Sunday, 12 October 2014
Tristram's Oath - Time to discuss standing our own election candidates
The failure of Tristram Hunt, Labour's Shadow Education Secretary, to significantly challenge Government policy has already disappointed many teachers. His statement today calling for teachers to make an 'oath' declaring their commitment to the profession has generated real anger.
However it's dressed up, the proposal insultingly suggests that problems in education can be blamed on the lack of commitment from teachers. To make such an insulting statement just a week after the NUT revealed the damning results of its workload survey is quite incredible. In response, even Nicky Morgan was forced to acknowledge that workload needed to be addressed. But not Tristram!
Apparently, this suggestion was the product of Hunt's recent visit to Singapore (see BBC News via http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/education-29482160), a schooling system which has been criticised for the enormous pressures it places on school students.
Social media has been full of angry responses, such as:
The BBC News article blurted out what may well be the uncomfortable truth about Tristram: "from Labour's perspective, it also moves the education debate away from government changes that are unlikely to be unpicked".
Yes, the NUT's Education Manifesto explains correctly how "the academies and free schools programme has resulted in unnecessary fragmentation of the education system" and demands "Give local authorities back the legal powers they need to plan and provide enough school places in their local areas" and "Restore the role of the local authority as the democratic local organisation responsible for education".
However, a future New Labour Government apparently has no intention of doing any such thing. Tristram Hunt is quoted in the BBC article as saying "We're very much in favour, and I'm very passionate about, parents and charities setting up schools, providing choice for people in areas where we need new school places .. We want to see a multiplicity of provision - academy chains, single academies, community schools, parent-led academies."
So, this is the tweet that I posted today:
Some excellent work is being done by NUT Associations distributing our Education Manifesto and lobbying politicians. However, the likelihood is our words will fall on deaf ears, particularly at the tops of the main political parties.
How long do we continue to put up with politicians that are wedded to cuts and privatisation at the expense of teachers, children and their parents and communities? Isn't it high time that the NUT, alongside other trade unions, started to talk seriously about providing alternative political representation that is prepared to stand up for trade union policies?
The NUT would not be alone in having this debate. Indeed, it's instructive that, following their high-profile dispute, the leader of the Chicago Teachers' Union, Karen Lewis, has been preparing to stand in the election for Mayor of Chicago. (Karen has been seriously ill this week and I wish her well in her recovery - you can too via the AFT website - search for 'Get Well Soon Karen Lewis')
That's why, as discussed at the LANAC Steering Committee yesterday, I have drafted a motion for the 2015 Annual Conference that I hope NUT Local Associations will put forward in their General Meetings before the deadline later this term. It can be downloaded via http://goo.gl/X22qzY but here's the text I am proposing:
The NUT Manifesto and the Union’s Political Fund
Conference congratulates members across the Union who have worked hard to distribute the “manifesto for our children’s education” to parents, politicians and in our local communities.
We welcome the support that the Manifesto has received, including from educationalists such as Professor Robin Alexander who correctly described it as “not some ideological wish-list but a sensible and principled statement with a firm basis in evidence”.
Conference agrees that we must continue to lobby the main political parties in order to try and persuade them to adopt our Manifesto recommendations. We encourage Associations to write to General Election candidates in their local Parliamentary Constituencies asking if they support the recommendations, and to draw candidates’ responses to the attention of their membership.
However, Conference notes with regret that, despite our efforts, whatever party or parties form the next Government after May’s General Election, it is highly unlikely that its education policies will adopt many of the recommendations set down in the Manifesto.
Conference recognises that an urgent debate is now required within the Union as to how we can best address the democratic deficit created when the main parties jointly support policies promoting austerity and privatisation.
Conference notes that, in the face of similar attacks on public services and their trade union members, similar debates have taken place in other trade unions, such as the PCS, RMT and the Chicago Teachers Union. The NUT now also needs to consider whether we should give backing to alternative political representation, including through the use of our Political Fund to support candidates in local and national elections who are in support of Union policies.
Conference instructs the Executive to:
1) Consult with members and Local Associations and Divisions about the Union giving support to NUT members, and/or other trade union or community candidates, standing for election on a platform which is in line with Union policies;
2) Approach other non-Labour-affiliated unions, and in particular PCS and RMT, for exploratory talks with a view to working together on addressing the lack of adequate political representation for trade unionists;
3) Report back to Conference 2016 on the results of these discussions, including proposals for any recommended Rule Changes that have arisen from them which would require the agreement of Annual Conference.
... and congratulations to everyone for another well-supported 'Twitter storm' tonight. Here's two more of mine that seemed to go down well with colleagues: