When Michael Gove was removed from office and replaced by Nicky Morgan, teachers celebrated and the NUT rightly pointed out that its industrial action had helped him on his way. However, it's now clear that the change of Secretary of State was also a clever move by Cameron. An unpopular Minister was pushed aside - to help make sure that the Coalition's policies could stay exactly the same.
Some conciliatory comments on workload after Nicky Morgan was first appointed led some to hope that a deal could be struck. However, Morgan and the Tories played for time with her 'Workload Challenge', then ended up conceding next to nothing. (See previous post from 8 February)
In her final letter to unions on March 4th, summarising the talks, Morgan blatantly makes clear that, in reality, she has never differed from Gove in a refusal to seriously negotiate.
Her letter bluntly states that "The scope of the programme of talks has always been focussed on policy implementation. As I and my predecessor have set out on a number of occasions, the direction of policy on teachers’ pay and pensions is set: it has not and will not change".
Their insistence that Performance-Pay is here to stay is confirmed in the latest Review Body Report. The Report admits "that the recruitment and retention pressures on which we commented in our last report had become more acute and the latest national data suggested the position had further deteriorated". Yet it is only prepared to recommend a 1% increase to TLR responsibility payments and the minimum levels of the various pay ranges.
What might sound like a slightly less frugal recommendation, to "recommend an uplift of 2% to the maxima of the main pay range" is qualified by the statement that "We would not expect all teachers on the maxima to receive a 2% increase: the full uplift should be awarded only where merited by performance. Some might receive a lower award, or none". So, with school budgets tight, one teacher's higher award could be matched with another's zero increase.
As far as the Review Body is concerned, national pay scales are already a thing of the past. Now divisive 'flexibility' rules and schools can "determine starting salaries and decide annual pay awards for individual teachers on the basis of performance, constrained only by the maxima and minima of the nationally set pay ranges. They do so in the context of managing their overall budgets. Our recommendations on pay range minima and maxima should not – and are not intended to – translate into uniform pay increases within every school".
The facts are that, despite the Union's action, lobbying and campaigning, the Tories have succeeded in imposing their pay and pensions attacks - and workload has continued to increase intolerably. However, that does not mean that the campaign wasn't worth fighting. The real conclusion is that, under the next Government, we have to wage that campaign even more determinedly - and by employing a strategy that aims to defeat the attacks we face, not just to voice protest.
As an amendment agreed by Lewisham NUT, and other Divisions, for this Easter's NUT Conference bluntly puts it, "Communications should make it clear that lobbying, workload assessments, publicity stunts, casework etc. will not on their own lead to effective changes and the only solution, no matter how inconvenient and difficult, is a planned campaign of escalating strike action".