A video of militant teachers boasting of using threats of strike action to keep classrooms closed has fuelled fears that hardline teaching unions will derail plans to reopen schools.
The recording of three officials from the Left-wing National Education Union reveals how strike threats delayed the reopening of an academy in London last year and stopped staff at schools delivering remote lessons from their classrooms last month.
Threats of industrial action were also said to have scuppered plans for the daily Covid testing of pupils and teachers in an area of the West Midlands and meant staff in nurseries and special schools could stay at home – a claim angrily denied by council chiefs.
Boris Johnson wants schools to start returning from March 8, but Chris McGovern, a former headteacher and chairman of the Campaign For Real Education, last night said he was ‘hugely concerned’ the unions will torpedo the plan.
Comrades, the 49-minute video was recorded by Henry Fowler, the NEU’s far-Left national campaign manager
‘The union bosses are holding children to ransom,’ he said. ‘We are in the middle of a major power struggle about who runs education and the children are in the middle of it.’
Entitled Comrades, the 49-minute video was recorded by Henry Fowler, the NEU’s far-Left national campaign manager and posted online last month.
During the video, Venda Premkumar, an English teacher and joint secretary of the NEU’s branch in Redbridge, East London, revealed how last June, after the first lockdown, activists were able to ‘push back’ the reopening of many schools by two weeks. ‘About 80 per cent of our schools didn’t open on June 1 as the Government intended,’ she boasted.
When one of the borough’s eight academies attempted to reopen, staff at the school ‘initiated strike action but never had to carry the threat out because they won in the end’, she claimed.
Chris McGovern, a former headteacher and chairman of the Campaign For Real Education, says he is ‘hugely concerned’ about the unions
Teachers in Redbridge again threatened industrial action at the beginning of last month’s lockdown because some schools wanted them to deliver online lessons from their classrooms.
At one school, 25 NEU members refused to go in to work, claiming their school was unsafe, even though most pupils would have been at home. The union then surveyed staff at other schools across the borough to see if they would support a strike.
‘Even though we didn’t have to carry the threat out, of the members who responded to the survey 92 per cent said yes to strike action,’ Ms Premkumar said.
Chris Denson, a physics teacher and the NEU’s joint secretary in Coventry, revealed a similar level of militancy among teachers there.
He said that nursery and special school staff last month threatened to walk out after Coventry council followed Government guidance and said they should all continue going in to work during Britain’s third national lockdown.
Boris Johnson wants schoolchildren to start returning from March 8
‘We told the authority we were intending to ballot our members for strike action and the local authority pulled back because they realised the members were confident,’ Mr Denson said.
Teachers also last month blocked plans for daily Covid tests for pupils and school staff in Coventry who have come into contact with someone who has tested positive, according to Mr Denson.
Astonishingly, he claimed that NEU members ‘are really starting to take control’ of issues within schools, including the safety of staff, online learning and even the curriculum.
A Coventry Council spokesman said: ‘We absolutely refute that any individual groups have control of schools in Coventry. We did not advise that nursery and special school staff didn’t have to go to school.’
Last night, the NEU said that it has ‘never tried to stop schools from re-opening’, adding: ‘But we have supported members in upholding Government recommendations on safety in schools.’