Thursday, 18 April 2013

Now Gove attacks teachers' working conditions too


Confirming what I posted this morning, Gove has already made quite clear today that his latest attack on 'non-pay conditions' is about a lot more than the 'extra photocopying' that this morning's newspapers were suggesting. Now those same journalists are reporting that, in a conference speech today, Gove has made clear that he wants to lengthen teachers' working days and shorten school holidays.

This is a fundamental attack designed to worsen and deregulate teachers' working conditions. It is part and parcel of this Government's agenda to break collective trade union organisation and to drive down the costs of education and public services for their privatising friends. This is nothing to do with improving education*, as Gove claims, but just an attempt to turn schools into a cheap child-minding service and a source of profit for privately-run education businesses.

This attack is one more reason why the school reps' briefings being organised in May in every NUT Association are so important. These will be vital to prepare for escalating strike action to defeat the attacks on both pay and conditions. They will also brief reps on the model NUT/NASUWT pay policy that will, by then, be available following ongoing discussions after this week's NUT and NASUWT National Executive meetings. Immediately, a joint NUT/NASUWT Pay Policy checklist should be finalised and released very shortly.

* Gove likes 'facts', so here they are: Thanks to a faebook colleague for pointing out that these figures show that, while Finland has one of the best records for student achievement in Europe, the summer holiday there is 10 weeks. England and Wales already have one of the shortest summer holidays in the whole of Europe. Sweden has 9 weeks, France 8 weeks, Austria 8 weeks, Germany 7 weeks, The Netherlands 7 weeks, Denmark 7 weeks, Switzerland 7 weeks ...


Yesterday, 17 April 2014, Michael Gove released a letter to the School Teachers Review Body (STRB) opening up another attack on teachers and education.

He has already announced attacks on our pay. Now he wants to attack our 'non-pay conditions' too. In other words, the limited workload protections written into teachers' contracts
could also be about to be thrown aside - unless we act! 

These protections are already very limited - that's why so many teachers work 50 hours a week and more. But, instead of introducing contracts that properly limit overall working hours as demanded by NUT Annual Conference, Gove wants to even remove those limited workload protections that we can still rely upon.

This morning's press coverage has emphasised the fact that Gove might want to remove the list of 'administrative and clerical tasks' that teachers can refuse to carry out. However, these attacks are likely to be far more fundamental, possibly even removing, for example, the 1265 hour annual limit on directed hours, limits on covering for absence and/or our guarantee to at least 10% PPA (preparation, planning and assessment) time.

Gove's letter - as well as suggesting he wants to make further attacks on safeguarding, TLRs, and SEN Allowances and also making changes to leadership pay - states that:

"The STRB also said it would welcome a future remit on non-pay terms and conditions. I believe there is a need to review the framework for non-pay conditions to ensure that is suited to a high status profession and gives primacy to teaching and learning. I would like to be sure that it does not place unnecessary burdens on teachers, and that it gives schools the flexibilities they need to deliver outstanding education provision".

Gove makes these recommendations to the STRB:   

a) how to provide a simplified and flexible framework for ensuring school leaders' pay is appropriate to the challenge of the post and their contribution to their school or schools;

b) how the current detailed provisions for allowances, other pay flexibilities and safeguarding could be reformed to allow a simpler and more flexible STPCD; and

c) how the framework for teachers' non-pay conditions of service could be reformed to raise the status of the profession and support the recruitment and retention of high quality teachers, and raise standards of education for all children

In some ways the new attack is not a surprise - but the speed of its implementation might be. Gove concludes that "in order to allow schools sufficient time in which to implement any reforms that result from this remit I should be grateful if the STRB could aim to provide a report on these matters before 10th January 2014".

The last Review Body Report announcing the performance-pay plans made clear that the STRB “would welcome a further remit to examine 'non-pay conditions' ". However, Gove's reply suggested this "second stage of reform" would be delayed while the first attacks on performance-pay were pushed through. But now Gove is pushing ahead on conditions too.

I'm afraid that Gove is accelerating his attacks because unions have not acted sharply and firmly enough in opposing his performance-pay proposals. He has seen our delay as a sign of weakness. We must prove him wrong.

These threats must be publicised as one more reason why we have to build and escalate our plans for regional and national strike action to defend teachers and education.

The full letter to the STRB can be read on:

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