Win the mass in the NUT

Teachers need to build on the work of the Fight Against Cuts in Education and bypass the union bureaucracy

THE National Union of Teachers has rejected a one-day national strike in protest at rising class sizes by an overwhelming majority. The proposal to ballot had been secured by a slender majority against the advice of the executive at the union’s annual conference in April.

The decision delighted Doug McAvoy, the NUT general secretary, who had written to all its members urging them to “reclaim” the union from “militants...in pursuit of a narrow and extreme political agenda.”

This comes as a blow to the left, particularly the SWP, who had invested a considerable amount of time and energy securing the ballot vote at the Blackpool annual conference, as well as talking up the possibilities of a new ‘upturn’.

McAvoy has promised measures to isolate militancy at union conferences. These might include opinion polls to ‘establish’ members’ views on key issues, followed by moves against the left, Thought Police style.

In a further rightwing move, the leadership has softened its opposition to grant maintained schools, after a membership survey revealed that GM schools are “popular” and “effective” in ‘releasing’ extra resources for teaching and equipment.

The Guardian summed it up aptly: “The move is part of a concerted drive by the National Union of Teachers’ leadership to return the union to the mainstream of political debate on education” (June 13).

GM schools are a form of educational apartheid, with the poor consigned to the second-rate, local authority-funded institutions.

Genuine leftwing militants in the NUT must regroup their forces and develop a long-term strategy for this period of unrelenting ‘downturn’.

We need to win over the great mass of demoralised teachers to the idea that victory is possible, not pour all our efforts into achieving narrow conference majorities.

Danny Hammill