Thursday, 19 December 2013

Have a good break - then organise for the action we need with LANAC in the New Year

If we are going to successfully stop the attacks on our pay, pensions and conditions, then the start of 2014 is going to be a vital time for teaching unions to organise a firm response to Gove’s attacks. On top of the attacks we already know about, the STRB is soon to report on plans to deregulate conditions too.

After June and October’s well-supported regional actions, national strike action planned for November was postponed, supposedly because we had won ‘meaningful talks’ from Michael Gove. In reality, those talks were only ever meant to be about “implementation of Government policy” and so none of us will be surprised that no progress has been reported from December meetings.

The latest NUT circular informs us that reports of any further developments, both from talks, and on the prospect of joint national strike action, will follow in January. The NUT and NASUWT had agreed that their plan was that, if there were no significant progress before the end of 2013, then there should be a day of national strike action before 13 February 2014. However, no firm date has yet been announced and a special meeting of the NUT National Executive has been set for 16 January to decide on what the NUT needs to do. LANAC argues that the decisions shouldn’t just be about the next action date but should also map out a calendar of action that can show both Michael Gove and our members that we have a serious strategy to defeat these attacks.

In this context, LANAC’s Conference in Leicester on Saturday February 1st will be an important opportunity to discuss the situation we face, the strategy needed to win and the plans we must make to build strong Local Associations and to build firm national action to defend teachers and education.

LANAC Campaign Conference - Sat. 1 February - 11.00 to 3.30
Leicester Adult Education College, Wellington Street, LE1 6HL
 Join the debate, bring your ideas - on two vital questions facing teacher trade unionists:
 ESCALATING TO WIN : What’s needed to defeat the attacks on Pensions, Pay, Workload  - and education ?
BUILDING A STRONG UNION : How do we build strong Local Associations and give school reps the support they need ? 

Thursday, 12 December 2013

11 per cent for MPs, 1 per cent for public sector workers

Reporting from the December meeting of the NUT National Executive:

While public anger grows at the proposal that MPs might be given an 11% pay-rise, public sector workers, including teachers, are facing a 1% salary ‘cap’, yet another pay cut in real terms.

As the NUT’s proposed submission to the School Teachers’ Review Body, discussed at the NUT Executive today, points out:
Teachers have now suffered from a long period of below-inflation pay awards. The February 2013 NUT pay submission to the STRB pointed out that since 2005, teachers’ pay nationally had increased by 12.6 per cent but RPI inflation over the same period had increased by 26 per cent – more than double the increase in teachers’ pay … Since the September 2009 pay award, teacher pay nationally has only increased by 3.3 per cent compared to an inflation increase across the same period of almost 17 per cent. The September 2013 teacher pay award of 1 per cent was of course below the September 2013 RPI inflation rate of 3.2 per cent.
Teachers also have to pay higher pension contributions. The Government is increasing teachers’ pension contributions by 50 per cent on average – from 6.4 per cent before April 2012 to an average 9.6 per cent of pay by April 2014. Some teachers will pay even higher increases - those earning £45,000 or more will pay at least 11.0%.

Taken together with the Government’s proposed 1 per cent pay cap in September 2014 and likely RPI inflation - forecast by HM Treasury to be 3.1 per cent  for Q4 2014 - all this means that by September 2014, teachers’ real income may have fallen by more than 15 per cent in real terms. 

The draft submission also points out that “while the rate of inflation has slowed slightly over the past few months, it is likely to increase again shortly … HM Treasury’s most recent Forecasts for the UK Economy show that independent inflation projections for 2013 to 2017 suggest that RPI inflation will remain over 3 per cent to 2017 and hit 3.5 per cent in 2017”.

The recent PISA report also points out that ‘high performing’ countries paid their teachers more and also found a positive relationship between pay for teachers and outcomes for students. 
Neither is the answer to deteriorating salary levels to be found in performance-pay increases. Gove, and some Headteachers, are still trying to claim that the new PRP legislation will allow schools to pay ‘good’ teachers more.  The reality is that restricted school budgets mean that for every teacher who is paid more, several will be paid less! It’s also worth remembering that an earlier OECD study  in May 2012, also drawing on PISA data, found that ‘there had been no relationship average student performance in a country and the use of performance-based pay schemes.’ In short PRP will not help teachers and it won’t help students either.
The continuation of pay and pension cuts, demoralising performance-pay, bullying management and rising workload will inevitably result in continuing problems with teacher retention.  In December 2012, the BBC reported  that, according to official figures, the number of teachers who quit their jobs in English state schools had risen by almost a fifth in one year. In addition, according to the DfE, in 2011-12 more than 13,000 teachers in England and Wales retired before their normal pension age, further increasing the pressure on the future supply of teachers . Yet this is at the same time as we face a significant increase in pupil numbers.
The Government’s attacks on teachers’ pay and conditions are also an attack on education as a whole. The facts are clear – but facts will not change this privatising, cost-cutting Government’s agenda.   It's vital that teaching trade unions announce a clear campaign of ongoing strike action for 2014.

The NUT National Executive today agreed that the National Officers be empowered to confirm a joint day of strike action - which, in line with policy agreed at previous meetings, is to take place 'before 13 February 2014, if insufficient progress is made in discussions with the Secretary of State'.

Look out for further news.

Wednesday, 11 December 2013

Pensions - if 68 was too late, then 69 is way out of line!

Post taken from the latest bulletin of the NSSN, the National Shop Stewards Network:

December 2011 - Watch on:
Osborne’s Autumn Statement last Thursday, not only brought forward by ten years the new retirement age of first 68 and then 69 - it will be open-ended with it being regularly reviewed in line with life expectancy. This poses workers getting their state pensions into their 70's - and, because many occupational pensions use this age as a yardstick, workers will fear being forced to work until they drop for the full retirement benefits that they have worked and paid for.
In one fell swoop, Osborne has kicked away one of the main planks of the pensions deal that unfortunately some of the union leaders signed up to halt the mass public sector strikes of 2011 - strikes which culminated in 2 million workers walking out on N30.
That day of mass mobilisations in virtually every town and city two years ago was against the ConDem plans to make public sector workers work longer to get worse pensions yet pay more for them.
The NSSN and the fighting unions that we work with, opposed stopping the strikes in 2011. We lobbied the TUC Public Services Liaison Group in December 2011 to instead call for the massive N30 strike to be escalated into 2012 and broadened out to workers in the private sector.

We believe that the impressive strikes this autumn of teachers, college lecturers and workers, firefighters and probation workers, alongside on-going PCS action, shows that there is still massive potential for co-ordinated strike action against the brutal cuts, particularly on pay and pensions. We call on the TUC and the unions to organise an emergency General Council to plan mass joint action with the naming of a date for a 24 hour general strike in early 2014.

As a minimum, all those unions currently in dispute should immediately meet together to plan the mass action that can shake this government and force back their vicious attacks.

Rob Williams, NSSN National Chair

For the rest of the NSSN bulletin go to the NSSN website:


The Local Associations National Action Campaign invites your NUT Association to attend our next LANAC CAMPAIGN CONFERENCE on Saturday 1 February 2014 at Leicester Adult Education College, LE1 6HL from 11.00 - 15.30.

Join the debate, bring your ideas - on two vital questions facing teacher trade unionists:



For further information, contact Martin Powell-Davies, LANAC Convenor, c/o

Monday, 9 December 2013

PISA and the GERM

The latest PISA results have been hotly debated, with politicians of all stripes claiming the results prove them right. 
 That said, and notwithstanding the debates about the rights and wrongs of PISA, the article by Pasi Sahlberg in the Guardian's "comment is free" column is well worth a read.

The article, in summary, states that: "The PISA 2012 scores show the failure of 'market based' education reform. A truly successful education system has students of all socio-economic backgrounds scoring highly on PISA tests"

"My personal takeaway from the PISA 2012 study is how it proves that fashionable Global Educational Reform Movement (GERM) is built on wrong premises. GERM, that emerged from England's Education Reform Act 1988 and was further accelerated by the No Child Left Behind and the Race to the Top reforms in the US, assumes that market mechanisms are the best vehicles for whole system improvements. GERM has acted like a virus that "infects" education systems as it travels around the world". Sahlberg

Sunday, 8 December 2013

Govian Pursuits: A Game for all the Family

This is too good not to post - but is certainly not my idea! 

Credit goes to Patrick Murphy from Leeds NUT, who is, like me, also a LANAC Steering Commitee member:

 1.    This year Michael Gove claimed that ‘survey after survey’ had shown that English children had a poor knowledge of history. When parent Janet Downs demanded to know which organisations had run these surveys, what was the answer?
A.    YouGov
B.    Mori
C.    UK TV Gold and the Premier Inn

2.    Which public figure said this: “If staff morale is low, then you know you are doing something right”?
A.    Vladimir Putin
B.    Alan Sugar
C.    Head of Ofsted Michael Wilshaw

3.    In November, a report on the impact of academies on standards was published. Gove and parts of the press claimed it proved that academy status led to higher standards. Which of these statements is a direct quote from the report?
A.    ‘Academies produce better results.’
B.    ‘LA-run schools struggle to achieve national expectations’
C.    ‘No significant improvement is seen in the rate of improvement of GCSE results for academy schools over and above the rate of improvement in all schools.’

4.    Since the present government came to power in 2010, by how much has the real value of teachers’ pay declined?
A.    It hasn’t, it has increased.
B.    5%
C.    15%

5.    Which of the following have to be provided by Free Schools?
A.    Suitable school premises
B.    Outdoor play space
C.    Library facilities
D.    A school hall
E.    None of the above

 6.    In October 2013, Annaliese Briggs, the 27- year-old Head Teacher appointed to the newly opened Pimlico Primary free school in central London, resigned just four weeks after the school opened. How well qualified was she?
A.    NPQH
B.    Several years as a deputy
C.    No school experience at all

7.    Finland is considered by the OECD to have one of the best education systems in the world with outstanding pupil outcomes. How long is the summer break in Finland?
A.    Two weeks shorter than the UK
B.    The same as the UK
C.    Four weeks longer than the UK

8.    In 2012, the OECD commissioned research on performance pay. Which of these statements can be found in the report?
A.    ‘PRP is the secret to high standards.’
B.    ‘PRP improves teacher morale.’
C.    ‘The overall picture reveals no relationship between average student performance in a country and the use of performance-based pay schemes.’

How did you do?
Mostly As: Refreshingly on-message. There is a consultancy job awaiting you at the DfE.
Mostly Bs: You are an AmeriCAN not an AmeriCAN’T. Prepare for your future as a Free School Principal.
Mostly Cs (with one E): You must be one of those Marxist teachers we read about in the Daily Mail and an enemy of promise. You have clearly  been spending too much time looking at the Edufacts section of the NUT website: edufacts

Friday, 6 December 2013

After Mandela - continue the struggle for freedom and equality

Nelson Mandela was hated by the wealthy and powerful for his lifelong struggle for freedom and equality. Yet, this morning, they can praise him in death.

In part, that is because politicians have to recognise the support that working people the world over give to a leader who stands up against oppression. However, it is also because, regrettably, the ANC have turned their backs on that struggle.

Dishonouring their own history, the ANC now lead another Government that is attacking the masses in struggle and rules over one of the most unequal countries on the planet. 

The best way to honour Mandela's passing is to continue the struggle for freedom, equality and a socialist South Africa.

For more on the history of the struggle against apartheid,read "From apartheid to Marikana" on  

"Following the Marikana massacre the credibility of the ANC has now been shattered. It has demonstrated that it shares with the capitalist class the same fear and loathing for the working class.

"The ANC was in the black mind, the black soul, it took on an almost mystical quality. But now they’ve lost faith in it. The bond is shattered and it happened on television" (the Guardian 7/9/12). 

For a view from South African socialists, read the article on:

" It remains for the workers and youth of today to follow what is the best example set by Mandela – selfless and determined struggle – but also to learn that in the struggle we are fighting a compromise with a class enemy is impermissible, because they inevitably lead to betrayals of the masses as capitalism cannot meet their aspirations. More importantly, they must learn that the working class should only rely on its independent political leadership, organisations and programme to transform society in its own interests and those of the poor, for a socialist South Africa and a socialist world "

Thursday, 5 December 2013

NUT comment on the Autumn Statement

Today's NUT Press Release made some important points in response to George Osborne's 'Autumn Statement', not least the further increase in the state pension age:

Christine Blower, General Secretary of the National Union of Teachers, the largest teachers’ union, said: “Increasing the pension age is a backward step. The fact that we are living longer does not mean that people are capable of full time or strenuous work. For some jobs, working to 68 and beyond is simply impossible. No one wants 70-year-old teachers in classrooms full of infants or teenagers. Nor, I am sure, do we want 70-year-old nurses, builders, police officers or firefighters, to name but a few professions where this increase in working age is simply not feasible. 

“Increasing life expectancy is not universal across the population. These pension proposals are being thought up by people who have a secure economic future and will be able to retire at a reasonable age on their assets. The majority of the population will be left with nothing: no money, no jobs, and no pension. This does not make economic sense as the state will have to make some provision for the millions who will be thrown into financial hardship or ruin as a result of this increase.

“In light of the alarming increase in food banks, universal free school meals for infants are welcome, though it is essential that the Government provides enough additional resources for schools to meet the capital and staffing costs involved. It must be stressed that while the NUT fully supports this move, children over the age of seven also urgently need the same provision and we ask again that Government extends free school meals to all pupils. 

“Investment in education is essential for economic prosperity and social cohesion. This Government has not protected school funding.  Funding for schools has been frozen in cash terms, meaning significant ‘real terms’ reductions in the value of school funding due to the effects of inflation.   The Government now proposes wholesale reform of the school funding system and a national funding formula which will simply move funding losses around the system, unless it is accompanied by an increase in funding which at least restores the cuts imposed so far.  FE and college funding has been cut by almost a fifth in real terms.

“There was no proposal in the Chancellor’s statement to help us cope with the unfolding school places crisis which could see 1 in 4 children without a school place by 2016. A Government continues to refuse to allow local authorities to build or open new schools.  Instead, it wastes money on free schools, established regardless of need for extra places locally, rather than seeking a rational, planned resolution of the school places crisis.

“With tuition fees trebled, the Education Maintenance Allowance cut, 16-19 funding cut by a fifth and youth unemployment around a million, the Government is letting young people down.  The Chancellor does not seem to understand that increases in university places and higher apprenticeships, while welcome, will mean nothing if students cannot afford to continue in education or training.  

“Cuts in public sector pay, including for teachers, have contributed to the longest decline in wages since Victorian times.  A Government which has already attacked teachers’ pay and pensions is now trying to dismantle our national pay structure.  This will harm both recruitment and retention of teachers, just as we face a huge increase in demand through growing pupil numbers. 

“The NUT campaign to protect teachers and defend education, with the NASUWT alongside, shows that we are determined to resist these attacks.”

Monday, 2 December 2013

A parting note from another teacher heading for the exit

Thanks to my stand in the Vice-President election, I have received emails and letters from teachers across the country who want to share their stories about the realities of teaching. This is an edited version of one letter that I was sent from yet another teacher who has decided that they are going to have to leave the profession: 

" I'm a teacher, but then I guess we're all teachers in a way. I entered this profession for honourable reasons and I enjoy teaching the children ... I dare say I'm pretty good at it, in fact I'd go so far as to say I'm a natural. 

Everyday I'd get in at around half past seven, work through my lunch break, then leave sometime between five and half-five. Upon getting home, I'd then continue to work until I reached the point when I was too exhausted or had simply had enough. Then I'd fall asleep and repeat again the following day. 

At weekends I'd have to commit at least half a day minimum to getting work done. Though the salary is pretty decent, if you calculate it on an hourly rate it's not as great as it seems. Factor into this useless morning briefings, staff meetings that last a minimum of an hour, having to provide evidence for everything you're doing. I mean it's not like teachers are ‘trained professionals’, so of course it makes perfect sense to check up on us as if we can't be trusted to do our jobs...right?

There are other niggles that I personally find really irritating, for example being sent emails at 4am, or being asked why I didn't check my 'work' email over the weekend. 

I've worked in schools for many years in a variety of roles. I've seen an abundance of behaviour from senior management and indeed other staff that we are supposedly meant to be stopping the children from exhibiting. Bullying, gossiping and spreading rumours, inconsistent treatment of staff. Let's not get started on the ethics of the Year 6 SATS administration…are they a true reflection of the children’s levels or data that has been manipulated in line with an agenda that has nothing to do with the children?

I've been graded as 'outstanding' on several occasions now and to be honest I never really cared. I'm fully aware of how subjective the grading is and how fickle SLT are. The minute you fall from 'grace' you can kiss those outstanding grades goodbye. There's no objectivity...if SLT have an issue with you it doesn't matter how good you are at your job. 

The profession is so ridiculous, the bar is constantly being moved, and it would be nice if every so often the teachers were informed. 

These days the number of children with additional educational needs seems to be increasing ... fill in a form for any children that you are concerned about. That's fine but how long does it take before anything happens? Well, when I know the answer I'll let you know as I'm still waiting. 

Providing evidence for EVERYTHING so that SLT can monitor your every move, submitting plans that are barely stuck to, going through the motions of 'having your say' but knowing full well that you don't have a voice. In reality, the job isn't about children, it's about data. 

More and more of those teachers who, in my opinion, would make the biggest impact on children's lives, the creative, free thinking individuals are being pushed out. The way some heads operate is disgusting, all powerful dictators able to get away with murder as long as they're producing favourable data. If a school is unable to hold onto its staff isn’t that a signal that something is wrong…but the data is ‘good’, so who cares?

Why is it that you're expected to work extensively outside of work and contracted hours? Well it's simple, there are so many that will do exactly that, that those who refuse are ostracised and easily replaced by someone that will. Some won't stand their ground out of fear, increasingly head teachers thrive on this.

Securing a job as a teacher is the only time that the colour of my skin has counted in my favour. But then again it's not nice doubting that you're wanted for your ability rather than because you tick a box. As Cecil Gaines (The Butler) said "I guess I wished I was there for real, instead of for show". It's not a nice feeling, having to walk on eggshells for fear of being labelled aggressive or intimidating. Having had this label thrown at me in a diverse school, I am completely disillusioned. Part of the problem is that unless it's direct, overt racism it's not seen as so or it's "maybe you're interpreting it in the wrong way". So what are my options; become completely passive or compromise aspects of my identity? 

It's a shame because I do genuinely enjoy teaching, it's challenging but rewarding. I became a teacher so that I could help children achieve standardised levels to make the head teacher look good?...yeah right! 

Teaching is 80% marking, meetings, discipline, tidying the room, working through lunch, at home and weekends, planning and preparing resources...only 20% teaching. This is one situation where the 80/20 rule doesn't work...I got into this gig for the 20 not the 80, so now I'm making my exit. "

Sunday, 1 December 2013

Lewisham NUT: Sticking together wins success over divisive performance-pay

Thanks to the commitment shown by NUT members in seven schools where strike notice was issued by the National Union, negotiations on Friday afternoon concluded with a successful outcome for teachers and schools in Lewisham.

Those strike notices were issued as part of the NUT's national policy to "back members at school level who want to escalate action, including up to strike action, to secure an acceptable pay policy".

As the National November NUT Reps Bulletin correctly pointed out, “an acceptable school pay policy is worth fighting for. A teacher on M3 who unfairly loses a pay increment could be worse off every year for ten years or more until they reach the top of the pay scale. They could lose £15,000 plus".

Lewisham NUT's experience of looking to co-ordinate that escalation across a number of schools shows that, not only is it worth trying to fight for acceptable policies, making a stand together can also help win the changes to policies that we are seeking.

Although the wordings of some amendments are yet to be absolutely finalised, Friday's meeting between the NUT, NASUWT and Lewisham Headteachers concluded with agreement that changes will be made in all ten areas identified by unions as concerns in the model pay and appraisal policies recommended by Lewisham Local Authority to schools.

Having consulted with union reps in the three schools in the Leathersellers Federation, where two-day strike action was due to take place on Tuesday and Wednesday, Lewisham NUT has recommended to the National Action Committee that next week's action can now be withdrawn. The NASUWT, who also issued strike notice in one of the schools, are doing the same.

The contentious issues in the Lewisham model pay policy were not about fixed pay scales or pay portability - as these had already been agreed in negotiations last term. The differences were over the other two key issues for the NUT: "Evidence and bureaucracy" and " Fair criteria for pay progression in September 2014".

Lewisham's model policy originally stated that to move up the main pay range, “teaching should be 'good over time' as defined by Ofsted”. With such a wording in place, how could staff be sure that they would receive a fair decision over pay progression next September? We argued that decisions should be based solely on progress towards appraisal objectives, and not on other criteria such as unfair and arbitrary Ofsted gradings of lesson observations, nor on any checklist of Teachers' Standards.

It has now been agreed that the reference to "as defined by Ofsted" will be changed to "as defined by the appraisal policy of your school", in line with the approach we had consistently been calling for.

Other changes over pay-progression include replacing the need to show "an increasing positive impact" on pupil progress with a "consistent positive impact" - an important distinction. A further change of wording should confirm that the Teachers' Standards are there to inform appraisal objectives, not to be used as a separate set of criteria. 

One concern over 'Evidence and Bureaucracy' will be addressed by replacing the sentence that "this school intends to generate and retain as much reasonable 'appraisal system' evidence as practically possible" by "the school will ensure that there is sufficient evidence of a robust appraisal system". Further, a contentious sentence relating to 'threshold applications' for the Upper Pay Range will no longer say that teachers should "build a mainly paper evidence base" to support their application.

Differences may still need to be overcome over individual Observation Protocols, which already differ from school to school in Lewisham. However, a further important outcome, that enabled us to advise that action should be withdrawn, was confirmation that the reference in the Leathersellers Federation policy to 'monitoring activities such as task observation' possibly taking place without 'advance notice' will now be removed from their appraisal policy.

As things stand, strike notice for three days action in January remains in place. However, if the final wordings discussed on Friday can be agreed, there is no reason why this notice cannot be withdrawn as well. However, and in answer to some of the unjust criticisms which were thrown at the Union in recent weeks, we remain clear that our action was never just about protecting teachers, it was also about protecting schools and students from the damage that will be inflicted by performance-pay.

A leaflet that we had drafted for the public, should we have had to go ahead with action, contained the following words from a letter written by a parent at one of the schools: "As a parent, I value the work that teachers do and believe that performance related pay will do nothing to improve the quality of teaching and learning that my son and other students receive. In fact, I feel it will undermine relationships between teachers and students. It doesn't take much imagination to see where this can lead: teachers unnecessarily pressurising students to meet targets, being reluctant to work with students who don't follow national trends in progress or worse, feeling compelled to cheat in order to meet targets".

We would have also explained our objection to grading teachers' lessons on the basis of 'Ofsted criteria' with the blunt, but true, summary of what those criteria could mean: "If your son/daughter fails to pay attention in my class, it could cost me £2,000".

At the same time, and unfortunately in line with the provocative tone of some of the letters that had been sent to some NUT members in the lead up to the strike, a letter for parents that had apparently been prepared by management in the event of a strike would have argued that performance-pay would allow teachers "to be paid more" !

Clearly, differences may still remain over the purpose of Gove's cost-cutting agenda, and how both performance-pay and the use of lesson observation 'gradings' can demoralise staff and damage working relationships. It was also clear from the discussions how Heads are, understandably, fearful of the pressure from Ofsted which, as the NUT has said from the outset, will be used to put pressure on Heads to implement a divisive performance-pay regime.

Usefully, both Heads and Unions agreed that the impromptu forums that emerged to negotiate over these policies should be developed to try and improve communications between us. We also hope that the finalised policy changes will be recommended to all schools in the Authority so that a common approach can be adopted across Lewisham schools.

Teachers and Heads alike will be pleased that sufficient progress was made to avert next week's strike action, but staff will still be understandably wary as to what will happen next September. Even if performance-pay assessments should now all be clearly based on appraisal objectives, Gove's legislation still leaves teachers open to the imposition of unfair objectives and unfair decisions about whether those objectives have been reached. 

Teachers will still need to be on their guard over how appraisal and observations are implemented in their school. Other more supportive parts of the model appraisal policies may become important, such as the clause that states: "where use of numerical targets is appropriate, these will be reasonable in the circumstances in which the teacher works and it will be recognised that factors outside the teacher's control may significantly affect success". 

The fact that teachers have shown that they are prepared to make such a firm stand over policies will hopefully help dissuade any school who might have been thinking about taking advantage of Gove's damaging legislation to unfairly block pay-progression next September.

The successful outcome in Lewisham shows what can be achieved through pursuing co-ordinated escalation of action, paying careful attention to the issues being raised by members across different schools at each stage of the campaign. It shows again that the depth of anger at performance-pay still runs deep. Now that anger must be harnessed into further escalating national action to defeat the national legislation which is still at the heart of our national dispute with Michael Gove.