Education unions

Letters: US election; Exams and algorithms; Ballot school workers?

Help defeat Trump Socialists in the US should be trying to build a working-class campaign to throw Trump out of power. In the last six months the Trump Administration has moved decisively in the direction of open fascism. Violent racist, transphobic and anti-left rhetoric was always part of his repertory. Since the start of the pandemic and the resurgence of Black Lives Matter protests that has stepped up decisively. Trump has effectively celebrated far right shootings of anti-fascists and Black Lives Matter protesters. He encourages followers to take up arms against BLM and Antifa. He is...

Schools: build health and safety committees

At the end of our first week back from school summer holidays a colleague of mine rang the parents of a Year 8 boy in her tutor group. The boy had done very well in school, and was clearly delighted to be back with his friends. So my colleague talked to the boy’s dad and told him how well the boy had been doing in class. The boy’s dad burst into tears. Presumably a mix of relief, intense long-term worry, and happiness, all coming to the surface at once. The kids really need to be back in class. That the Tories are saying it does not make it any less true. And the parents need to see their...

Tim Hales: a tribute

On Sunday 6 September my good friend and comrade Tim Hales passed away several months after a diagnosis of pancreatic cancer. Tim will be known to many readers of Solidarity for the colourful and vibrant cartoons he produced regularly for the paper over recent years. He had been an art teacher since the 1980s, first in Barnsley and then Leeds, and was able to devote more time to his own artwork after retirement. He took the responsibility for producing cartoons very seriously and was always proud to see his work published in the paper. I first met Tim as an activist in the Leeds division...

Victory in Korea: teachers' union wins seven year fight for recognition

Almost seven years ago — in October 2013 — the Korean Teachers and Education Workers Union (KTU) came to LabourStart with a problem. The national government had given the union an ultimatum: either it would change its rules to prohibit dismissed or retired teachers from being members of the union, or the union would be deregistered. At issue were just nine teachers who, according to the government, were illegally members of the 60,000 member union. Facing the prospect of being outlawed, the union stood its ground. Working together with its national trade union centre, the militant Korean...

Union battle over New York school re-opening

The USA currently has a much higher rate of infection than the UK, with a Covid-19 death rate about 120 times bigger (proportional to population) than the UK, and a proportion of tests showing positive about 10 times bigger. In most big cities in the USA, schools are restarting online-only. New York was the hardest-hit area early on, but now has a lower rate of infection than many areas in the USA: about three times as many confirmed infections and deaths per day as the UK, relative to population. New York City’s schools are due to reopen to students on 21 September, with workers going into...

School reopenings: ballot on safety

The National Education Union (NEU) favours the reopening of English and Welsh schools in September, without qualification. That is positive. But the union is not advocating action to stop unsafe or careless practice by school managements. It is not even publicising to members Section 44 of the 1996 Employment Rights Act, which allows workers to quit work areas where they see a “serious or imminent danger”. The NEU leaders proceed as if they are writing a comment piece in the Guardian, or a blog, rather than running a campaigning union. There are plenty of issues we need action to fix...

Back to school: workers' control to make it safe

The government has a campaign to persuade parents that it will be safe to send children back to schools in England in September, following the return in Scotland on 11 August. Chris Whitty, Chief Medical Advisor to the UK government, says, reasonably, that it is important that all children are in school and that “the chances of children dying from Covid-19 are incredibly small.” Whitty added that there are no risk-free options but that children would suffer much more from long-term health and mental health problems by remaining out of school than from dangers associated from Covid-19. That is...

Schools: recovery, not catch-up

According to the Daily Mail on 27 June, Education Secretary Gavin Williamson used a speech to Tory backbenchers to describe the largest and most vocal schools union, the National Education Union (NEU), as “the No Education Union”. This follows attempts by Boris Johnson to blame the NEU for the low numbers of children returning to school after 1 June, the date announced as the start of wider reopening. The government know there is huge frustration at the lengthy closure of schools and the lack of any clear idea as to when that might change. They understand the risk that, if parents blame them...

Support the Tower Hamlets strikers

Tower Hamlets Labour council intends to implement a plan, “Tower Rewards”, to sack its entire 4,000-strong workforce — carers, caretakers, children’s centre workers, housing and homelessness workers, refuse workers, cleaners, social workers, teaching assistants and many, many others — and re-employ only those who will accept substantially worse terms and conditions.

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