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From The Socialist newspaper, 30 March 2020

Schools: union oversight needed to end chaos in provision under coronavirus

photo National Assembly for Wales (Creative Commons)

photo National Assembly for Wales (Creative Commons)   (Click to enlarge)

A school teacher, North London Socialist Party

Like many other teachers up and down the country, I have been trying to set lessons online for students to continue their education at home. I have also been in school, having volunteered to help with vulnerable students and the children of key workers.

Like the vast majority of teachers I'm happy to do this, on a non-compulsory basis in a safe environment, just so long as my own health and the health of my family permits. However, not all teachers are in this position.

The long-term running down of local authority management of schools, and the government's abdication of responsibility for making key decisions, has thrown responsibility back on individual schools and created a charter for bullying school management.

As a result, there are reports of teachers being ordered to come in, and if they are working from home, subjected to ridiculous accountability measures to demonstrate they have been working the same hours they would have in school.

Mixed signals

Contrary to instructions from exam boards, and all common sense, some teachers have even been instructed to continue delivering the curriculum and marking coursework assessments as if nothing had happened!

Even responsible school managements were unclear as to how to implement the long-delayed decision for a shutdown, and whether teachers should be coming in on an opt-in or opt-out basis. It has therefore taken the intervention of teaching unions at local level to ensure that going into the workplace has happened only on a strictly opt-in basis.

Non-teaching staff in schools have not always benefited from this protection. Generations of outsourcing has meant that many site and admin staff now have contracts that will not protect their earnings while the schools are shut.

Similarly, the drive by successive governments towards privately run 'academy' schools means there are no structures to coordinate planning of local resources. Consequently, we are now seeing the farce of large secondary school sites opening each day for only a dozen students, with all the staff and resources needed to ensure their safety, and with no mechanism for pooling facilities more effectively.

Teachers and other education staff are committed to the continuing education, wellbeing and safety of their students in this time of crisis.

The Department for Education, local school managements and local councils should now be coordinating their response, subject to democratic trade union oversight. The education unions should establish all-union committees in every workplace and area to guarantee safe working practices and efficient use of resources.

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The coronavirus crisis has laid bare the class character of society in numerous ways. It is making clear to many that it is the working class that keeps society running, not the CEOs of major corporations.

The results of austerity have been graphically demonstrated as public services strain to cope with the crisis.

The government has now ripped up its 'austerity' mantra and turned to policies that not long ago were denounced as socialist. But after the corona crisis, it will try to make the working class pay for it, by trying to claw back what has been given.

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In The Socialist 30 March 2020:

Coronavirus news

NHS workers speak out: austerity has left us unprepared

Schools: union oversight needed to end chaos in provision under coronavirus

Councils must use resources now for emergency response

NHS supply chain worker: privatisation has cut equipment quantity and quality

Self-isolation class divide: decent homes for all!

Fully fund hospices to care for vulnerable children

Scandalous conditions in food distribution centre

Coronavirus news in brief

World War Two

All in this together? The 'Blitz spirit' myth

What we think

PPE, tests, full pay - for all now

Labour must resist 'Covid coalition': Workers need their own voice and party

Emergency legislation: Trade unions must be on guard against attacks on workers' interests

Food supply and the coronavirus crisis

Capitalism means empty shelves, food insecurity, and soaring profits - the case for a socialist alternative

Workplace news

Key workers should make bold demands

Essential workers deserve more

Working in Mike Ashley's empire: After lockdown we won't forget how we've been treated

Hull construction workers force bosses to shut down site over health and safety fears

Bosses concede to walkouts in Northern Ireland

Bus drivers halt sackings - now restore our pay

Postal workers walk out over health, safety and junk mail

Working from home during the pandemic

Leicester: Nylacast worker exposes truth

Refuse collection workers strike


Fight for safety, staffing and services - Covid chaos for benefits claimants

More than ever, we need accountable union leaders


Help us continue to fight for workers and socialism

Building the Socialist Party

Readers' opinion

Going viral - Socialist letters and comments on the coronavirus crisis


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