Education & Family

Teachers urge parents to back action

Classroom scene
Image caption The NUT says parents will be sympathetic to teachers' campaigns over pay and pensions

The National Union of Teachers says it will hold public rallies to gather the support of parents in its campaign against government policies in schools.

Teachers' unions are calling on parents in England and Wales to back campaigns against government education policies.

The NUT says parents distrust political interference in schools and that the rallies will aim to persuade the education secretary to "change course".

The government said parents backed its plans to give schools "more freedom".

The NUT, holding its annual conference in Liverpool, is to hear votes of no confidence in the Education Secretary, Michael Gove, and the head of Ofsted, Sir Michael Wilshaw.

The union, along with the NASUWT teachers' union, has already announced plans for a campaign of industrial action over changes to teachers' pay and pensions, beginning with local strikes in the summer.

NUT deputy leader Kevin Courtney says that he wants parents to back this campaign.

"We're now asking parents actively to show that parents and teachers together can defend the education service," said the NUT's deputy general secretary.

"We think we might have to take that action if Michael Gove doesn't give way, so far he's not showing any signs of wanting to listen to the profession.

"But before we get to those strikes we intend to have a major set of public rallies where we are inviting the public and school governors to come and agree with this that Michael Gove should change course."

'Positive impact'

As delegates gathered for the conference, the NUT published a survey suggesting that parents were unenthusiastic about political initiatives for schools.

The survey - in which more than 2,000 adults with school-age children were questioned - found that 8% believed the government had made a "positive impact" on education.

A third of parents said the government had made no difference to education and 44% thought it had had a negative impact.

Asked by YouGov, which conducted the survey, who parents most trusted with their children's education, 59% opted for their head teacher, while 6% said the education secretary.

However, the survey of parental attitudes did not ask about whether they would back the forthcoming strikes by teachers.

NUT general secretary Christine Blower said she believed that parents would be against strikes in their schools, but that parents would still be sympathetic to teachers' campaigns over pay and pensions.

The union says the survey reveals a lack of public support for the direction of the government's plans for schools.

But the findings also suggest a wider disconnect between parents and political initiatives.

Lack of support

Academies, launched under Labour and expanded under the coalition government, are considered to be a step in the right direction by 19% of parents.

There were 45% who did not back them and a further 36% who did not know either way.

When asked about whose views should decide whether a school should become an academy, 5% thought it should be the government, compared with 76% for parents and 68% for teachers.

In terms of who should prescribe what is taught in the classroom, only 2% opted for politicians.

There was opposition for any move towards running state schools for profit, with 84% of the parents in the survey disapproving of this plan.

And there was a reluctance to accept non-qualified teachers.

Ms Blower said the survey showed that Education Secretary Michael Gove needed to reconsider his policies.

"He needs to urgently accept that he is wrong and rethink his vision for education to one which includes all children and does not involve the privatisation of our education system."

A spokesman for the Department for Education said that: "This survey in fact demonstrates the high level of parental support for our reforms.

"Almost two-thirds of parents want heads and teachers running their schools, rather than councils - that is why we have given schools more freedom than ever before to do just that through our academies programme.

"Our new national curriculum will be significantly slimmer than the current one, and does not tell teachers how to teach its content - this poll finds that 98% of parents support us in that.

"Additionally, the vast majority of our new free schools are so popular with parents that they are over-subscribed.

"There is much to do but our package of reforms will again give all parents the confidence that their child is receiving the first-class education they deserve."