I N   C O N V E R S A T I O N

Anne Lemon at the People’s Assembly Against Austerity, Bristol

AL : My name is Anne Lemon. I’m the Executive Member for the NUT for this region.

JO : the NUT is …. ?

AL : is the National Union of Teachers, but now we have amalgamated with the ATL, so actually we’re now called the National Education Union, which has made us a much bigger, much broader union.

JO: was that the old … was that a lecturers’ union ?

AL: no … the Association of Teachers and Lecturers, but mainly it’s in schools.

JO: ok

AL: … the thing about it is that that organisation does recruit non-teaching staff, so it now means the new Education Union will include teaching and non-teaching staff, which will make us much stronger in the workplace.

JO: ok

AL: so when we take action, we’ll be a much bigger force .. to be able to confront …

They want to have a much narrower curriculum. And that is, of course, in state schools. The private schools will still have a much broader and richer curriculum. So, we’re fighting very hard to try to defend the curriculum for our children.

JO: Shall we talk about education and the possibilities and the potential that the union has? How is union penetration? Let’s start there. What’s been … is the trend upward?

AL: yes, yes … we’re continuing to recruit … I mean … the thing about the teaching profession is it’s 98% unionised. It’s one of the biggest, unionised professions there is.

JO: … and I’m bound to say teachers are a very important component of the whole picture …

AL: … a very important resource … but what’s happened in the city, in Bristol, in particular, is when the government introduced what they called fair funding – and by no means was it fair funding – the Bristol schools were hit the worst of all schools across the country. So, we saw primary schools threatened with losing up to £400,000 by 2019.

JO: Is that out of an annual budget?

AL: out of an annual budget, yes

JO: and what sort of consequences … is it easy to say what …

AL: well the consequence of that … obviously the biggest cost in a school is the cost of staff … so, you’re bound to see an increase in class sizes. You’re seeing a reduction in teaching staff, so they’re getting rid of subjects like art … it’s one that classically been cut. Textiles has just been cut from the National Curriculum. GCSE Textiles has just disappeared. They want to have a much narrower curriculum. And that is, of course, in state schools. The private schools will still have a much broader and richer curriculum. So, we’re fighting very hard to try to defend the curriculum for our children. And if I just say a little bit …

JO: what percentage of children are still going through the state system?

AL: I don’t know off the top of my head …

JO: it’s large, isn’t it?

AL: A lot of people. It’s probably 90%.

JO: the great majority …

AL: the vast majority.

JO: So, what we’re talking about is a movement towards … if we’re not careful … towards a sort of rump education for the vast majority …

AL: yes .. a narrow education for the vast majority … and then, if the Tories … which it looks like they’re not going to be able to do now … wanted to have Grammar Schools as that was all part of creating an elite again. So you’d have an elite at the top and all of the people at the bottom, basically being given basic skills. So that’s the thing … a victory that we won .. .as a result of the Corbyn … of the amount of people that voted for Jeremy Corbyn. … they weren’t able to bring in Grammar Schools.

Once, I think we’ve seen, people have been given a real alternative, they choose it. Unfortunately, under previous Labour governments, there was no left alternative. It was just another shade of conservatism.

 

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