Teachers' strike: Gloucester MP compares NUT to 'communist China'
Gloucester MP Richard Graham responds to the proposed teachers' strike in the county on October 17:
The attempt by the NUT to target Michael Gove as the reason for a national strike that will affect us in Gloucester is based on a disgraceful distortion of the truth.
The NUT spokesman for Gloucestershire was quoted in Friday's Citizen criticising Education Secretary Michael Gove for a 'failure to invest in weaker schools due to the large amount of cash he is throwing at academies and free schools'.
Has this spokesman lost grip of reality? A week ago at my invitation Michael Gove visited the new £15 million Gloucester Academy. That significant investment by a government is the first brand new secondary school in Gloucester for almost half a century. It replaces two predecessor schools which were very weak - in fact one had the second worse GCSE results in the country as recently as 2009. 'A failure to invest in weaker schools' or the exact opposite?
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I suggest the county's media accompany the NUT Glos spokesman on a visit to the Gloucester Academy and Denmark Road High School. They can then compare the wonderful state of the art Academy with the portacabins and peeling Victorian paintwork at the high performing grammar and discuss with Mr Pembworthy whether this government has invested the little money it has in weaker or stronger schools.
The reality reflects Michael Gove's determination to spend limited cash after the Great Recession on giving ALL our children the best chances and raising the aspiration and achievements of the weakest.
That is also why the other school in Gloucester that Michael Gove visited with me some years back was Finlay Community School. This primary school was in Ofsted Special Measures, county council officers wanted to close it and I don't remember any objections from the NUT at all. But County Councillor Jackie Hall was determined to turn Finlay round, I supported her and Michael came to see what was being done. The new sponsors of Finlay, our University and the Church of England, helped Finlay go from bottom to top (rated Outstanding by Ofsted) in four years. We do not ever need to accept that poor results are inevitable or acceotable.
The Gloucester Academy is on a similarly challenging journey, and it is typical of Michael Gove that he backed a new Academy for the successor to our two weakest schools and supported my determination to get the money for great buildings and facilities to inspire pupils. - at the beginning of the journey.
And it is also no coincidence that both Finlay and the Gloucester Academy are in Matson & Robinswood - one of our city's poorest wards: and also where the first primary school in our county to become an Academy is (Robinswood). That is at the heart of the mission that Michael and I share. Does anyone NOT believe that giving every pupil the best opportunity to succeed is the right mission, the same vision as Labour's Andrew Adonis, and at heart of the education, education, education mantra that Labour once had?
So what is the NUT complaining about? The NUT Glos spokesman's comments are so obviously the exact opposite of the truth. I lived in communist China for several years, and the way the NUT is trying to demonise the Education Secretary ('our dispute is solely with Mr Gove') is chillingly similar, with echoes of the 'plebgate' targeting of Andrew Mitchell by anti government reform elements of the Police Federation. When you've lost the argument about the ball, play the man.
I believe the NUT Glos, by calling for another strike against an individual so determined to help the weakest to have more aspiration, better educational results and better lives is making a big mistake. It is not on the side of our pupils or hard working parents, or our excellent Heads and other teachers in Gloucester trying to do their best to reach that goal.
It is anti aspiration, anti achievement and anti the changes to get back to where Britain and Gloucester should be.
For we know that Britain was sliding down world league tables, and that the dire performance of some of our schools was wrongly condemning some of our young to a lifetime without work. The main reason why our city still has too many young without work is because too many were leaving school without adequate english and maths. That had to change and it is.
The days when the NUT prevented Heads from seeing their teachers teach, when it was almost impossible to fire a poor teacher and when it was acceptable for a Gloucester secondary school to be the second worst in the country are over and we will never go back to them.
So when it comes to striking on October 17th, I ask our teachers to think about what has happened in schools - the new pupil premium and its recent uplift, the new cash for sports, the greater financial and curriculum autonomy of the new Academies, the agreement to change the overall school funding mechanism which has been to Gloucester's detriment and above all the great investment in our weakest through the Gloucester Academy.
And I ask them to consider how will this proposed strike benefit the children they teach, the hard working parents who would have to take time off and education generally in our city? What will this strike achieve? Or does the NUT's campaign against the Education Secretary show that they don't share our determination to stop the trend of ever easier exams and better results - and Britain's slide down the world education table from 4th to 14th?
What do I think? Frankly by 2010 Gloucester deserved a lot better. I look at the Gloucester Academy and think: the previous government had all the money in the world and thirteen years and at the end of it Bishops College had the second worst results in the country. We have very little money and have made a brand new school in the Gloucester Academy in three years.
Now that school can and will go on to achieve results that only recently would have been thought impossible. Children will come from all over Gloucester, and demand will grow fast, as I saw at the Open Evening last Monday. Perceptions about strong and weak schools will change fast.
If this strike is 'only' about Michael Gove and his 'failure to invest in weaker schools', as the NUT Glos claims, then I have never seen a worse case for industrial action in my life.
JOHN PEMBERTHY, Gloucestershire NUT responds:
Richard Graham is desperate to defend the money spent on Gloucester Academy as he sees this as his “big achievement” but unfortunately his arguments are fatuous. Since Richard has chosen to use such polemic language I must point out the depth of his ignorance of the reality that the impact on schools that the academisation project has created. The diversion of funding from ordinary state schools to academies is a matter of fact and as a member of the Gloucestershire Schools Forum I have seen first hand the depth of cuts to support services to state schools that this has caused. Richard’s slavish loyalty to his patron, Michael Gove, owes more to tribalism than intelligent debate. The NUT believes that every child deserves a good local school.