Over the last few months, some tremendous campaigns - and some important victories - have been organised across the London Region by the National Education Union.
Some campaigns can be won just by organisation and good arguments - but it sometimes needs the threat of collective industrial action to make sure those arguments are heard! Here are a few examples:
The year began with an important victory at Charlton Park academy in Greenwich. Six days of GMB/NEU strikes led to talks at ACAS that secured an agreement that nationally negotiated Burgundy and Green Book rights would apply for all staff.
The campaigns against academisation in Newham have been building ever since Avenue Primary School took its first day of strike action last year. Since then, NEU colleagues at Cumberland and Keir Hardie schools have also taken strike action.
They have been backed by a vigorous community campaign that has seen dozens of parents support NEU picket lines.
Now, that campaigning is beginning to win!
Avenue Primary was meant to have been converted this Easter - but Governors were unable to do so after a local parent won the first stage of their legal challenge at the High Court. The challenge, that the school had not carried out meaningful consultation, could go all the way to a full Judicial Review. If won, that could have significant consequences nationally.
It looked as if Governors at Keir Hardie Primary were going to vote for conversion on 19 April but, in the last week of term before Easter, parents were sent a letter saying they were not going to convert after all ! Newham’s campaign has also won support from local councillors, including the Labour Party’s new candidate for the Mayor and a motion was passed at the Full Council meeting that ‘strongly discourages’ schools from considering academisation and calls for binding parental and staff ballots in schools that still plan to academise.
Even where our action could not stop transfer, like at Village School in Brent, the solid support for action has shown the strength of the Union and of the campaigns we are able to organise.
That may have helped contribute to another victory, at Leopold School in Brent, in a dispute over ‘unacceptable management style’. A last-minute deal secured in negotiations meant members were able to meet at the school-gates on the day of a planned strike, vote that they were happy with the outcome, and all go into work together!
Members at COLA Southwark look to have achieved important gains in a dispute over appraisal after taking strike action in March.
Meanwhile, members in a number of schools managed to resolve disputes before needing to go as far as taking strike action, sometimes just by applying pressure through calling for an indicative ballot. These included Nightingale in Enfield over workload, Haverstock in Camden and St Edwards in Havering over redundancies, Oaklands in Tower Hamlets over leave of absence policies, and St. Aloysius in Islington, over appraisal/performance management.
A number of disputes are ongoing, with some schools preparing for ballots or balloting over the Easter break. We’ve not got room to list them all, but two that should be highlighted are Acton High in Ealing (over a number of issues, including the threat of transfer to a new academy employer) and Connaught in Waltham Forest (seeking additional salary in this Outer London school). In both cases, more action is planned at the start of next term.
Look out for more updates and more victories. Let’s build members’ confidence to win more successes!
Sunday, 11 March 2018
“I want teachers to spend their working hours doing what’s right for children and to reduce the amount of time spent on unnecessary tasks”
Damian Hinds, Education Secretary
“I am committed to tackling workload, and supporting everyone in education to do the same”
Amanda Spielman, Ofsted Chief Inspector
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Let’s turn promises into reality
How did you feel when you heard that Ofsted and the DfE have released a video promising that they want to tackle teacher workload?
Relief? - that the government finally realises they have to act on workload if they are going to stop the recruitment and retention crisis?
Cynicism? - that this is just another headline-grabbing announcement that will be ignored by your School Management Team?
Anger? - that they won’t act on the testing, league tables, budget cuts and performance pay that lie behind so much teacher workload?
All three of those reactions are justified but, as union members, our response has to be:
Determination! - that the government is under pressure and now we have to organise in our schools to turn promises into reality.
Organise in your school
This video gives school staff a real opportunity to demand change on workload. However, the accountability regime that weighs down on schools could too easily mean that it changes nothing. The main factor that will decide is US! If NEU members organise, you can win change in your school.
Here’s how Kevin Courtney, NEU Joint General Secretary, has suggested you can do it:
“Ofsted’s Amanda Spielman, backed by Secretary of State Damian Hind, says: “If the impact on pupil progress doesn’t match the hours you spend marking then stop it!”
So who is to judge the match between the hours you spend and progress made?
Surely this should be a professional judgement for the teacher? It is potentially a complicated judgement. The teachers’ own level of fatigue comes into it as well as the suitability or otherwise of any marking scheme the head insists on. The vast majority of the profession know, for example, that the dialogue, triple marking schemes lead to standardised comments from the pupil and pro-forma responses from the teacher. Almost no learning takes place but huge numbers of hours are consumed.
However in the current climate of Ofsted and accountability fear many heads don’t allow teachers this level of professional judgement.
This is undoubtedly bad for our children’s education. The more downtrodden and alienated a teacher feels, the more likely to leave the profession for example.
That’s why professional judgement must be supported, bolstered, by collective action.
The key thing with this new Government/Ofsted video is that staff (union members) discuss it collectively. They decide what changes they want the head to make - then they elect some people (union reps) to tell the head.
The video can support that process. It can’t replace that process.
If the head doesn’t move then the union members have to decide their next steps. Do they let it lie? Do they leave the school? Or do they approach the union for help?
In these circumstances the local union reps would approach the head, along with school reps, and again make the case, perhaps bringing in other local examples of where change has already taken place.
If that still doesn’t work then the staff have the same decisions to make. But in many situations like this staff ask for an “indicative ballot”. This tests the strength of feeling without formally calling a strike and oftentimes the head will see that they really should change their position.
As our final step we would ballot for sustained (that is paid) strike action. There are very many examples where staff have won agreements like this which have reduced their workload, increased their scope for making their own judgements as to what helps their pupils learn, and in so doing has improved education.
Professional judgement and collective action go hand-in-hand.
Join the National Education Union to boost both.
Get in touch to get organised
In the last few months, schools across the London Region have taken these steps and over 20 have asked for an indicative ballot - sometimes then a formal ballot - on workload and other demands like over pay, job cuts, or opposing bullying or academy transfers. Most have achieved gains as a result.
So get in touch with the NEU - either through your Local NUT Division or the London Regional Office - and get organised to win change in your school.
What needs to change?
In response to NEU posts about the video, teachers have been posting on social media about what has to change if workload is going to be cut.
Here are just a few of the suggestions posted:
● Excessive monitoring requirements such as planning submitted in advance;
● Filling in forms for monitoring, rather than trusting to people's professionalism;
● Lots of extra SEND paperwork because LAs are refusing to assess due to funding cuts;
● Repeating the same data in different formats;
● Too great an amount of contact time, or number of classes, that a teacher is expected to teach;
● Contacting parents by ‘phone and having to record the results of such calls;
● Excessive data entry and analysis;
● Observations, book scrutiny, learning walks, planning scrutiny and pupil progress meetings;
● Schools are cutting back on support staff - e.g. so teachers have no-one to do bulk copying;
● Schools need to apply “rarely cover” properly;
● Email overload.... and the expectation that you'll read and respond before the end of the day.
Discuss what needs to be changed in your school - and decide what needs to be done to win change.
What changes can be won?
All schools are under pressure from budget cuts and the government’s punitive accountability regime but, despite this, some schools have taken action to significantly reduce staff workload.
Some of these changes have been won through union groups getting organised and negotiating change, sometimes backed up by action ballots. In London, schools have won changes such as limits on contact time and observations, or reduced workload through winning a work/life balance policy or improved performance management policies.
Nationally, some employers, like Nottingham and Coventry, have agreed ‘workload charters’ with unions that place a limit on overall working hours - not just teachers’ 1265 hours ‘directed time’.
The DfE/Ofsted video includes examples of schools that have cut workload through changing their marking policy (with no effect on pupil outcomes!) or data collection requirements.
As one of the Heads featured in the video says, “it can take brave leadership to tackle existing orthodoxies in schools and get rid of routines that are sometimes established and expected”. Indeed, and perhaps NEU members can encourage a few more school leaders to be brave and cut workload!
If you have good examples of improved policies or other changes that you have won, tell the NEU!
Wednesday, 7 February 2018
"Real terms cuts to school funding since 2015 have led to a big reduction in the number of secondary teachers, teaching assistants and support staff in England, says research published today by the School Cuts alliance of education unions ... Staff numbers in secondary schools have fallen by 15,000 between 2014/15 and 2016/17 despite having 4,500 more pupils to teach. This equates to an average loss of 5.5 staff members in each school since 2015"- read the NEU press release here.
Make sure every Londoner knows about school cuts when they vote in this May’s elections
During last year’s General Election, NUT campaigning helped to make school cuts a key issue in voters’ minds.
The now departed Secretary of State, Justine Greening, was forced to announce that she had found additional funding for schools. However, while a small amount of redirected education funding was won for schools, the reality is that school cuts will still be biting hard.
£2.8 billion has already been cut from schools since 2015. Worse is to come, with nine out of every ten schools facing a further real terms cut in per pupil funding from 2015 to 2019.
DfE figures confirm just how many jobs have been cut
We now have another chance to get our message across. That’s because, on 3 May 2018, all London council seats are up for re-election.
We’ve also got new facts to give - not just about the cuts that are going to happen in the future but about the disastrous effect that school cuts have had already. Our latest research - drawn solely from Government figures - shows funding cuts have already meant job cuts.
In secondary schools, staff numbers nationally have fallen by 15,000. London’s secondary schools have, on average, each had to cut five members of staff in the last two years alone. An even greater workload falls on the remaining staff, driving even more teachers out of the profession. Remember, less than half of England's teachers last more than ten years in the job already. Our research also confirms that pupil teacher ratios have been rising too. This means higher class sizes and less individual attention for children.
We can't let these cuts continue. Young people only get one chance at school and we know that education cuts never heal. That’s why we must build the campaign against school cuts and make sure that every candidate knows that voters are expecting them to back our call for investment in education.
Build the Campaign
- Our latest research from the workforce data is being released to the press in early February and backed up by a social media campaign and messages to NEU members.
- Every NUT Division should be making plans to call a meeting - preferably in a supportive school - to bring together campaigners to plan activities.
- Model materials will be produced to help build the meeting and, most important of all, to encourage attendees to go away and organise their own parents’ mini-meetings in primary schools and in their local communities.
- We will be building towards a national day of action - with stunts, mass leafleting, street stalls and local demonstrations - to be held at the end of April.
- With the local elections in mind, the London Region will be particularly asking members to help campaign in key battlegrounds like Barnet, Wandsworth and Kensington & Chelsea where we can get most publicity for our message.
Monday, 5 February 2018
“Teaching is now a career with no certainty of expectation with regard to earnings and a growing problem of capricious, unfair and even discriminatory pay decisions” NEU Submission to the School Teachers’ Review Body, Jan. 2018
Unions call for a fully funded 5% pay rise
In common with our sister teacher organisations, the National Education Union believes that teachers' pay has been allowed to fall too far and must now be substantially increased across the board. Pay should be restored at least to the levels which prevailed before the misguided policies of public sector pay restraint and discretionary decision-making on pay increases and pay progression were implemented.
The National Education Union is therefore calling on the STRB to recommend that:
● teachers' pay should be subject to a substantial immediate increase from September 2018,
● this increase should take the form of a 5 per cent pay increase for all teachers in post, not simply an increase to all pay and allowance ranges; and
● this should be the start of a further process of restoration of teachers' pay, at least to the real terms levels prevailing in 2010, with this increase achieved over as short a period as possible.
● the Government should provide sufficient additional funding to all schools to meet any recommended pay increase for teachers and school leaders.
Recruitment Crisis caused by failing government policy, workload and pay
The recruitment and retention problems in teaching manifest in different ways, but one root cause contributes in all cases: the damage caused by Government policy to the pay and career offer that teaching provides.
The issue of teacher workload is equally, if not more, influential. The DfE's workload survey showed that newly and recently qualified teachers worked significantly longer hours even than the 50+ hours worked every week by their more experienced colleagues.
Nevertheless, pay in teaching is causing major problems for teacher supply.
The number of teachers leaving the profession has been steadily rising. 10.5% of qualified teachers left the English state-funded sector in the year to November 2016.
Teachers are increasingly voting with their feet and leaving the profession before retirement age. Five years ago, more than a third of those leaving the English state-funded sector were retirees; now it is less than one in five.
Recruitment targets missed as pupil numbers rise
In July 2017, the DfE reported that the number of children enrolled in state schools would increase by almost 800,000 in the ten years to 2026. The demand for new teachers is therefore increasing, not falling.
However, the Government again failed to meet its ITE recruitment targets in most subjects for the 2016-17 cycle. Postgraduate ITE recruitment fell from a 7% oversupply in 2010/11 to a 10% shortfall in 2017/18. Only 80% of the required numbers of secondary trainees were recruited, the worst performance since comparable records began.
In early January, it emerged that the number of people applying for postgraduate teacher training for 2018-19 was down by a third compared to the previous year.
Real terms 16% pay cut
The cumulative impact of the freezes and restrictions on teacher pay increases since 2010 mean that the value of teacher pay points has been cut in real terms by over 16% in some parts of the structure, compared with Retail Prices Index inflation.
The decline is 15.1% in the real value of starting pay at the MPR minimum (formerly M1); 14.0% in the real value of the MPR maximum (formerly M6); and 16.3% in the value of the maximum pay rate for the experienced classroom teacher (the UPR maximum, formerly U3 - but increasingly fewer teachers are progressing on the UPR).
Inflation currently stands at 4.1% for RPI and 3.0% as measured by the CPI. The latest Treasury forecasts for inflation showed that RPI is expected to remain above 3% for 2018.
Pension costs up too
Teachers have also seen their take-home pay cut due to increased pension contributions. These have increased on average by a half - from 6.4% prior to April 2012, to an average contribution of 9.6% of pay by April 2014.
Many newly qualified teachers cannot afford to join the TPS. They face marginal deductions from their earnings of almost 50% for each extra pound earned, since they pay income tax at 20%, Class 1 NICs at 12%, student loan repayments at 9% and then pension contributions at 7.4% (but 8.6% in Inner London).
End Performance Pay
The latest NEU survey shows that 19% of those who knew their September 2017 pay progression outcome had been denied progression, indicating that the denial of pay progression to around a fifth of eligible teachers has become entrenched. On the main pay range, 9% were denied progression, rising to 39% of respondents on the upper range.
When it was introduced, the then Upper Pay Scale was described as a mechanism to reward classroom teaching through higher pay, albeit accessed via performance-related progression. Effectively, we have moved from a position where a very high proportion of UPR teachers - quite rightly - received pay progression, recognising their developing skills and expertise, to a position where most UPR teachers do not receive pay progression.
Worryingly, but unsurprisingly, one in six of those denied progression were explicitly told that they were being denied progression for budgetary reasons.
The survey again creates concern about potential unfairness, with teachers who did not work full-time being far more likely to be denied pay progression, and lower rates of progression also observed for disabled teachers, BAME teachers on the Upper Pay Range, and teachers who are trade union reps.
As part of a restored national pay structure for teachers, the MPR and UPR must be merged with faster and incremental progression solely on the basis of experience. We therefore call upon the STRB to:
● revisit and re-evaluate the recent pay "reforms" as part of its current review;
● recommend that the Government ends its damaging experimentation with performance related pay for teachers; and
● recommend that the Government should reintroduce the previous statutory provisions for prescribed pay scale points, pay progression based on experience and pay portability.