Yesterday (Tuesday 5th July) witnessed a magnificent demonstration of teachers and lecturers in Brighton. Striking teachers, members of the NUT from this part of Sussex, joined striking lecturers from the University of Brighton in a 1,500-strong demonstration through Brighton. The march snaked through the city from Palmeira Square in Hove to The Level.
There are more photos at http://ucu.brighton.ac.uk/
On the demonstration were both teachers and parents with children from schools across the schools in the area, and lecturers and some students from the University. This was pattern replicated across the country, with 30 university UCU branches choosing yesterday as their June/July strike day in order to join the teachers from the NUT to put the issue of education on the political map. It was a key opportunity to demonstrate that the problems in the HE sector were not just of sectional interest but concerned the whole community.
After short pickets on the entrances to University buildings in the morning, the UCU had a sizeable and vocal presence on the demonstration. It was gathered behind the UCU banner, and armed with placards.
While UCU members were taking action over the pay claim, the gender pay gap and casualisation in HE, the teachers were striking over cuts to education funding and forced ‘academisation’ in schools. The unifying theme was the defence of public education ‘from the cradle to the grave’.
At the rally on The Level, there were speeches from the NUT, the UCU, from Defend the NHS, and from local political parties.
Speaking for the UCU, Mark Abel explained that the concern in the HE sector was not only about pay and conditions, gender equality and contracts. It was also about the Government’s HE Bill currently going through Parliament. This legislation, he explained, is designed progressively to privatise the HE sector, and to differentiate within it between elite institutions for the children of the rich, and cut-price institutions delivering sub-standard ‘degrees’ for the rest.
This was a matter to unite lecturers with teachers, many of whose pupils would be seeking university places in the future. It should unite both lecturers and teachers with parents, many of whose children would be denied access to proper degree-level education in the future.
In Hastings, UCU pickets joined teachers for a packed rally at the White Rock Hotel before marching to the town centre.
The UCU looks forward to more joint action with the NUT to defend the education system in the face of government efforts to fracture, marketise and privatise it.