Sunday, 30 November 2014

An open letter - please reconsider pursuing academy status

The Headteacher of my local community school, a Lewisham comprehensive that all my children have attended, has regrettably written to parents to say that they are exploring becoming an academy.

This is our reply:

As parents of four children who have been so well supported by the School, we were extremely disappointed to read the letter you sent to parents and carers last weekend. In reply, we are writing this response to some of the key points in your letter. So that other parents can also read our views, we will also be sharing our reply with other parents via SAIL (Stop Academies in Lewisham).

“Like all schools, [the School] has been considering its status as a maintained, local authority school”.

Your letter seems to suggest that all schools are considering becoming academies. However, that suggestion is not supported by the DfE’s own figures. These show that the rate at which secondary schools are becoming academies has slowed dramatically. Nationally, only 117 secondaries became academies over the last twelve months. In Lewisham, no secondary school has become an academy since St Matthew’s Academy replaced St Joseph’s in 2007. Why should the School convert at all?

“The government’s view is very clear and there is an expectation that all remaining maintained schools consider academy status”

The Government’s view may be clear but do any of the Governors or members of the leadership team at the School share this Government’s vision for education? We hope not. Yes, Michael Gove made very clear that he wanted to divide education by forcing every school to become an academy, replacing accountable community schools with a free market in education dominated by education businesses like Harris. However, Mr Gove’s policies have proved so unpopular that he has been replaced!

In a few months, a General Election will be held that may elect a new Government with new education policies. So why go along with Government views now? At the very least, Governors should wait to see what May 2015 brings before exploring pursuing Academy status any further.

“As part of strengthening this existing partnership governors have also been exploring the option of becoming an academy in partnership with ... Challenge Partners”.

Instead of behind-the-scenes exploration of such an option, a plan that concerns ourselves and other parents we have talked to, the school should be openly and fully consulting with parents about the pressures it is under – and about its response to those pressures. Your letter refers to a ‘disappointing dip in GCSE results last summer’. Of course, the School was not alone in seeing a drop in some results, linked to imposed changes to exam structure. For example, we understand that the academy schools in Lewisham saw similar dips in results as well. If these results are being used to bully the school into considering Academy status, then Governors should fully inform parents so that we are able to support the school and its staff.

Many parents support and value the community ethos and excellent support that the School provides for its students. We are just one family that know how our children have been helped to succeed in so many ways by the School. However, if your response to any pressures to become an Academy is simply to pursue your own alternative plans to convert to an Academy, then you will lose any chance of building on that parental support to defend the school from such a damaging proposal. Instead, many, including ourselves, will feel that Governors have pursued an unacceptable policy. It may suit Challenge Partners Academies*, but it is the wrong choice for the School.

“I would like to re-assure parents that no decision will be made this academic year and that if the school did become an academy it would only do so in order to strengthen its capacity to support our students to achieve their full potential. There would be no change to the identity or the ethos of the school as a community comprehensive”

It is some reassurance that no decision is imminent but this conclusion still sends a worrying signal to parents, staff and the school community that the school leadership sees Academy conversion as a possible way forward. After years of Government experimentation with academisation of schools, there is absolutely no educational evidence that it improves educational outcomes. It is also inevitable, whatever school management may intend, that becoming an Academy, probably as part of a wider chain, would inevitably change the school’s identity, as well as its employment relationship with staff.

We hope you will take on board our concerns and that Governors will reconsider pursuing any option to become an Academy. However, as it regrettably appears that this is a route that is being explored, then I would ask that a meeting of parents is urgently organised where Governors can fully explain why, and how, they are pursuing this option. At the same time, this meeting should also allow parents, such as ourselves, the opportunity to offer an opposing view, in order to explain to Governors why we think such an option would be mistaken. We would also want to make the case that, before any such decision is considered by the Governors, the whole school community, parents and staff, should be given the opportunity to take part in an independently overseen secret ballot to take place once there has been sufficient time for both sides fully to put their case for and against any plan for Academy conversion.

* The Challenge Partners website indicates that it has set up a new academy trust

Challenge Partners' Managing Director is Mark Goodchild. According to the website, "Prior to Challenge Partners, Mark spent 6 years with Accenture in management consultancy and outsourcing sales in Financial Services. In education, Mark is the co-founder of New Schools Ventures, supporting the creation of new primary schools in low-income areas through the replication and expansion of some of the best schools in the country, and founding governor of the Southwark Free School". Members of the Leadership Team include Adrian Percival, the CEO of the Haberdashers Aske's Academies Federation.

The reality of a teacher's day

This week's Socialist Paper includes a feature on education ( see ). 

The article from Nicky, a primary teacher, will be only too familiar to teaching colleagues. If you're not a teacher, I hope it helps explains the reality of a teacher's day:

6.00am: coffee and browsing for education news.
8.00: arrive at school. Planning will have been done on Sunday or the weeknight before. The expectation is that planning is done daily to reflect learning from the day before. This makes it very difficult to have evenings out. Check emails. Get resources ready.
8.40: children arrive in school. I listen to readers if possible. But at the moment I'm supposed to have structured conversations with 13 sets of parents by next week. Each takes 15 minutes.
9.00: one to one maths tutoring.

Gaps widen

9.30: maths target group. The teaching part of my job is the easiest and by far the most enjoyable. However, the expectations for accelerated and wider learning are unrealistic. It usually takes two to three lessons to embed each new concept - I'm supposed to do it in one. The gap between children's achievement and what they are expected to achieve widens.
10.30: break. Not on duty so able to grab a coffee. Pop in to see nurture group which I also have responsibility for planning. Check emails.
10.45: literacy. I used to have a small group of children newly arrived from other countries or with specific special needs. Now the move is towards "quality first teaching". This means these children are taught within a class of 30. My job is to make sure they can access the curriculum. There are currently 20 children needing my help across three classes, and I can't be in all classes at the same time. At least once every day I feel frustrated I can't do more.
11.45: phonics group. I love my group; they really enjoy the structure of the lessons and make progress. Unfortunately this is not seen in other areas of the curriculum. We are beginning to phase it out.
12.20pm: lunchtime. Usually spend most of it discussing the needs of individual students with colleagues, and marking work. I make sure I eat though - some do not even do that!
1.15: once a week I teach another year group to cover for planning, preparation and assessment time. We have extra teachers in my school to ensure this is covered by qualified staff. We are no longer supposed to cover, but the arrangement works for us. Covering a class is difficult, but it's much harder to manage behaviour if you do not know the children. I've prepared reading activities, a whiteboard flip and planned a creative writing session. This is followed by singing assembly which is, fortunately, led by someone else.
3.15: speak to parents; home time for children.
3.30: staff training on the new science curriculum. Our training is usually good; we were a teaching school but gave it up this year. Too tired to enjoy today's though.


4.30-6.00: I usually stay in school until the caretaker throws me out. If I do that I don't have to carry books home to mark.
7.00-9.00: I spend on average two hours a night working at home, and all day Sunday. I know some teachers who spend much longer, mostly on data driven tasks. I've been teaching for twenty years so I know the shortcuts, and won't do tasks I think are irrelevant.
Total daily work: ten to 12 hours Monday to Friday; five hours Sunday.
Total weekly work: about 60 hours.

Thursday, 27 November 2014

Debating the way forward in Oldham

Thanks to an invitation to speak at their excellently organised NUT General Meeting, I had the opportunity tonight to compare views and experiences with teachers in Oldham.

Not surprisingly, the problems facing colleagues in Oldham were the same ones facing teachers across the country:
Paying more for a worse pension – with many teachers not expecting to ever receive their full entitlements as they expect to have been forced out of teaching long before their pension age of 67 or more.
Being bullied and threatened by performance-pay, observations and Ofsted – facing the ever-present threat that they will be singled out as ‘inadequate’ to be denied pay progression or unfairly face the threat of ‘capability’ proceedings. 
The crushing workload that is turning teaching into a soulless drudgery – unsustainable workload that few with a family can adequately manage and even many without such responsibilities can only take for a few years before they can face no more.

I compared the Government – and too many of our Headteachers – to factory managers that demand ever more by speeding up the production line. They want to ignore the reality that teachers can do only so much to counteract the growing problems that most impact children’s lives – like poverty and social inequality. 

To really produce better outcomes, politicians need to stop their ‘austerity’ agenda and invest in providing more teachers, so we can have more PPA and smaller class sizes. Instead of gimmicks like making private school pupils play football with state schools, Tristram Hunt would do well to remember Gordon Brown’s promise that Government would match the spending per pupil in private schools in the state sector.

However, the real debate that I hope that I opened up was not to agree about the problems we all knew we faced – but to discuss what strategy can defeat them. 

As discussion during and after the meeting confirmed, in Oldham – as elsewhere – teachers are questioning how the Union can turn the tide.

I remain confident that teachers will stand up for themselves and education. There’s a limit to how far you can continue with ‘speed-ups’ before the workforce can take no more and revolt! However, if we don’t organise collectively, then there is the risk that teachers respond only by fleeing the profession – leaving conditions as bad as ever.

Teachers remain a highly unionised workforce – if divided into different unions. Signs that unions might be starting to overcome those divisions would be a real encouragement, as discussed tonight in Oldham. When we take action, we can have a significant impact yet have the backing of many parents for our stand.

The NUT also has a good network of determined officers and school reps, although the pressures on them are immense as they try to defend the many individual teachers who fall victim to the unbearable conditions in so many schools.

Our first national strikes raised spirits and showed teachers we could demonstrate our anger through action. However, teachers (and indeed trade unions as a whole) have also learned that winning victories against a determined opposition needs more than just protest actions. That’s why teachers are questioning where our campaign goes next.

We do face a determined adversary in this Government. They are trying to drive through a neo-liberal agenda of cuts and privatisation, applied to schools through the GERM, the Global Education Reform Movement. They want to open up education to big business, lower costs and turn education into a marketplace. That means attacking school staff conditions and their unions too.

However, our campaigning has helped put the pressure on a Government who want to appeal to teacher voters alienated by Gove’s hard-nosed approach. Nicky Morgan has been brought in to make more sympathetic noises – but Government policy has not fundamentally changed. 

That’s why most teachers in the meeting seemed to share my view that, while we must always hope for the best, the likelihood is that Morgan’s ‘Workload Challenge’ is unlikely to lead to many real gains, certainly unless she fears a determined response from the NUT if our demands are not met. Those demands, set down in our Workload Action Programme, are clear. They include abolishing Ofsted, ending the grading of lessons, stopping performance-pay, cutting working hours and increasing teacher numbers.

Oldham members commented that this meant we needed to be ready to take national action quickly in the New Year. We had a window of opportunity to force real change before the Election – and we mustn’t waste it.

I also asked teachers to think about what a successful programme of ongoing national strike action would need to look like. As LANAC had consistently argued, teachers – and politicians – needed to know that further action would follow if the first action didn’t bring results. In other words, we needed a clear ‘calendar of action’. We should also consider taking two-day extended action to up the ante from previous strikes.

The proposal was taken seriously but I was pleased that it was also honestly questioned in the meeting. Would teachers be prepared to make that financial sacrifice? In response, I just asked teachers to consider that, if ongoing action was needed to win, then we had no choice but to prepare for it financially, saving for extended action and appealing for hardship funds.

Of course, alongside national action, school-based action on workload would also be vital. It was good to hear that Oldham NUT’s experience had mirrored Lewisham’s in having a well-attended recent training day where reps made plans to tackle excessive workload. 

As a result, a motion was unanimously agreed at the meeting tonight requesting Reps to convene meetings to prioritise areas of most concern and meet management to seek to negotiate workload reductions in those areas. If this was not successful then, like Lewisham NUT, Oldham NUT was encouraging reps to coordinate any necessary strike action across local schools.

The meeting also passed, as three of their allocation of six for NUT Annual Conference, motions backed by LANAC on ‘A Strategy to Win’, ‘Teacher Workload’ and ‘An Effective Teaching and Learning Environment’ – all in line with the strategies I was putting forward for discussion tonight.

Finally, in my closing remarks, I asked the meeting to leave thinking about the ‘elephant in the room’ – political representation. It was absolutely right that we all took every opportunity to use the General Election period to expose the damage being caused by the ‘GERM’ and to put forward the NUT’s alternative. However, whatever their particular political views, most teachers knew that we could not rely on the next Government, whatever its make-up, to defend teachers.

How long can trade unions continue to make-do with the ‘lesser evil’ of Labour, particularly when Tristram Hunt’s education policies hardly seem ‘less evil’ at all?! Isn’t it about time that unions stood their own candidates – and gave our communities a chance to vote for the anti-austerity policies that most teachers and parents actually support?

It was an excellent meeting – and I hope we all left with things to discuss further. Thank you Oldham NUT!

SAIL lobby Lewisham councillors

In existence for just a fortnight, the SAIL campaign to Stop Academies In Lewisham is already building strength.

Following a first public meeting (see previous post), SAIL was then launched at a follow-up meeting bringing together parents, campaigners, teaching and support staff unions.

A SAIL facebook group has been set up to build the campaign and helped organise support for a Lobby of Lewisham Council last night. See:

Parents have drafted a leaflet to be taken around the borough and union reps are meeting to confirm plans for strike ballots to oppose any proposed change of employer.

Sunday, 16 November 2014

Stop Academies In Lewisham

Last Wednesday evening, staff, parents and governors met together at a public meeting in the 'Green Man' on Bromley Road, SE6, to start an urgent campaign to Stop Academies In Lewisham.

The meeting was called because of news that governors for around a half of Lewisham’s remaining secondary schools are - either by choice or under pressure - discussing converting to an academy. These include:
  • Bonus Pastor
  • Hilly Fields
  • Ladywell Fields
  • Prendergast Vale
  • Sedgehill
However, these are probably  not the only schools where plans are being discussed. If these  convert, others may well follow, including primary schools too. After all, Knight’s Academy took over Merlin primary, and Aske’s Hatcham took over Monson. On top of this, plans for two ‘free schools’ have also been announced in the local press.

Thanks to contributions from Alasdair Smith from the Anti-Academies Alliance and Robb Johnson from the successful 'Hove Park not Gove Park' campaign, everyone left the meeting determined that we weren't going to allow education in Lewisham to be ripped apart.  

Our first Action Committee will be held this Monday with plans to build the campaign across the borough and, in particular, plans for co-ordinated union strike action to oppose these threats. 

I have drafted an initial leaflet for the campaign. Here is the text:

Academies: no magic solution

There is no real evidence that academies do any better for children than community schools.
They certainly don’t do better for all pupils. The National Audit Office reported that “the gap in attainment between more disadvantaged pupils and others has grown wider in academies”.
Just like any other school, some academies  succeed, but many others have struggled. They are no ‘magic solution’ to improving education.
Of course, the easiest ‘solution’ to improving results is to change the pupils and families you attract to your school. Research suggests that’s exactly what some Academies have done. But that just means ‘improving’ at the expense of other schools. That just makes things worse.

Academies: dividing schools

Schools can improve when they have support, funding and can share ideas. But, by breaking-up Local Authorities, Academies prevent this.
If Lewisham education is dominated by lots of competing academies, there will be even less co-operation between schools. There may be some ‘winners’ but there will definitely be some ‘losers’ too - and they will be Lewisham children.
There will be even less support on offer from the Local Authority - because its education services will effectively cease to exist. It will be even harder to plan for the school places we need. Instead of allowing academies to divide local education, we must campaign together for the support that schools, children and staff need.  

Academies: no pot of gold

Don’t believe arguments that say converting to an Academy brings lots more resources.
Yes, the school gets more income - but it also has more costs too, spending on services that used to be organised by the Local Authority.  This may cost them even more than before. Academy conversion actually brings greater funding risks as schools lose the security and economies of scale of  being part of a bigger  Local Authority. Schools will no longer be able  to rely  on the financial help that Council can provide to manage a sudden crisis.
To find security, many academies end up as  part of a bigger commercial ‘chain’ like Harris. Elected Councils are replaced by big businesses.

Academies: who benefits?

Every month, a new academy scandal exposes that there may be even fewer resources for staff and pupils - it might be being spent elsewhere!
Just this November, the National Audit Office reported that nearly half of the academy trusts they examined had paid public money towards private businesses of directors, trustees and  relatives, worth an estimated £71 million. Some appeared to involve “improper” practices.
The Executive Head at Durand Academy is being paid over £200,000 - a 56% pay rise last year!
Should anyone be surprised? If academies are given ‘freedom’ to run their own affairs, then these kinds of scandals are inevitable. Academy schools should be returned to Local Authorities.

Academies: Demoralising Staff

Converting to an academy threatens staff and unions. It will cause upset and staff turnover.
Some Academies have worsened conditions,  e.g. even greater workload or worse sick pay.
While academy Heads are often paid more, DfE figures show class teachers are paid less than their colleagues in maintained secondaries.

Fragmenting schools into different academies will create a fragmentation over policies too - including on crucial issues like performance-pay.
Dividing schools like this makes it harder for  unions to defend its members. In fact, it could mean teachers lose access to a Lewisham union representative altogether if facility time is cut.

Academies = privatisation / cuts

Academies are part of a wider agenda to get rid of Local Authority-run services altogether.
Funding cuts mean Lewisham Council is already cutting many of its services. Turning schools into academies leaves even fewer Council services.
If you don’t think your Council is doing a good job, you can lobby your Mayor and Councillors - and elect new ones too. But academies and free schools are not accountable to the community. If we don’t fight for our schools and services, what will be left? Schools will be in the hands   of unaccountable businesses and individuals. Some hope to make profits out of education. Let’s campaign for education, not privatisation. 

Act Now to Stop Academies In Lewisham - before it's too late

Government legislation allows schools to become academies very quickly. We need to act fast.
In order to rush through their plans to turn schools into academies, this Government introduced an Academies Act in 2010. It allows schools to become academies in a matter of months. All it really takes is a majority vote at a Governing Body meeting. Schools are meant to ‘consult’ about their plans but few consult properly. Such an important decision should really only be taken - if at all - after staff and parents have been balloted - with information, against as well as for, fully circulated first.
Discussions are already taking place in secret. First, let’s demand an open discussion where staff and parents are fully briefed on plans. If an academy is planned, then we have to act to stop it.

Saturday, 15 November 2014

Lewisham NUT reps organise to tackle impossible workload

At a packed Lewisham NUT Training Day last week, school reps met to make plans to tackle the impossible levels of workload facing teachers.

It was one of the best-attended training events we've held locally in recent years, bringing together reps from primary, secondary and special sectors, including academies, foundation and community schools. Significantly, most of the reps present had only been in post for a year or less.

What's causing the workload?
To start the discussion, reps were asked to list the main causes of workload in their school. Not surprisingly, a range of issues were raised. Reps recognised that some of these would need a national solution - through ongoing national action - but we were also looking for issues that we could start to tackle through local action.

Here are the main grievances reps listed - I am sure most teachers will recognise many of these themselves!:
  • Lack of Trust - constantly having to prove your worth
  • Overall working time - teachers never really stop
  • The need for 20% PPA - but also high-quality cover when you are released for it to really cut workload
  • Learning Walks - plus demoralising and critical feedback
  • Marking - both the volume and the time needed to carry out the detailed policy requirements in many schools
  • Meetings - too many, and over and above directed time
  • Performance Pay - pressure to meet targets that can be either dangerously vague or set at unachievable levels.
  • Grading of lesson observations - linked to threats of performance-pay failure or capability procedures.
  • Submitting data - particularly being asked to (re)submit information in time-consuming formats
  • Short deadlines - including emails sent over weekends
  • Better-paid managers delegating tasks to staff without TLRs / leadership time
Some issues were particularly strongly felt in primary schools, notably:
  • Planning - constant monitoring and with excessive expectations, even recording outcomes for individual pupils 
  • Displays - pressure but no time provided to put them up

Setting a 'workload target' in every school
That list of grievances was an important starting-point - but the key discussion was how we could tackle them. 

The training session looked at NUT advice on:
* Performance Pay Appeals and Appraisal Objectives
* Observation and Learning Walk Protocols
* Workload - using the reissued 'Stronger Together' pamphlet
* The recent Ofsted letter clarifying expectations over Lesson Plans, Observations, Assessment and Grading of Lessons

Reps were taken through the steps needed to calculate their school's directed-hours time budget to see if that could be used to challenge workload demands. Other contractual protections discussed included PPA time, Admin Tasks, Cover and a Head Teacher's duty to make sure staff can have 'a healthy balance between work and other commitments'.

Of course, to make that 'Work-Life Balance' a reality, we might well need to back up negotiations with action, supported by the ongoing ballot. For example, those action instructions include "refusing to implement working practices or policies which have not been workload-impact assessed and the subject of agreement with the NUT".

At the end of the session, every rep reported on the particular 'workload target' they were going to propose to their union group for negotiation and, if necessary, action. Here's a selection of the main targets that were proposed:

  • An acceptable protocol for classroom displays
  • An acceptable protocol for observations and learning walks
  • An acceptable marking policy
  • An acceptable planning policy
  • A limit on emails, especially out of school hours
  • A limit on meetings
  • A limit on new initiatives - 'if you add one, then take one away'
  • Stopping teachers having to carry out administrative tasks
Of course, to succeed in these plans, reps knew they needed to build and strengthen their school union organisation. We also made plans to bring school groups together, including after-school 'Meet your Union' sessions to be held in different parts of the borough. 

Lewisham NUT says: 'Let's Stop for Lunch'
Finally, we agreed on one simple initiative that we could publicise across every school. We decided on a 'Let's Stop for Lunch' Campaign. 

It's hardly a radical demand - after all, we're supposedly all entitled to a proper midday break! Yet, how many teachers really get one? We want school groups to organise to make sure that, perhaps at least on a Friday,  staff have a chance to stop and meet together, to chat and discuss - and leave their work behind for once! 

Perhaps the fact that we have to act on such basic issues as having a lunchbreak can help explain to the public just how relentless teacher workload has become. It's also a sharp contrast to those long lunches seemingly enjoyed by many of the MPs who want our votes next May!

Thursday, 6 November 2014

November National Executive Report - Workload

This afternoon, as agreed at the last Special Meeting of the NUT Executive, the Executive finalised the Union's Workload Action Programme*.

Inevitably, on such a wide-ranging issue, there had been many suggestions put forward, and some contributors might still prefer this or that addition to the final version. However, overall, I was pleased that National Officers made a number of updates to the original draft and the Executive were unanimous in agreeing the revised Programme. Now we have to publicise it and fight to win it and make sure that politicians turn fine words into concrete action.

Here is what was agreed: 


Reform accountability so it is based on trust
One of the fundamental drivers of excessive working hours is an accountability system that does not trust teachers. All levels of accountability should be reformed so that they are based on trust, respectful professional dialogue and proportionality. Necessarily this means the replacement of Ofsted/Estyn by a new school accountability system.

Take action on marking, planning, data, meetings and observations
Pending an accountability review Government must take immediate action. All schools should be encouraged reduce workload including by abiding by the recent Ofsted clarifications. Schools should desist from requiring that teachers i) use marking schemes which generate written dialogue between them and their pupils ii) provide evidence of the work that they do, outside that which arises naturally iii) produce detailed lesson plans or hand them in iv) further schools should follow Ofsted’s own practice and desist from grading lesson observations, nor should they carry out more than 3 observations per year, except in cases of concern. The Government should encourage schools via a circular to reduce data collection demands, to limit after school meetings and to promulgate agreed best practice including around peer observations.

Allow time for curriculum and SEN reform 
Government should announce additional non-teaching days to allow teachers to prepare for the rushed curriculum and SEN changes and in future plan such changes in consultation and over a longer period.

Reform the teacher pay system 
The introduction of performance related pay has led to an increase in bureaucracy and working hours. The Government should announce i) a moratorium on performance related pay on the main scale whilst negotiations on a national pay system take place ii) remind schools that the upper spine does not carry extra responsibilities - it is for teachers who choose to remain in the classroom instead of moving into management iii) that Ofsted/Estyn will not comment on pay policies.

Adopt a binding work life balance policy 
All schools should adopt a binding work-life balance policy. This policy should make clear that schools must have a proper regard for teachers’ legitimate expectations of a healthy balance between work and other commitments and be clear that if there is a new initiative which takes teacher time then something teachers currently do has to be dropped.

Measure workload every year 
The workload diary survey of teacher hours should run annually, supervised by a board drawn from the DFE and teacher unions. Michael Gove didn't run the survey between 2010 and 2013 when it showed a 10% increase.

Set targets to reduce workload and introduce limits
The Government should adopt an immediate target for a reduction in teacher working hours and begin the phased introduction of binding limits on teacher working time.  The last workload diary survey showed primary teachers working 60 hours on average and secondary teachers 56.5 hours. Head teachers were working even more. 

Increase teacher numbers to improve education

Education would be improved by increasing the number of teachers which would permit increased time for collaboration between teachers and the provision of time within the school day for planning, preparation and assessment and would allow smaller classes and more individual support for children

The programme will be accompanied by the following information:


Teacher working hours in England & Wales are higher than in other countries
Excessive working hours are contributing to teacher shortages and tired teachers.  Much of the excessive work arises from an accountability system which has low trust in teachers. Much of it is not work that benefits our pupils. These working hours are unsustainable and bad for the children we teach. Even with the 17 week averaging period, for many teachers they are over European Working Time Directive limits.

The “workload challenge” survey – responding to the NUT campaign
In response to the NUT’s campaigning Nicky Morgan and Nick Clegg have announced a “workload challenge” consultation. More than 29,000 teachers have already responded. Please add your views, use our suggested action plan to inform your response and including any examples of good practice in your own school. The survey closes on 21st November
Fill in the DfE survey here
Send your suggestions on how to reduce workload to the DFE at

Change must be real and negotiated
Nicky Morgan and Nick Clegg say they will be putting forward proposals that will reduce teacher workload in the New Year. If they are to convince teachers that this is more than a cynical election ploy there will have to be real movement.  But this movement must be based on professional respect, not for example, on the introduction of standardised commercial lesson plans.

The actions proposed overleaf by the NUT could reduce excessive hours quickly, in some cases with little or no cost. However the roots of the workload problem are deep and fundamental actions are required by Government.  Our action points should apply to all state funded schools and colleges, whatever their status and should be implemented in consultation and negotiation with the teacher organisations.

The positive suggestions in the NUT manifesto and the question of teacher pay and pensions must be addressed
Government and political parties need to recognise teacher ideas for improving education. The NUT’s manifesto, which is gaining increasing support, contains many positive suggestions. Read and endorse it here:

Politicians need to address our disputes over both pay and pensions. They continue to be deeply felt and must be addressed – and indeed by contributing to teacher 'churn' they are in themselves contributing to excessive workload. 

* A couple of late amendments to the Programme were also included to make sure that it also properly addressed how matters should be taken forward in Wales. I will update the post to include these when I have the confirmed wording.

For a further post on salaries and pensions issues, read next post or go to

November National Executive Report - Salaries

A number of key issues were discussed at Wednesday's Salaries Sub-Committee:

Supply Teachers
A report was included on the successful Lobby of Parliament held on 28 October (see earlier report on this blog). It was also reported that the TUC are organising a "Decent Jobs Week" from 15-21 December and that the Union should make sure that supply teacher issues are raised alongside those facing other agency and zero-hour contract workers.

It was reported that the Union is also working on plans to develop a self-organising network of supply teachers. This was one of the plans discussed in the organising meeting held at the end of the Lobby of Parliament. I also reported on the plan for the supply teachers network to hold a meeting on December 13th. I will continue to see how I can assist making sure these activities are publicised and developed.

Teachers' Pensions
The pension contribution rates from April 2015 will be based on a tiered structure that maintains the current 9.6% average payment - the imposed increase brought in over the previous three years. The Committee Paper noted that "if the 2006 cost-sharing agreement had held, teachers would have been paying an average 7.7%".

The NUT will also be represented at the "Working Longer Review" (yes, that's what's it's called!) set up by the DfE which will include exploring "the health and deployment implications of teachers working longer". I think teachers know too well what the real implications are - but let's see what this Review concludes ....

Sixth Form Pay Structures
The Committee discussed the responses from NUT members in sixth form colleges to a consultation on the Sixth Form Colleges Association's proposals on a new pay structure and pay progression framework. As also discussed elsewhere on this blog, while some positive part so the proposals were acknowledged, there was real concern over the plan to link pay progression at all points to criteria set by individual colleges.

In response, the Committee agreed to recommend to the Executive that the NUT could not accept the current proposals and would seek "to continue negotiation to achieve a proposed structure which does not contain the elements that are of concern to members" and support members in taking action where colleges sought to reduce pay progression through new progression criteria.(UPDATE: This was then agreed at the full Executive).

NUT submission to the School Teachers' Review Body
The Union's detailed response to the STRB says in its summary: “The NUT’s analysis in this submission reaffirms our view that teachers’ pay levels need to be increased significantly. We call on the STRB to assert its independence and make recommendations on pay that will start the process of restoring teachers’ pay to proper professional levels, in order to address growing problems of recruitment, retention and morale and secure the supply of teachers for the future.
If the STRB chooses again to comply with the constraints of its remit and confines itself to considering the distribution of a pay increase of 1 per cent or less - or, even worse, takes forward its apparent intention to allow even such an increase to be denied to many teachers - then it will be failing the profession and the country”

The Report details evidence from the STRB's own research pointing to the "real challenge ... in preserving the attractiveness of teaching as a preferred profession for good graduates" and the "risk of those in the teaching profession feeling under-valued and recruitment and retention suffering as a consequence". The NUT Submission also explains how "During the Coalition Government's period in office, teachers' pay will have fallen by more than 15% in real terms as measured against inflation". Of course, pension increases on top of this mean that the overall 'robbery' is even greater. 

Sunday, 2 November 2014

How can we stop the Privatisation Bulldozer?

Next weekend, the Socialist Party are hosting the annual 'Socialism' weekend in London. It includes a wide range of issues and speakers, not least Kshama Sawant, elected with close to 100,000 votes as a Socialist Councillor in Seattle. More details can be found via

On Sunday afternoon, I have been invited to contribute at a forum called "Can the privatisation bulldozer be stopped?"
You can get a sneak preview of the presentation I have drafted for use at the session via

It focuses on academisation of schools in England but also links to the exploitation of supply teachers and, above all, a wider discussion on socialist education policy.

Come along and join the discussion!