National Education Union (NEU) districts across the country are gearing up for the indicative ballot to boycott high-stakes summative testing in primary schools, which will open on 4 June and close on 2 July. It is clear the campaign is having a hugely invigorating effect on many NEU districts.
Reports abound of large meetings with primary members who have not been active before turning up, and many signing up to be reps in schools where previously there were none. In Lewisham we had a meeting of 30 with around 20 members who had not been to a meeting before. We signed up three new reps on the night and had 14 primary schools represented. It is clear that this campaign matters to lots of school workers and has a big potential to mobilise and to mend the fact that the union is usually less well organised in primary schools than in secondary.
It is also a campaign for action with a clear goal, which benefits all members and all children in primary schools, and has a clear method to achieve that goal. That clarity marks off the campaign from the NEU’s indicative ballot over funding and pay last year and recent campaigns of the National Union of Teachers (the larger of the NEU’s predecessor unions).
Nationally, the union is preparing a publicity campaign to back the work going on at district level. The publicity will focus upon the issue of restoring trust to those who work in schools as well as the detrimental effects of the tests on children.
The anti-union laws mean that the dispute could not be about just the effect on children. However, the restoring trust is a central issue for school workers concerning these tests. It also links with the harm caused to children, as school workers can see the damage the tests cause and if they were trusted they would not inflict them on the children. We have a lot of work to do, but the evidence is we can get a significant turn out and “yes” vote in the indicative ballot. In the fight to do this we are shaping the NEU into a stronger fighting union for the future.