Unlike the ongoing local government disputes, the war on education is set to involve more people across a broader spectrum of society hit by a greater sense of betrayal and abandonment. It’s also set to become uglier, more entrenched, more confrontational and ultimately with more to lose. Education should be universal and without privilege, and only now is it becoming clear it must be fought for with real determination and without fear.
The massive funding cuts currently being pushed through by the government across the whole of education will have an impact beyond the campuses and school gates. Not only will the quality of education suffer, as will the access and availability to millions of ordinary people, but workers in education will be forced into a downward spiral of longer hours for less pay and fewer rewards in a more demanding and hostile environment. It is this double attack that has the potential to develop into genuine social conflict.
But what we are witnessing now are the tentative steps towards a more radical approach to addressing the issues directly. Already teachers and staff at London Metropolitan University, Tower Hamlets College and Bristol University have held protests over impending job and course cuts. More recently staff at Leeds University staged three one-day strikes, receiving overwhelming support from students and activists alike. And despite the first national teachers strike in twenty years back in 2008 it is these small pockets of resistance that serve as a means of building confidence and communicating dissent.
On Saturday 5th March 10,000 teachers, lecturers and parents from across Scotland came together to protest against teaching cuts. The event held in Glasgow and organised by Educational Institute of Scotland saw protestors march angrily through the streets to converge for a mass rally marking the start of a long term campaign against future cuts in education in Scotland. Add to that the recent student occupations at Sussex and Westminster universities and the parents who took direct action in Scotland and south London by occupying their children’s primary school against closure; it seems there is an escalating awareness about just what’s at stake, and the willingness to do something about it.
So far the anarchist response has come, perhaps naturally, from various student groups as well as the Education Workers Network, formed though members of Solidarity Federation, whose focus is on bringing together those working within education as a way of mobilising interest and developing effective political strategies against the attacks on all aspects of the industry.