Thursday, 31 March 2016

NUT chief calls on teachers to unite in opposition to Tory plans By Richard Adams

Teachers should build a coalition of “horror and dismay” at the government’s education white paper and its plans to make every school in England an academy, the general secretary of the National Union of Teachers told delegates.
In her speech to the NUT’s annual conference in Brighton, Christine Blower called the government’s plans unacceptable and likely to hurt the employment prospects of teachers.
“We know that total academisation represents the total abolition of national pay and conditions,” Blower said, arguing that issues such as holiday and maternity pay, as well as class sizes and school timetables justified the union’s decision to ballot for industrial action later this year.
Over the Easter weekend, delegates at the NUT conference strongly endorsed a strike ballot over the white paper, although the union will have to word it carefully to ensure that pay and conditions are central to avoid being vulnerable to legal challenge.
Blower said there was “an incredible level of public opposition” to the plans outlined by the education secretary, Nicky Morgan, and applauded the support from the Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn, who became the first major party leader to address the NUT conference.
“We heard very clearly in Jeremy’s speech on Friday there will be fierce opposition from the Labour party. We are delighted to hear this,” she said, noting that Corbyn “has stood with us over the years in many campaigns which have been important to us”.
Blower – addressing her final annual conference before stepping down later this year – also called on the Department for Education (DfE) to cancel this year’s primary school tests and assessments because of delays and controversy over their setting.
“The cavalier attitude that pervades the DfE, which allowed teachers to be sent the key stage two writing guidance in February, just shows how far this secretary of state is from understanding the realities of primary education,” she said.
The DfE’s guidelines on the use of exclamation marks for its spelling and grammar tests were “piffle” and “tortuous nonsense”, according to Blower. “An excessive focus on exam results is turning our schools at all levels into exam factories. This is bad for pupils, bad for teachers and is clearly the antithesis of what NUT members believe to be a good education.”
Earlier the conference passed a motion calling for pay increases for teachers working in Greater London, to recognise the housing pressures and costs faced by its members in the capital.
An NUT survey of young teacher members in London showed that many are struggling to live and work in the city, with the average monthly cost of renting a one-bedroom flat now more than £1,000, while the average monthly take-home pay of a newly qualified teacher was just £1,600.

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