One of the main subjects for discussion at the National NUT Divisional Secretaries' meeting at Stoke Rochford Hall, is, not surprisingly, workload.
NUT Secretaries' own workload is a real issue in itself. Chatting with colleagues it is clear that the range and volume of individual cases that we are having to support is becoming unsustainable. We cannot successfully function simply as a casework organisation - vital though that is to supporting members - we have to look at the underlying isues and seek to turn those individual problems into collective action.
Teacher workload is, of course, a key issue underlying so many of the individual pressures that teachers face. As I have long argued, we need to take this up as a national dispute aimed at achieving a Pay and Conditions Document that really guarantees limits on workload - including maximum overall hours and guarantees on non-contact time.
The session at the Secretaries' Briefing on the "rarely cover" regulations again illustrated the weaknesses of the present wording of the Pay and Conditions Document. Unfortunately, the wording agreed by other unions on cover arrangements that was meant to reduce workload is proving, in practice, too easy for 'creative' school managements to get around. Instead of reducing workload, it is too often just being redistributed into other work.
For example, in order to get round the cover regulations, discussions revealed heads trying to limit time-off for appointments and compassionate leave; heads that are 'retimetabling' staff to cover absences, exam weeks etc; schools where the timetable loadings are being increased so that staf are covering less but teaching more.
In each case, we have to try and resist these attacks on a school and local basis where we can. In Lewisham we have one school in dispute over timetable loadings and will make the whole issue of 'cover' a priority at next month's reps training.
However, once again, the underlying problem is the weakness of the national conditions document. We need to address that through a national dispute that brings all schools together in united action.