The National Education Union’s (NEU) indicative ballot to boycott high stakes testing in primary schools is due to close as Solidarity goes to press on 2 July.
The indicative ballot has been a success, even if nationally we will not have reached the 50% turnout and 40% of all members voting yes to satisfy the anti-union laws. It is an indicative ballot and it indicates plenty of will to fight on this issue.
The turn-out will exceed the turn-out in the only other national indicative ballot the NEU has run, over pay and funding.
This turn-out will exceed the turn-out in the pay and funding ballot in primary schools by a large margin. This has been achieved in a much shorter time than in the pay and funding ballot, and with fewer full-time organisers involved in getting out the vote.
It has been a success because it has built the union in the previously under-organised Primary sector. Primary is often the poor relation in school unions. Its members are generally in smaller units than their secondary colleagues, often without a rep.
But the ballot has led to big meetings in many areas, a new layer of reps coming to the fore, and the union recruiting new members in primary schools.
The ballot poses two questions. The first is about whether members support the NEU’s campaign against the high stakes testing. The second about their willingness to boycott.
The first is receiving overwhelming support. The boycott is massively backed, but less convincingly than the on first question. That is because it is a sustained action that members have to consider taking, probably against the will of their management.
We need to, and can, win the argument that there is no other action open to members that will ensure that we rid ourselves and our children of this harmful and pointless testing system.
Education Solidarity Network (ESN), a rank-and-file organisation that Workers’ Liberty supporters are central to, is arguing that the indicative ballot should be extended, so that it can have comparable time to the pay and funding ballot. We are also arguing that the indicative ballot makes the case for “disaggregating” the legal ballot which is to follow in September-December, i.e. to conduct it as (legally) a number of separate ballots for separate areas, so that it can be legally valid as a mandate for action in several areas if not everywhere.
It looks as though there is a case to ask the whole of London region and some other districts to go for disaggregated ballots. We think the union should be bold with the disaggregation. We will have from September to December to campaign to increase the turnout and to convince members that a boycott is the only way to rid us of the toxic testing system.
The indicative ballot demonstrates the almost universal hatred of NEU members for the high stakes testing system. It demonstrates their will to fight on the issue.