Strikes best tribute to Estelle Morris

Submitted by on 13 November, 2002 - 2:18

The liberal broadsheets have all but canonised Estelle Morris, following her resignation as Education Secretary. Raised on Manchester council estate, went to a local school, failed her "A" levels, taught at a tough comprehensive, understood teachers. Some readers no doubt were taking in by this and requested handkerchiefs to wipe away their tears. Most people who work in schools were looking for a sick bucket into which they could throw up.
by Liam Conway
The Guardian wheeled out Polly Toynbee to pour on the sugar coating. "There was real shock and sorrow at Estelle Morris's resignation, with unaccustomed tears in her department at the loss of a woman too decent and human to bear life at the top of politicsÂ… She spoke gently and intelligently, made reasoned arguments persuasivelyÂ… She was never in favour of the spread of yet more faith schools. Nor was she in favour of anything that smacked of a return to selection at 11. The specialist school idea sprang from Downing Street and there was no resisting it."

Pull the other one Polly. Estelle Morris went about her New Labour task with as much vigour and spitefulness as Blunkett before her.

This was the woman who foisted Performance Related Pay on teachers, who added literacy and numeracy hours to the turgid educational diet of school students, who trumpeted the post-comprehensive age and the role of the market in schools, and who persevered with SATs and league tables which 90% of teachers condemn. Morris was no friend of teachers and she was the enemy of working class students who have been the chief victims of her divisive policies.

The tragic part of this farce is that not a single teacher's leader demurred from the glowing tributes to Morris. Eamonn O'Kane, general secretary of the NASUWT said that he was "deeply sorry" at Morris's resignation. Doug McAvoy, NUT general secretary said, "She was a minister who cared about education and understood the problems teachers faced".

Charles Clarke will continue in the same vein as Morris. This "bruiser" may well prove to be worse than Morris but only in the sense that he will accelerate the attack on our class that is the central project of New Labour. McAvoy has welcomed Clarke's appointment - a sure sign that teachers need to get rid of McAvoy before moving on to Clarke.

Over the coming months teacher's union activists must build on the clear disillusion with New Labour in schools all over the country. We must turn that disillusion into anger and then action. We should follow the firefighters in demanding a decent pay rise for all teachers.

Another London teachers' strike is scheduled for November over London weighting and this time it looks like the NASUWT will join the action. But we also need national action to really turn the heat on New Labour and not just on pay.

A keystone of Labour policy in education is the testing regime. The left should build for a new boycott of the tests. Such a boycott would be massively popular amongst teachers, students and parents, especially in working class areas.

Strikes and boycotts - yes, these are the only fitting tributes to the memory of comrade Morris.

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