A traditionally moderate teachers’ union has thrown its weight behind calls for industrial action over the Government’s plan to force all schools to become academies.
The Association of Teachers and Lecturers voted unanimously in favour of urging its executive to consider action if the Government failed to listen to its opponents and withdraw the plan.
The union’s move follows a decision by the National Union of Teachers over the Easter weekend to ballot its members on a national one-day strike during the summer term.
Union leaders are incensed that the plan – under which every school would become an academy by 2022 – would end national pay and conditions for school staff as academies have the power to set their own salary levels.
The motion before the conference also warned that the plan was “an attack on democracy” which would leave all schools controlled by multi-academy trusts that were “unaccountable private organisations”.
Opposition to the scheme has been growing since it was announced in the Budget speech in March, with Conservative backbench MPs threatening a rebellion in Parliament over the plan.
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Mark Baker, a past president of the ATL, said schools were being lined up “in preparation for wholesale privatisation”. That would allow “the Government’s cronies to cream off their millions while the rest of us have to make do with scraps,” he added. Under the Government’s plans, schools would be run by private multi-academy trusts.
Mr Baker said of the Government: “Their whimsical ideas aren’t working.… We’re a profession of lions led by donkeys.”
Clare Kellett, from Somerset, said the Government’s dogma was “academies good – anything else bad”. “For too long teachers have complained but sat in apathy waiting for someone else to step up,” she added. “Surely now is the time for us to speak up?”
Mary Bousted, head of the ATL, added: “Never has the time been more right for a co-ordinated response from all education unions to the attack we are facing.
Ms Bousted added: “We must fight together to protect our profession, for the sake of the children and young people whose education depends on us.
A spokesman for the Department for Education said: “We’re creating a dynamic, school-led system in which underperformance can be addressed swiftly and decisively.
“The vast majority of schools which become academies are now thriving. In the minority of academies that underperform we can take swift action to secure improvements.
“It is disappointing that the ATL would rather play politics with our children’s future than work constructively with us to deliver our vision for educational excellence everywhere.
“Industrial action holds back children’s education, disrupts parents’ lives and ultimately damages the reputation of the profession.”