Sadie Robinson reports on the key debates at the NUT teachers' union conference in Liverpool
The conference was marked by a growing anger at the government’s neoliberal policies, anda desire for workers’ unity to hit back against the cuts.
Many delegates contrasted the way the government has treated bankers with its attacks on public sector workers.
The newly-elected president of the NUT, Gill Goodswen, accused right wing politicians of trying to rewrite history.
“They have persuaded people that state extravagance in the form of the public sector is to blame for the deficit, not the reckless banks,” she said.
Delegates passed a motion condemning all forms of privatisation in education and defending democratically accountable schools.
They also condemned academies, trust schools, and Tory plans for “free” schools.
Alasdair Smith, from north London, pointed out that they were based on a Swedish educational model that was focused on schools as money-making institutions.
Stephen White from Waltham Forest, east London, spoke about strikes at his Norlington school and explained that they had been crucial in stopping plans to turn it into an academy.
“Had it not been for the strikes, that would not have happened,” he said.
Delegates were clear that they needed to intensify the battle for state education—whichever party wins the election.
While much of conference rightly focused on challenging government policies that damage education, one of the most inspiring sessions was entitled “Reading for pleasure.”
Here teachers put forward an alternative vision for education and a celebration of reading that genuinely excites children about learning.
Jane Walton from Wakefield & District NUT condemned schools secretary Ed Balls and his narrow vision of education.
“Why did I come into teaching?” she asked. “Was it to tick boxes? No. I came into teaching to try and make a difference.”
Other delegates pointed out that a lack of books in schools affects the poorest children—who are less likely to have books at home—the most.
Author and teacher Alan Gibbons, who is part of the Campaign for the Book, added, “This is not a motion to make us feel good. This is a motion to say, wherever they try to get rid of a student librarian, we will be there protesting.
“Wherever they try to get rid of a public library, we will protest. Wherever they try to close down a school library, we will protest.”
Delegates voted unanimously for the motion.