NUT on strike

Although I’ve been a photographer since around 1971, it was only in 2000 that I gave up a full-time teaching job to become a full-time photographer and writer, and for the next few years I continued with a little part-time teaching partly in case I didn’t make enough as a freelance, but also because there were parts of the teaching I still enjoyed – and I was able for most of the things that I continued to keep away from those aspects that were beginning to make most teacher’s lives hell.

By then I was running an industry-led computer networking course based on on-line materials that came outside of Ofsted’s remit – as did an evening course I also taught on elementary web design. And that meant I had no need to worry when the college had its Ofsted inspection. Inspectors did come into my lessons – having sought my permission – but only because they wanted to see what the future might look like rather than to inspect.

I’m still a member – a retired member – of the National Uniton of Teachers, as well as an current member of the NUJ (and sometimes get the NUT and NUJ confused in my mind) and so was happy to go along and photograph members of my old union as a member of the new one.

Succesive governments had stuck their messy fingers into education, all driven by a mistrust of teachers and a disdain for expert opinion, and largely sharing a common public perception that teaching is an easy number as teachers only work from 9am to 4pm (if that) and get long holidays.

Of course education needed reform. We needed to get rid of grammar schools – and one of the few things Mrs Thatcher deserves praise for is getting rid of so many, I think more than any other Prime Minister. We need a national curriculum – and got one thanks to Kenneth Baker, though it still needs to be made universal and less prescriptive in detail. We needed better in-service training, but Baker days really didn’t deliver. Inspection needed reform, but not Ken Clarke’s Ofsted, badly thought out and irrepsonisibly implemented. But we certainly didn’t nees Academies or so-called ‘Free Schools’, nor the increasing emphasis on national rather than local authority control of schools.

And many much needed reforms, including the change to middle and upper schools, with reform of 14-18 education and in particular vocational education and the replacement of long outdated A levels were reversed or sidelined, with various rather crackpot ideas replacing them.

The NUT strike in July was against cuts in government funding and the increasing deregulation of teachers’ pay and conditions through the increasing pressure on schools to become academies – something which has got worse since Theresa May became Prime Minister not long after, though her aggresive plans to bring back Grammar Schools (somewhat ironically a sop to the Thatcherist right) seem to have been rather put on hold at the moment.

Teachers were supported at the event by parents, and in particular the parent-led ‘Rescue Our Schools’ campaign who brought along their children and life-belts, and one of whose founders spoke at the rally, as wll as one of the leaders of the Junior Doctors campaign aqnd of course the then Acting General Secretary of the National Union of Teachers, Kevin Courtney. I was pleased ehn he was eleceted as General Secreatry, not least as one of my earlier pictures of him was used on his campaign statement.

And it was good also to see and photograph Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell, and his speech give me a little hope that Labour might once again get a sensible education policy, though it remains to be seen how Jeremy Corby’s pledge to build a new National Education Service will actually translate into Labour education policy – and to see if Labour MPs can give up their anti-Corbyn plotting and get behind their only hope of returning to power in the foreseeable future. It really is long past time the right and their supporters got beyond saying that Corbyn is unelectable and got behind him trying to provide a proper opposition and to get their leader elected.

NUT Strike Day Rally
NUT Strike Day March


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