As teachers strike around England and Wales, Jeremy Corbyn has nailed just why they’re taking action – and why we should support them. The former Labour Party leader didn’t mess around, either. He delivered a robust defence of trade unions‘ actions, saying that workers have “had enough” – while throwing shade at the current Labour front bench, too.
Teachers’ strike: education is “falling down”
National Education Union (NEU) members walked out of schools on Wednesday 1 February. As the union wrote on its website, the industrial action is over pay, working conditions, and students‘ education:
We do not want to go on strike – we want to be in the classroom, teaching and supporting our amazing children and young people.
But with one in four teachers leaving the profession within two years of qualifying the education system is falling down around our pupils.
The NEU also noted that:
teachers have been offered a pay increase of just 5 per cent – with inflation soaring, this adds up to a 7 per cent pay cut.
On top of this, schools aren’t being given enough additional money to fund the 5 per cent on offer – meaning the Government expects your child’s school to pay for it out of its already overstretched budget.
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The Government missed its target for recruitment of new secondary school teachers by a simply staggering 41 per cent this year and by 11 per cent for primary school teachers…
The Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) agrees. It stated that the government has cut the real-terms pay of experienced and senior teachers by around £6,600 – or 13% – since 2010. On top of this, the NEU also said that:
Nearly one third of the teachers who qualified in the last decade have quit.
13 per cent of teachers who qualified in 2019 have already gone.
It’s hard to argue with the NEU that the Conservative Party has put our education system in a dire state. Of course, some right-wingers will, though – including the Labour front bench. Shadow education secretary Bridget Phillipson was on Sunday with Laura Kuenssberg on 29 January. As the National reported, the host repeatedly pushed her on whether she supported the teachers’ strike. Phillipson didn’t really answer. Instead, she spouted some centrist dross in response to Kuenssberg’s questions:
I want to be the next Education Secretary and I’d be a party to that discussion sat around the table trying to get a settlement, it’s not for me to insert myself into it in that way.
So, while Labour cannot allow frontbenchers to go to a picket line, leave it to Corbyn to step-up on teachers’ behalf.
Corbyn: doing the business
The now-independent MP appeared on BBC Politics Live on Tuesday 31 January. When probed by host Jo Coburn over the teachers’ strike, Corbyn said:
The teachers have a very strong case. They are grossly overworked, and they have lost a lot in pay, and many young teachers are leaving the profession. I think we [MPs] should be there with them.
Jeremy Corbyn says Labour should "show open support" for teachers on picket lines
Teachers are "grossly overworked, they have lost a lot in pay, many young teachers are leaving the profession," says former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn#PoliticsLive https://t.co/J52mr43xti pic.twitter.com/ZHohdqs44Q
— BBC Politics (@BBCPolitics) January 31, 2023
He also took an indirect swipe at Phillipson not joining a picket line or overtly supporting the teachers strike, saying:
you know what, when you go into a picket line or demonstration of teachers, or ambulance workers, or any other group, you actually learn a lot. You learn a lot about their lives and their working conditions, and the stress that they go through. So, I don’t see it as impossible to go on a picket line and then become a minister who’s going to negotiate for better conditions in the future.
Ouch. It seems like Corbyn currently has no desire to curry favour with the Labour leadership – and rightly so. Keir Starmer and his frontbench have shown their true colours once again. Their lack of support for the teachers’ strike, as well as the other industrial action happening, is a damning indictment of the party now – and Corbyn is well out of it.Support us and go ad-free
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