1. ITV Report

Arab Spring-style strikes? Teacher calls for resistance

Teachers are considering walking out this summer Photo: PA

Until Monday morning, there was little that linked the politically explosive chain of revolutions in North Africa and, for example, Gateshead.

Then Tony Dowling, a supply teacher from the town, made a speech to the NUT Conference in Torquay.

In it he said he had been inspired by a talk he had heard from one of the groups involved, and learned how "mass resistance on the streets really could change things."

In a hushed telephone call to ITV Tyne Tees & Border from a noisy conference hall, he said: "Teachers want to take strike action. They are absolutely livid about the changes. The union has to take a lead on this mood." He went on to compare the Government to a dictatorship. The Government said that unions were over-reacting, when neither the regional pay nor pensions had been fully decided.

Of course neither Tony Dowling, nor the NUT, are calling for violence or bloodshed. But it has been a long time since teachers were this angry (the former Education Secretary David Blunkett was once bundled into a room at a NUT conference, but Mr Gove was perhaps wisely absent at the weekend).

So, on Wednesday 11th April 2012, the North East and Cumbria's biggest union representatives are back from their conference and talking strikes again.

These are the possible outcomes of the NUT conference: **

  • June strike: The NUT says it's possible it will strike on pensions as early as June
  • Summer exam strikes: NUT agrees to 'avoid' striking during exam season
  • Autumn strikes: NUT agrees to work together with other unions to 'build alliances' for a national day of action. If this doesn't happen in June, it could happen instead (or as well) in the autumn term
  • New regional pay strikes: Quite apart from pensions, if the Government goes ahead with regionalising teachers' pay, then the NUT will ballot on separate strikes

How likely is this to happen? In the case of pensions, the NUT has voted to allow its executive to decide on strikes without further ballots. For a separate strike on the regional pay issue, it would have to hold another ballot.

Most schools have incredibly high rates of union membership. In the North East and Cumbria it is likely to be particularly high too. Scotland may get strikes as well: the NUT wants to join together with unions like the Scottish EIS to involve the whole country. So any strike would close hundreds of schools for a day, or potentially, several separate days. In short, when school's out this summer, it's unlikely the anger is as well.