Alex Kenny, NUT Executive Member, writes on the ousting of Gove, the importance of the NUT’s ‘social movement trade unionism’, and how the struggle for education must now grow in strength as Gove’s and the Con-Dem government’s education policies remain intact.
So, six days after saying that the only teachers who disagree with him are bad ones, Michael Gove has been demoted with a £36,000 pay cut; the NUT can claim a lot of credit for this public humiliation.
It seems clear that Cameron removed Gove because they recognised that he had become an electoral liability, particularly amongst teachers – this is good news because, to a large extent, it was our campaigning that made him an electoral liability – a 9% public approval rating in the most recent poll.
The three parts of our campaign engaging parents, pressuring politicians and striking have all combined to create a situation where he had become so toxic he could no longer stay in office.
The NUT has campaigned against Gove’s policies like never before – aiming to learn lessons from our brothers and sisters in the Chicago Teachers Union and to develop a model of “social movement trade unionism”.
Hundreds of street stalls and local activities have been held and tens of thousands of parents have signed our Stand Up for Education petition, hundreds of MPs have been lobbied by teachers in their constituencies or at Parliament and we have taken more strike action than at any time in the Union’s history.
Politicians are more susceptible to pressure in the run-up to an election and there is no doubt that many MPs are very nervous as a result of our lobbying and the amount of correspondence they get from teachers and the families of teachers.
The fact that on BBC Question Time, two leading MPs opposed PRP and referred to our campaign and meeting teachers is testament to the effect this work has had.
Similarly our Stand UP for Education work has won the support of parents in their thousands and made sure that Gove’s approval rating amongst the public has stayed low.
In many places NUT activists teamed up with local People’s Assembly groups to run joint stalls and events in the run up to the national demonstration on June 21st – this helped build confidence amongst a new layer of activists and ensured that the NUT had a significant presence on the demonstration. We should look to continue that joint work into the autumn.
All of this public facing work has been backed up by effective, well supported, strike action and the media coverage and huge mobilisations in towns and cities all over the country have meant that we could no longer be ignored. Crucially, it also mean that we were able to build a lot of public support for the strike action as many parents understood our concerns.
Gove was supremely arrogant and thought he was untouchable, but he had become the Tories weakest link, a toxic brand, thanks, in no small part, to our work.
So, Gove has gone and teachers will celebrate but the battle goes on.
The Tories will be hoping that a new appointment will take the heat out of the education debate for a while and the fact that Nicky Morgan will take on the new role alongside her existing one, suggests there may be no new major policy announcements.
They will be hoping to soften the message and will aim for a “honeymoon” effect between now and the general election.
But, as others have said, the destructive policies, crushing workload and stifling of creativity are all still in place and we must redouble our efforts to build our campaign for a different kind of education.
Key to this will be developing an alternative vision of education around which we can mobilise popular support – key to that will be working with parents and relaunching the Stand Up for Education campaign in the autumn term.
To our credit, the NUT never made this about Gove but about his policies; we did play to his weaknesses and this affected public opinion.
Now our task is to make clear that, as much as teachers disliked the individual, it is the policies of the Con-Dem government to which we are so strongly opposed.
We need to relaunch Stand Up for Education with renewed vigour in September and make clear to Nicky Morgan that we are not going away.
But for now let’s celebrate Gove’s departure as a victory for the NUT, a new approach to campaigning, and a signal that we can make a difference and bring about change.
“I have never seen such genuine joy in my staff room as to hearing of the departure of Michael Gove. I am sure teachers everywhere are rejoicing at the news. But I know we cannot be complacent and think the fight is over. The new education secretary is the same breed as Gove but just happens to be a woman who hates equality.
Having voted against same sex marriage and supported the tripling of tuition fees I won’t hold my breath on any genuine reforms”
Faduma Hassan, teacher and NUT member, Barnet Primary School