Schools

NEU can prepare strikes

Throughout this exchange between myself and leading AWL members I have been hoping someone might convince me that I’m wrong. I’ve been disappointed. Instead I have been offered only misrepresentations of my position to the point where now, after thousands of words of clarification, I feel the process has been exhausted. This is not a complex theoretical disagreement but a simple matter of industrial strategy. Yet I appear unable to make myself understood. In the latest episode Colin Foster says he sympathetic to my supposed advocacy of a national ballot for “school guarantees” (?) including...

Letters: What about musicians?; Full employment; NEU can prepare strikes

Full employment In the arguments about job cuts, we need Full Employment as the driver of economic policy across the board, not profitability, financial markets, or the growing wealth of the richest. Sunak says we will have to put up with millions of unemployed to “save the economy”. He does get criticised by Labour and left for not supporting jobs, but the fundamental idea that you can separate the health of the economy from the number unemployed has been internalised by the labour movement after 40 years of neoliberalism. Full Employment speaks to general working-class consciousness as a...

Keeping schools as safe as possible

Schools are large institutions which are fully open. In most there is little possibility of social distancing and the wearing of face-coverings is impossible during lessons and difficult at other times. The virus is being spread in schools, albeit at possibly a lower rate than other institutions. Last week in my London borough there were around 15-20 schools where Year Group bubbles had been closed, the majority with more than one Year Group closed. We have had already had two schools in the borough closing entirely for two weeks. The situation is far worse in other parts of the country. It is...

Scrap GCSEs for 2021 now!

The conference on 10 October of the Socialist Educational Association decided to call on the government to stop SATs and other high-stakes primary assessments this year. It also demanded that moderated teacher assessment be used instead of examinations for GCSE and A levels in 2021, and that the Labour front bench take up that policy. The Scottish government has already decided to replaced Scotland’s equivalents of GCSEs with moderated teacher assessment. On 3 October the conference of the NEU school workers’ union voted to campaign for the replacement of SATs in 2021 by a system of moderated...

School closures harm girls

Being forced to stay at home and not being able to study has a greater impact on girls, affecting their mental health, increasing their domestic responsibilities, and making them more likely than boys to drop out of school. UNESCO estimates that about 10 million more secondary school-aged girls could be out of school following the crisis. At the height, there were over 1.5 billion affected learners and 194 country-wide school closures. In many countries there is already a pronounced gendered difference in educational access and achievement. Disparities in re-enrolment are particularly true for...

Some gains at NEU conference

The National Education Union (NEU) held an online Special Conference on 3 October. Over 600 people attended, with around 550 delegates. Conference voted on various rule changes. They were not taken as a job lot, as I wrongly reported in Solidarity 565. The rule change to allow the General Secretaries to extend their tenure beyond five years, if they had announced they were retiring, was withdrawn due to rank and file pressure. In a significant victory for the left of the union, the proposal to reduce the executive from 70 to 55 failed to get the two-thirds majority required, following strong...

Letters: Exam algorithms, QAnon antisemitism, School shutdowns?

Scrap exams Patrick Yarker ( letters, Solidarity 564) defends “personal judgement” in exams. According to recent reports, when English Literature, Drama, Art or History A level papers are re-marked, some 40-odd per cent end up with a changed grade. I’d say the answer is just not to have school exams (or, probably, university exams) in those subjects. “ Diagnostic testing” in schools is useful. It can be reported to the student as the teacher’s judgement, subject to being queried by the student (I don’t mean “appealed”, I mean queried in advance of being recorded) and it being clear to both...

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...

Abolish GCSEs!

Last year, Ken Baker, the Tory education minister responsible for introducing GCSEs and the national curriculum, said, “I am the author of GCSEs. I established those exams back in the 1980s, bringing together two exams” [O Levels and CSEs]. Baker claimed tests at 16 were then necessary “because lots of youngsters left school at 16,” but he went on to say, “Now with the leaving age going on to 18, you don’t need to test youngsters at 16. [GCSEs] are redundant.” (February 2019). Head teachers from the Girls’ Schools Association — academically selective girls’ schools — have slammed GCSEs as...

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