Wednesday, 30 September 2009

City of Leicester nominates on the deadline!

Today was the last date for NUT Associations to nominate candidates for the National Officers Election. City of Leicester Association were meeting to decide their nominations tonight - after inviting candidates to speak to them last week - and agreed to make Martin one of their nominations.

The final list of Associations nominating Martin for the election is as follows:

City of Leicester

West Cheshire


The Wrekin


Amersham, Chesham & District

Isle of Wight County

Lewes, Eastbourne & Wealden







Blackburn with Darwen

Lancaster, Morecambe & District



Sunday, 27 September 2009

Jobs, Education, Peace

They say that the sun always shines on the righteous - it certainly shone on the 'Jobs, Education, Peace' demonstration to lobby the Labour Party Conference in Brighton this afternoon. There was a fair turnout of NUT banners as we marched along the promenade.

On the way back to the car, my kids saw an altercation between a car driver and three skateboarding youth. Angry at the motorist, the youth made their feelings known, but with an unexpected term of abuse: "Labour!"

With many young people alienated from all the main political parties, trade unionists have a responsibility to offer a way forward that challenges cuts and gives the young people that we teach the chance of a decent future.

Saturday, 26 September 2009

Tories plan draconian attacks on teachers and education

After Ed Balls’ announcement last weekend that schools should expect £2 billion cuts, comes confirmation that a Conservative Government are planning even more draconian attacks on teachers and education.

The Guardian and TES report that Michael Gove’s draft Education Bill will include regulations that would allow a further acceleration in the break-up of Local Authority schooling. Under the Tories, private sponsors would find it even easier to set up Academies, supposedly to help ‘raise standards’ - despite clear evidence that many Academies are struggling compared to community comprehensive schools. While privatisation through Academies and Trusts has been largely restricted to secondary education under New Labour, a future Conservative Government would also encourage their rapid expansion into primary education as well.

The Tories’ plans are also set to include a stark threat to teachers and teacher unions – the end of our national pay and conditions arrangements. This would mean that even the weak protections in the existing School Teachers Pay and Conditions Document would be thrown aside. Faced with spending cuts, schools will seek to attack pay, introduce more ‘teaching-on-the-cheap’ and further worsen workload. Unions need to organise to defend – and improve – national pay and conditions by taking national action to win a clear National Contract limiting working hours and class sizes, a contract that should apply to all teachers.

Whoever wins the next General Election, teachers and education face some of the severest challenges we have faced for decades. That’s why it is vital that the NUT National Officer elections are won by candidates prepared to offer strong leadership that can galvanise members to take the national action necessary to meet the challenges that we face.

Thursday, 24 September 2009

Taking the campaign around the country

A packed NUT General Meeting in Lewisham, with nearly 40 in the room, started off a busy week of campaigning for support in the National Officers election. I then travelled to Liverpool, Coventry and Leicester to explain why we needed a strong union leadership ready to stand up to the attacks on jobs, pay and pensions that are being prepared for us. Unfortunately nominations could not be made at the meetings, but my call for united national action on workload and to defend our hard-earned pensions was well-received in all of them.

I was pleased to be notified by the Isle of Wight Association (who had invited me to speak to their reps' training event last term on workload) that they have voted to nominate me for the Vice-President election.


Sunday, 20 September 2009

£2 billion cuts puts teachers' jobs, pay and pensions under threat

Ed Balls' announcement in today's Sunday Times of Labour's plans to impose £2 billion of cuts - 5% of the total schools budget - spells out the onslaught that all the main parties plan to unleash on teachers and schools after the next General Election.

Many teachers expect a Conservative administration to brandish the public spending axe but it was only yesterday that Nick Clegg, the Liberal Democrat leader, also warned of the need for 'savage' cuts and attacks on public sector pensions. Ed Balls' announcment confirms that, whoever forms the next Government, the mainstream politicians want teachers and school students to pay for their economic mistakes.

Schools spend most of their budget on staff, so 5% cuts can only mean one thing - significant job losses and pay cuts. But schools are already understaffed in reality - that's why most teachers already work a 50 hour working even according to Ball's own official figures. Cutting posts will mean inflicting even greater workload on the staff that are left. Education is bound to suffer as a result.

Where does Balls expect schools to be able to make these cuts? His talk of cutting back on 'bureaucrats' is the kind of nonsense that civil service unions have already had to put up with. Most senior staff and Heads of Faculty are already run ragged trying to keep on top of the demands inflicted on schools by the Government's testing and targets regime, not sitting in an office twiddling their thumbs.

Of course, if Ed Balls genuinely wanted to 'cut bureaucracy' without harming education, he could start by abolishing OfSTED and SATs - but he won't because they are both key parts of his Government's bullying machinery.

Ed Balls even has the cheek to suggest that another part of his agenda - setting up 'Federations' (often as unaccountable Trusts designed to break up Local Authority schooling) can help make the required savings. In fact, Federations usually increase bureaucracy - introducing an extra layer of 'Executive Heads' on top of existing structures. But Balls imagines that Federations can cut posts and make staff take on roles across several schools. The idea that, say, a Head of Maths in one school can rush around supporting staff and students across a whole Federation, certainly without anyone filling in for the work left behind, is nonsense.

At least we have been warned. Teachers and their unions know what is coming. Now we have to prepare an urgent defence of teachers and education. Teaching and other public sector unions need to be liasing immediately to prepare a campaign of national action to defend pay, pensions and jobs. We need to reach out to our communities to explain what is at stake. A united campaign of staff and parents can make the next Government think again.

Martin Powell-Davies

Wednesday, 16 September 2009

Are we ready for the battles to come?

Teachers don’t need to read the latest Government reports to know that our workload is as intolerable as ever and that too many non-teacher qualified staff are regularly taking classes. But, with politicians looking to clear a £1.4 trillion debt, we ‘ain’t seen nothing yet’!

I wrote in my original nomination leaflet back in May that we will have to be ready for more attacks as the recession bites. It is now absolutely clear that, whoever forms the next Government, public services, and public sector workers, face the threat of serious cutbacks and further privatisation.

As before, when this Government first came for teachers’ pensions, we have to be ready to respond with united trade union action to defend our pensions once again. We also have to unite with parents and our local communities in a joint battle to oppose cuts, job losses and further privatisation of schools. As Vice-President, I would make it my priority to build the unity in action that we need to defend teachers and schools.

The national officers that the NUT will elect this term will have to help lead the Union into action. But are we ready for the battles to come?

School reps and local union officers are already run ragged trying to keep on top of the casework and campaigns we face. We must inspire a new layer of teachers into union activity. Above all, we must give NUT members the confidence that we have a strategy that can successfully defend teachers and education.

On too many key issues, like workload, we have not been able to turn the tide. That’s why I have successfully argued at Conference for a change of strategy. A campaign of national action to win a National Contract that really limits teacher workload and class sizes is a strategy that can make a difference. It is time that policy is put into practice.

If you want a Vice-President who can speak up for teachers, who can help develop a strategy to defend education in the battles to come, and who can give confidence to teachers that we can change things for the better, please support me in this vital election.

Martin Powell-Davies

Bexley NUT nominates Martin

My thanks to Bexley NUT officers for the invitation to speak at their hustings tonight - and to the Bexley NUT members who voted for my nomination. I was pleased to receive the highest support given to any of the five names put to the meeting.


Tuesday, 15 September 2009

Cheshire West nominates Martin

Following a hustings in Chester where all six Vice-President candidates attended, Cheshire West and Chester Association nominated Martin Powell-Davies and Nina Franklin

Sunday, 13 September 2009

Unite to defend public services

Saturday night's an unusual time to hold a meeting (!) but last night was when a meeting had been called to pull together local campaigns defending public services. I was pleased to go along and offer my support.

A wide range of campaigns was represented, including some that had already registered successes. Tony, from the PCS, reported on their successful defence of Deptford Job Centre which had been earmarked for closure. Eleanor reported on how Lewisham Council had been forced to step back over their plans to demolish Lewisham Bridge school. Tania and Susanna explained how New Cross residents had successfully campaigned against a local pub being opened as a strip club, not the 'job opportunity' that they wanted to become the only choice available to young women as the recession takes hold.

I was able to report on the NUT's local campaigns against Trusts and Academies and to call on parents to help give teachers confidence to take action to prevent the break-up of Local Authority schooling.

The meeting also debated whether we should back a slate of candidates to challenge the various establishment parties in next May's council election. With local elections in London only coming once every four years, this could be an important opportunity to get our message across - as well as to see if we can get more voices in the Town Hall - alongside Lewisham's two existing Socialist Party councillors Ian Page and Chris Flood - prepared to speak out on behalf of local trade unionists and campaigners.

No final decisions were taken for now but, with similar discussions taking place nationally about how to provide trade unionists and other voters with a real choice in next year's elections, it is a move that I would certainly support, locally and nationally.

Too often, the NUT is defending local authority services against councillors and council officials who are only too keen to hand over their responsibilities to private sponsors. Standing our own candidiates in local elections in defence of education could be an important additional weapon in the Union's armoury and a strategy that I would like to see the NUT and other trade unions giving support.

Saturday, 12 September 2009

SATS: We 'talk the talk' but will we 'walk the walk'?

The news from yesterday's NUT Executive will be a real disappointment to all of those teachers and parents who were hoping that they wouldn't have to inflict the pressure and drudgery of SATs on any more children.

Unfortunately, after news came that the NAHT had voted not to go forward with a formal ballot this term - but were only going to conduct a 'consultative exercise' for now - a majority (25 votes to 11) on the NUT Executive voted that the NUT also now couldn't carry out a full ballot this term. Instead, we will also carry out an indicative ballot, but I understand that no definite timescale was agreed.

This is a significant setback, I fear. By the time we come to Xmas, so many schools will already be so far on the road to booster classes, SATs preparation etc. that it will be much harder to convince members to vote for a boycott at that late stage.

The best way to have kept the pressure on the NAHT to join with us in action would have been for the NUT to have gone out and won a ballot to boycott SATs. While our campaigning must still be kept up, the boycott will now be much harder to win.

I am afraid that it is another example - as previously on pay - where the NUT Executive has shown that it hasn't thought through its strategy. The danger is that every time we march members up the hill and then back down again, teachers - and our opponents in Government - are left wondering whether the NUT is serious. In short, we 'talk the talk' but when do we 'walk the walk' ??

When Annual Conference voted for a boycott, urgent preparations should have been made straight away to prepare for the ballot and to convince members to vote for it. As I wrote in my nomination leaflet back in May, "The Union urgently needs to set out for primary staff a concrete course of action and a timetable for the ballot ... If we are serious about the boycott, then there is some urgent work to be done".

Conference delegates were serious about taking action to end SATs - just as they were about voting to take national action over workload. We need a Union leadership that can implement those decisions and develop a clear strategy that can win our demands - and give our members the confidence that we have a winning strategy too. Once again, that's why I want to add my voice to the Executive to help provide that leadership.

Wednesday, 9 September 2009

Modernisation: More Work, Worse Service.

Standing on the picket line at my local sorting office in Forest Hill this morning, the banter among the striking posties would have sounded familar to many teachers - particularly tales of bullying managers who want to squeeze even more hours of work into the working day.

The result of this 'modernisation' is, of course, unmanageable workload and a poorer service. But it was heartening that a least one passing Australian commuter realised what was at stake, telling the pickets "the mail service is one of the best things about Britain. If this is about defending the service, I'm right behind you".

I explained that teachers face very similar attacks as schools try to squeeze even more work out of us, with new initiatives and demands always being added to our workload. Like the posties, we need to explain that this isn't just bad for teachers, it's also bad for public services. Stressed and overworked staff cannot provide the careful preparation and individual support that our classes and children deserve.

The latest report into teacher workload carried out for the DCSF has to concede that, despite all their promises, "there has been no overall reduction in teachers' workloads". Teachers know the Government cannot be trusted to improve our working lives - but that means that it is up to the Union to make a stand to enforce a real limit on our working hours. That stand is long overdue. Teachers cannot be left to put up with the intolerable stress and pressure most of us are facing at present.

Again like teachers, some of the pickets this morning expressed frustration at strike action only being taken in a few areas and were glad that the CWU are opening a national action ballot next week. For the last two years, I have helped convince NUT Annual Conference delegates to also vote for national action to tackle workload - but the policy hasn't been implemented. I think it's time we did.

I am standing in this election to add my voice to the NUT Executive and to make sure that the Union puts policy into practice and launches national action so that we can call a halt to excessive workload.

Join the Facebook Group

My thanks to Phil Clarke, Lewes, Eastbourne and Wealden NUT Secretary, for setting up a Facebook Group to support my campaign.

You can find the group listed as "Martin Powell-Davies For NUT Vice-President". Do add your comments and posts and invite your facebook friends to join as well!


Tuesday, 8 September 2009

Academy sponsorship - but without the sponsor money!

CORRECTION added 9th Sept '09.
It seems that Academy sponsors make time to read this blog! The Federation Events and Development Manager from the Haberdashers' Aske's Federation has swiftly contacted me to state that, contrary to what parents, and I, had originally understood, points WILL be taken from the floor at their meeting on Monday evening. I am happy to make the correction and even happier that this gives an opportunity for parents to explain why they are opposed to their school becoming an Academy.
ADDITION Sept 14th: and many of them did indeed speak out! - we are now awaiting to see what is decided at the governors' meeting

Labour's latest announcement shows that they are determined to press ahead with their plans to extend the privatisation of schools. Taking a lead from the Haberdashers' Aske's Academies based in my borough of Lewisham - who reportedly never paid-up much of the £2 million sponsorship money then required - the Government now says that 'sponsors' can have future Academies for free!

Of course, this will only give the Tories the confidence to go even further. One London Tory borough, Barnet, is already talking of taking a "Ryanair" approach to services with just a minimimum service available to residents as of right, with other services to be paid for. The Council would employ just a few hundred employees to monitor contracts - while services would all be privatised. This would, of course, be combined with major attacks on council employees. That is the future that we face if we don't step up the fight to protect public servcies.

And here in Lewisham it's again Haberdashers' Aske's who are trying to extend their Academy empire. With the support of Council officers, they are trying to bully governors of Merlin School into supporting a takeover by the Aske's Federation (as followers of this blog will know). They have set up a meeting for parents on Monday which will be followed by a governors' meeting to again consider the proposal to support a takeover by the nearby Haberdashers' Aske's Knight's Academy.

A quick reponse had to be organised. I met with Merlin staff immediately ternm began and then discussed with parents on the local estate who are opposed to the plan. I have drafted a leaflet that we will be distributing at the school gates on Thursday to alert parents to the Council's real agenda.

As our leaflet says: The Council want to give away services to private providers - whether it is housing or schools. Academies like Knight’s are part of this policy. Privatisation doesn’t work.
There is no evidence that Academies help raise standards. In fact a recent South London Press article confirmed that GCSE results were “significantly lower in academy schools than local authority schools in Lambeth, Southwark and Lewisham”.
If a Council fails to deliver on education, you can vote them out. But Academies are run by unelected sponsors. Why should Aske’s be given control of Merlin School?

The Union must stand firm in taking action to oppose the threat of Trusts and Academies - but I fear that there are some on the NUT Executive that do not have the stomach for the fight. That's why I am standing for election to help strengthen those that are determined to build a united campaign to defeat privatisation.

Sunday, 6 September 2009

Politicians prepare to take on the public sector

As ever, it hasn't taken long for the summer break to disappear under another barrage of targets and tasks. Many teachers have gone back to work to find their school manaagements determined to try to squeeze even more out of staff. Even where schools' SATs or GCSE results have improved, the only 'reward' is to be given even higher targets - without any regard to the worsening difficulties facing our pupils and their communities. Faced with those rising needs, it's a testament to the skills and dedication of teachers that so many students do succeed.

Bot if the pressure's bad now, the signs are that things will get even worse after the General Election - unless we stand firm. Darling is beginning to admit that Labour will need to make significant spending cuts - so that we can pay for the cost of the state taking on the debts run up by the profiteers of the private sector. The Tories will undoubtedly take the attacks even further.

A Newsnight debate over the summer gave a panel the task of coming up with the best proposals for reducing government debt. The 'solutions' (actually reducing our spending power could make matters even worse economically) included an indefinite public sector pay freeze and a renewed attack on our pensions.

So the politicians are ready for a battle - but are trade unions? Public sector unions will require a firm and tenacious leadership in the months and years ahead if we are to protect teachers, and education as a whole, against these threats. That's why I am standing in the National Officers election this term to stand as a Union Vice-President that can strengthen the NUT leadership and make sure that we are ready for the battles that lie ahead.

Martin Powell-Davies