Teachers may take joint action with the junior doctors as part of their campaign against the Government, National Union of Teachers general secretary Christine Blower has said.
In her farewell speech to the NUT conference Ms Blower said she had received a letter of support from Yannis Gourtsoyannis of the British Medical Association’s junior doctors’ committee after her union had voted to back a ballot on strike action over the Government’s proposal to turn every state school into an academy.
The junior doctors are also in the middle of a dispute with the Government and taking strike action over its decision to force a new contract on them.
Ms Blower said she was “pleased“ to receive the letter of support, adding: “So if there is scope to take action with junior doctors, you can be sure we will.
“We will, of course, continiue to offer solidarity on each of their forthcoming strike days. As we have heard from delegates, and we know from our own experience, the attacks on junior doctors are largely the same as the attacks on teachers.
“The BMA is clear that the contract the Government is seeking to impose will make the health service less safe. The attacks in the ‘wrong priorities’ White Paper will destroy our education service.
“Teachers and doctors are central to ensuring that we have decent public health and education services. We have common interests. We should indeed unite our fights.”
The NUT’s dispute with the Government over its forced academisation programme centres round the fact the move will, say teachers’ leaders, mean the total abolition of national pay scales and conditions. A second teachers’ union, the Association of Teachers and Lecturers – which is seeking to form a new union with the NUT – will debate a motion at its conference next week warning the proposal could lead to industrial action.
The joint action referred to could be rallies or demonstrations. It would be illegal for them to plan joint strike action – although it would be possible for them to both separately arrange action on the same day.
A DfE spokesperson said: “This sort of determination to go on strike – over entirely unrelated issues – is especially disappointing. Strike action holds back children’s education, disrupts parents lives and ultimately damages the reputation of the profession the NUT claims to care about.”
In a wide-ranging speech, Ms Blower, who is standing down as general secretary in May after eight years in the job, also attacked the Government’s test and exams programme, saying: “An excessive focus on exam results is turning our schools at all levels into exam factories. This is bad for pupils and is clearly the antithesis of what NUT members believe to be a good education.”
Earlier in the day, delegates warned of separate strike action if the Government’s fails to increase the one per cent pay rises for teachers this year.
At the weekend Education Secretary, Nicky Morgan, addressing another teachers’ conference – the National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers, said the Government had no “reverse gear“ on its school reforms and urged teachers’ unions to get behind them.