is the changes in the examinations, the push for acedemics, does not promote equality.
‘The exam changes are not fair to all students.
‘We are not happy about the changes to our pensions and teaching qualifications.
‘Not having to have qualified teachers in academies is a big concern.
‘If education is run like a business, how can the quality of children’s education be put first?
‘We are already engaged in action short of strike action.
‘If there is no improvement, industrial action may be justified.
‘Strike action is the last resort.’
Teacher training student Julie Goodhew said: ‘I’m very concerned about the way the government is treating our children like factory-churned clones and having a two-dimensional view of life and not understanding what they have learnt.
‘Teaching “to test” means they just understand facts and not concepts or solutions.
‘Children learn in many different ways.
‘Many of them find it difficult to learn by rote.
‘It’s much healthier to have an objective view of life, and not just take things on the chin without argument or discussion.
‘I don’t like the fact that the only new school is a free school.
‘They want to make the whole of education a free school system and take responsibility off themselves and local government for providing education.’
There was a lively contingent of civil servants’ union PCS on the march.
DfE PCS officer Ruth Serwotka addressed the rally outside the DfE offices.
She said: ‘A thousand jobs are going at the Department.
‘Everyone is applying for their own jobs.
‘There is recruitment whilst people are being made redundant.
‘We have people who have provided years of loyal service, without a mark against their name or without any performance issues, told their skills no longer fit.
‘We have a department concentrating on ministerial policies – free schools and academies.
‘Where is child poverty, where is Every Child Matters, where is teenage pregnancy, where is safeguarding?
‘Every school and parent should be demanding answers to these questions and asking about priorities.
‘The Department is closing 12 offices.
‘Some of these offices are in the most deprived communities in the UK; they provide jobs and a location for other government jobs.
‘Closures of these offices serve no purpose; they’re cheap and they provide work in communities that need work.
‘Their closure represents the disinterest the government has for regeneration and trying to breathe life into working class communities in general.
‘On 7th March, civil servants in this department went on their first department-wide strike,’ she said to cheers.
‘They – like you, like teachers – care about children. They are professionals, they care about education but the government doesn’t care and won’t listen to us either.
‘Today, in front of the select committee, our permanent secretary has justified that it’s OK for advisors to Gove to swear at work.
‘These are the people who are unprofessional and they’re doing us and our children a disservice.
‘We have to stand together and say enough is enough!’ she concluded.
Nigel Geary-Andrews, a parent from Roke Primary School, addressed the lobby.
Teachers and parents are fighting plans to make the school a Harris Academy.
He said: ‘We object to the bullying behaviour of Michael Gove.
‘There’s been threats to the governors and teachers at our school.
‘Everybody knows there is nothing to say academies would be better.
‘It is not fair to force an academy against the wishes of teachers and parents,’ he said to chants of ‘strike! strike!’
He concluded by calling for support for a lobby of Harris HQ in Croydon to demand ‘Leave Roke alone!’ at 4.40pm on Tuesday 19th March.
Martin Stafford from Waltham Forest told the rally: ‘Defend school history.
‘What Gove is planning for history will be a disaster for primary schools.’
He called on people to lobby a meeting at Queen Mary College in Tower Hamlets where a representative from the DfE will be taking consultation submissions.
Stafford handed out ‘historynotpropaganda’ leaflets that warn the key features of Gove’s new history curriculum are:
‘Virtually all British, political content.
‘Emphasis on rote learning of chronologically arranged facts.
‘Designed to foster national identity and “celebrate” Britain’s role.’