Michael Gove has written to schools across the country telling them that they can deduct a day’s pay from staff who try to disrupt school time by carrying out ‘work to rule’ industrial action.
This form of action involves teachers fulfilling their job description to the very letter, with the NUT and NASUWT issuing list of activities their members should refuse to undertake. These include refusing to submit lesson plans, refusing to agree to timetable changes, refusing to undertake clerical tasks or covering for colleagues’ absences. Gove’s letter, seen by Coffee House, says:
‘I respect the right of teachers to take industrial action, but this action short of a strike lacks a clear purpose or even a set of coherent aims. It sets out only to cause unnecessary disruption in schools, while at the same time threatening to damage children’s education.’
The Education Secretary writes that ‘this is not a constructive or effective way for organisations representing professionals to work. I believe it is damaging the reputation of the profession with the public, at a time when we have the best ever cohort who are working harder than ever.’
He has published legal advice for schools which says teachers who follow this industrial action are ‘very likely to be in breach of their contracts’ and therefore docking pay is a lawful response.
Gove stresses that there will be very few teachers who choose to take this action but a small number of schools ‘are starting to see a severe impact and where this is the case, I believe a robust response is needed’. This action is targeted at the small number of militant trade unionist teachers in schools rather than all teachers.