The upcoming strike action by the NEU highlights the deepening crisis within our education system. Around 300,000 teachers across 23,400 schools are set to walk out over the next two months, demanding a fully-funded, above-inflation pay rise.
This strike is not just for the benefit of teachers, but also for students, whose education has been decimated over decades.
It is therefore vital that students offer staff their full solidarity, in order to win this battle and save our schools.
Education under attack
The Tories have relentlessly attacked state education over the last 12 years. This strike comes after years of teachers struggling against academisation, cuts to funding, and staff shortages, due to high workloads, burnout, and low pay.
This assault on our education is not only a concern for teachers, but for the entire student body. Young people today are seeing every level of education decaying – from secondary, to further, to higher.
Increasing class sizes; more course content; more exams: all of this has burdened both students and teachers. Overworked and stressed-out, mental health issues have become prolific – exacerbated by the severe lack of services to address this.
Stretched to their limits, teachers are unable to offer enough attention to students, but can only fight fires. Schools are physically crumbling. And outdated resources make learning less and less productive.
All the while, successive governments have been chomping at the bit to open the doors of Britain’s schools to the capitalists. While academy CEOs, educational consultants, and exam boards line their pockets, students and teachers are losing any control over education.
This is the reality of state schooling today. The result is a rigged education system, in which inequality is ingrained.
Unite and fight
Student-teacher solidarity in these coming struggles is vital. Ultimately, teachers’ working conditions are students’ learning conditions.
Teachers – fighting alongside the rest of the labour movement – hold the key to defeating the bosses and their representatives in government.
Students must support them: joining striking staff on the picket lines; getting parents behind walkouts and protests; and uniting to deal a blow against the bosses.
Students should talk to their teachers about why they are striking, and discuss how we can support them and their struggle.
We should flyer and poster about the strikes, in and around school, and speak in classrooms on why and how we can defend education together. Social media groups should be set up to spread the word and organise students across year groups.
And we should also organise meetings of students to discuss the strike, inviting teachers to explain why they are taking action.
Above all, we must unite and fight against our common enemy: the Tories, the capitalists, and their rotten system.
History provides plenty of examples showing the potential role that school and college students can play in the struggle.
In 2010, for example, school students joined the mass fightback against the hike in tuition fees. In 2003, in response to Britain’s imperialist adventures in Iraq, school students staged walkouts and participated in large demonstrations across the country.
And more recently, a Marxist student activist at NewVic College, London, organised solidarity with striking NEU members at their school.
Starting with just one radical student, many more soon joined the pickets. Eventually, this forced the college’s governors to back down, saying that they could not handle these student protests.
What this demonstrates is the power of unity and solidarity – when students and workers join forces to defend their common interests.
Taking it into our own hands
We cannot trust the Tories – nor Starmer’s Labour – with our education. Both have made it clear that they defend and represent big business, not workers or students. Both are committed to academisation and austerity, which means more cuts to education.
Instead, our education system should be placed in the hands of staff, students, and working-class communities.
Marxist students have been preparing for a big day of strike action next Wednesday! With both the NEU and the UCU, alongside other unions, we will be heading along to pickets up and down the country! pic.twitter.com/qMXG63jGHs
— Marxist Student (@MarxistStudent) January 25, 2023
This means kicking capitalism out of our schools; fighting against privatisation and academisation; prioritising our wellbeing and education; and providing proper funding by expropriating the bankers and billionaires.
School and college students have an important role to play in this. We must organise, agitate, and fight together – alongside our teachers and the rest of the working class – against the bosses and the Tories.
If you would like to organise in your school or college, get in touch with the Marxist Student Federation today! Students and workers: unite and fight!