Thursday 22 November 2007
Results for first preferences were: Goodswen 6792, Reed 5603, Harrop 4084, King 3973, MPD 2427, Roberts 2167. Martin and Gill also won overall after transfers were worked through from this low turnout.
My vote certainly compared well in proportion to the number of nominations received. However, the main groups within the Union are, as was likely to be the case, able to turn a larger vote out overall than myself.
But those groups are organising a union which is unable to get more than 10% of members to vote. There is clearly a big gap between many teachers' frustrations and their thinking that the Union, and its elections, can change things for them.
It's worth putting this news in the context of the other news of the day - that the Union has decided to cancel the Special NUT Executive for tomorrow (as the Government has delayed and still not pronounced on teachers' pay) so that it is now highly unlikely that there will be a ballot before Xmas - indeed, some on the Executive are already saying that we shouldn't ballot at all. Of course, teachers voting in this VP election weren't to know who was serious about wanting to build national action, and who was not.
The pay campaign is unfortunately at risk of being demobilised by the Executive majority's strategy of waiting for the STRB report, rather than going for an earlier timetable - and alongside other unions when we had the opportunity to.
Others in the Union (including Gill Goodswen unfortunately) also voted down our suggestion at 2007 NUT Conference that we linked the ballot on pay to one on workload - which would have strengthened support for national action.
Of course, the NUT Executive member who did most to criticise the chosen course of action, Linda Taaffe, is now being deliberately blocked from standing again in Outer London by other "Lefts" who are organising to prevent her winning any nominations. This risks the loss of a determined socialist and campaigner from the Executive and quite possibly a further swing towards the Right overall on the NUT Executive.
Despite the low turnout, I know from the feedback that I received that many teachers who did engage with the election, and who were looking for change, related to the program we put forward. The need for a fighting leadership of the Union remains as strong as ever. Those of us who want to see the Union turn the tide for teachers will continue to fight for that program and campaign for it in staffrooms and NUT meetings.
But it is also clear that, to argue for such a way forward, organisation is needed. That is why I want to discuss with others about setting up a clear grouping of teachers who do agree that it is 'Time for Change' in our pay, workload, schools, and Union. It would seek to organise teachers who are not attracted to the existing groups organsing the Union, and who support the kind of program that I stood on in this election.
I would want such a group to build a fighting Union alongside others in the Left within the NUT, while making our differences clear when necessary. Unfortunately, I fear that this will increasingly be the case, just as it has been over both pay and workload just this year already. Above all, we would seek to attract new teachers into activity around the issues that matter most to staff in schools.
I will certainly hope to keep this blog running as a way of informing teachers who are interested in developing such a campaign.
Sunday 11 November 2007
The figure is based on OFSTED assessments of teachers. This scientific evaluation is based on a ten minute glance at the work of a teacher who may have been teaching for ten or twenty years. Moreover OFSTED inspectors define lessons as “satisfactory” and by sleight of hand unelected individuals like Cyril translate that as “bad”. A few elementary lessons in the English language would not do him any harm.
I run a helpline for stressed teachers in West Sussex and half of the time the source of their difficulties is senior management who are themselves being bullied by “advisers” and politicians like Cyril demanding impossible targets.
His solution, to sack bad teachers and “go out and recruit fantastic teachers” shows what a fantasy world he lives in. Spend a couple of hundred thousand pounds on training a teacher and as soon as he or she has difficulties, instead of help and support you throw them on the scrap heap. Then you replace them with “fantastic” – ie fantasy, mythical – teachers…. from Hogwarts presumably.
I am supporting Martin Powell-Davies for vice president of the NUT because he will give fakes like Cyril a run for their money.
Monday 5 November 2007
Haberdashers’ Aske’s have seized their opportunity to expand their educational empire with the Government’s financial backing. They were given control of Malory School in Downham, Lewisham, which became Haberdashers’ Aske’s Knights Academy. The National Audit Office’s report into Academies described it as “the most expensive academy so far” with a staggering final capital cost of £ 40.4 million for which ‘The Worshipful Company of Haberdashers’ had, in turn, to provide one of the smallest sponsors’ contributions to date, at just £295,500.
Haberdashers’ were encouraged to take part in the first ‘competition’ required under the new legislation for a new school being opened in Haringey. Fortunately, their bid was rejected. Undaunted, Aske’s are now one of the parties seeking to become sponsors of an Academy proposed to takeover Pimlico School in Westminster. They are also being backed by Lewisham Council in a bid to acquire nearby Monson Primary School in order to turn their Hatcham College into a 3-18 Academy.
I have written an article analysing the Aske’s academies’ admission arrangements and exam results. It questions how successful these Academies really are and asks whether the successes they have achieved have largely been at the expense of other schools.
I hope it can provide further evidence as to how Government support for Academies is helping to create a divided system where many pupils are unable to attend a good local school – and where staff are also divided across different individual employers.
Please get in touch using the contact details on my linked website if you would like me to send you a copy – or want to get in touch on any issue.
Saturday 3 November 2007
Last week, the same old demoralising nonsense that we have heard over the years from Chris Woodhead to Tony Blair was trotted out by Gordon Brown in his first major speech on education.
But these sound-bite ‘solutions’ have done nothing but divide and demoralise in the past – and Brown’s proposals will only do the same in the future.
The underlying message is clear – teachers and schools are to blame. Yet anyone with any understanding of education knows that research consistently shows that the key factor affecting exam performance is a school’s pupil intake. Schools serving deprived communities with high levels of need, despite the best efforts of staff, will never be able to ‘compete’ (as that is the market-driven language of the DSCF) with selective schools teaching middle class areas.
What schools need are additional staffing and resources to meet their pupil needs – not threats which only lead to demoralisation and staff resignations. What schools also need is an end to selection to prevent some schools boosting their results at the expense of others. Yet the PM’s plans to allow Academies to take over schools will only increase selection and divisions between schools.
My own school in Lewisham is suffering from the effect of a local Academy improving its intake at the expense of ours. Not surprisingly, our exam results have suffered as teachers struggle to meet the needs of a heavily skewed pupil intake. We’ve been warned OFSTED may soon pay a visit. What a way to dispirit committed staff instead of giving them the support they and our youngsters need.
Gordon Brown also talked of the need to recruit the “brightest and best” to teaching. Well Gordon, there are plenty of excellent but angry teachers in our schools – angry that they are paid so much less than a graduate should expect to earn (see £7 an hour posting below) and wondering whether the hard work is really worth it when we are treated so badly by Government. This is the same Gordon who insists on cutting our pay in real terms! How is that going to help recruit and retain staff?
The NUT needs to respond to these threats by pulling together the discontent of teachers to build bold campaigns and firm national action. I hope that I can be a President that can help organise the action we need and help expose failing Governments as those who should really be held accountable for undermining our young people’s life chances.
Teachers know too well how tests and league tables are distorting the curriculum as we are forced to spend too much time concentrating on improving SATs results. Too many of our youngsters are put under unreasonable stress and lose any love of learning.
It would be bad enough if the scores were reliable but, as many teachers have long suspected, this latest research questions whether the results from SATs tests accurately assess a child’s abilities. It suggests that perhaps a third of pupils are awarded the wrong level in tests at the end of Key Stage 2.
Yet these are the statistics that are crunched into computers to give teachers the targets that they are to meet to show they are worthy of passing along the pay spine, or used by OFSTED to judge whether a school is failing. It is statistical nonsense.
This whole testing house-of-cards needs to be knocked over. But Gordon Brown isn’t going to do that willingly. Successive Governments have built their whole damaging system of judging teachers and schools on this system of SATS and league tables.
The NUT needs to use its strength to demand that SATs are thrown out. Assessment should be used to support learning not as a tool to demoralise staff and distort education.
Along with an end to SATS, performance pay and OFSTED have to be ended too. Instead of nit-picking inspections and critical observations, teachers should be able to rely on supportive advisers, with a significant proportion of them being practising teachers on secondment from their substantive posts – passing on their experience and know-how to other colleagues. Teachers should be able to rely on regular progression up the pay spine based on experience, not by dubious judgements of their performance.
Friday 2 November 2007
Thursday 1 November 2007
£7 an hour – is that all we’re worth?
A poster on the corridors of my daughter’s school caught my eye before the half-term break. “Is all this study worth it?” it asked. Below, a graph rightly trying to encourage pupils to get as many qualifications as they can, explained how an adult with GCSEs can expect to earn £9.02 an hour on average, a graduate £15.01 per hour. But, while we encourage our youngsters to get on, how many teachers wonder why they are losing out?
Official Review Body figures show that teachers are still working over 50 hours a week. Yet a beginner teacher on M1 working outside London earns only £20,133. That’s just £1678 for about 220 hours work a month. That’s £7.63 an hour in gross pay !
I asked a friend in his third year of teaching (in Sussex) what he was taking home a month after tax – it was just £1404. That’s still £7 an hour in take-home pay.
So while teachers persuade our pupils to work hard and get a good job with decent pay, the Government seems happy to leave us earning less per hour than the average earnings for an adult with only GCSEs to their name!! Even more experienced colleagues’ earnings still fall well under the graduate hourly earnings average.
Long hours and inadequate pay – it’s time for change.
It’s time for the Union to have a leadership prepared to give a lead and organise NUT members into taking the action needed to improve both our pay and workload.
As I’ve put on the poster sent to schools with my election leaflet, SEVEN pounds per hour for FIFTY hour weeks are numbers that we have to change. That’s why I hope NUT members will use their NUMBER ONE vote to vote for change: POWELL-DAVIES 1.
Tuesday 23 October 2007
On Sunday October 21st, I attended the first South-East Regional Conference of the newly-founded National Shop Stewards Network, backed by the RMT and other national unions. The aim of the body is to link together union reps from across different unions and to help strengthen workplace organisation.
It was a good opportunity to meet up with other public sector trade unionists including reps from UNISON local government, CWU postal workers, and PCS civil servants.
The closing speech by Brian Caton, General Secretary of the POA (Prison Officers’ Association) was inspiring. Commenting on contributions that other speakers had made about union leaders needing to keep in touch with the workplace, Brian joked about how, if the Government carried out their threats, he might be spending a few months with his members locked up for supposed breach of anti-union laws! This was after prison officers took strike action in August. This justified and well-supported action could be deemed “illegal” because Tony Blair had broken his promise to remove the ban on industrial action by prison officers introduced by Margaret Thatcher.
Brian finished by saying that as a son of a Yorkshire miner, he had seen the Government wreck the fishing industry, the steel industry and the mines and the mining communities. He appealed to the meeting for trade unionists to stand together, saying “We mustn’t let them wreck out public services too”.
For further information on the network, visit: http://www.shopstewards.net/
Last week, an article in the Financial Times complained about Private Finance Initiative- funded schools being built as “unimpressive brick boxes with tiny windows and mean corridors”. The same day, I was called by a Lewisham NUT school rep to visit their new PFI school.
The school (which I’ll keep anonymous for now) is due to move into its new building in January. However, the school has tried to timetable lessons for next term – and found that there simply aren’t enough rooms in the new building. Negotiations are continuing with the contractor and Local Authority, but there’s even the prospect of having to put portakabins in the playground of the school’s brand new building!
Unfortunately, these tales are nothing new. Contractors are reaping in huge profits while pursuing every loophole in the inadequate building regulations to cut corners and provide the minimum space they can get away with. CABE (the Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment) reported last year that half of new schools they surveyed were ‘poor’ or ‘mediocre’. Nine of the ten worst schools were built using PFI money – and of course Local Authorities will be paying for this dubious privilege through payments to the contractor for decades to come.
The fact is, while the headline figures for additional capital expenditure on new school buildings make good headlines for Government spin-doctors, the money isn’t enough to deliver the high-quality provision all our children deserve.
As Seamus Milne, writing in the Guardian last week about PFI in the NHS asked: “Given the evidence on cost and inefficiency, and its unpopularity among staff and voters, the government’s determination to press on with privatisation and marketisation might seem baffling”. Unfortunately, as he concluded, it can be explained by “market dogma and business lobbying”. Trade unions and the NUT have a responsibility to expose how our schools, staff and school students are being sold short once again.
Tuesday 16 October 2007
Monday 15 October 2007
Divisional Secretaries meeting discusses NUT action strategy
NUT General Secretary Steve Sinnott addressed the annual meeting of NUT Divisional Secretaries at Stoke Rochford last week saying that the Union had to choose the “time we can best mobilise the teaching profession”.
Why balloting members on December 10th for action on pay at the end of January is the right time was not explained. If this timetable, the one being considered by the National Executive, is chosen, then NUT members will have to go all out to get the strongest Yes vote possible. However, surely balloting for action alongside UNISON support staff colleagues would have been a better time than to start a ballot than amid the Xmas activities at the end of term?
Steve Sinnott’s caution is based on his analysis that “many teachers feel better off than they have for many years – that’s the simple truth”. But the responses posted by angry members on the National Union’s own website show that this just isn’t true. Many angrily compare their pay with their long hours and calculate a miserly hourly rate for teachers.
I was able to challenge Steve to justify his analysis. Yes, I suggested, some teachers feel better off but many others are struggling to pay bills and rising housing costs. The latest figures show 30,000 fewer teachers are being paid TLRs than received Management Allowances. Only a half of teachers on M6 are progressing over the ‘threshold’ to UPS1.
A fighting leadership should be confident that it can inspire teachers to vote for action to oppose the pay freeze – especially if we link it to the need to take action on workload and the other attacks we face as well.
There were other important discussions during the three-day meeting, with several NUT secretaries joining me in taking up the theme that we need to be taking national action on workload rather than fighting school-by-school. There was also an inspiring address by Michael Lees, husband of an NUT member who died of mesothelioma, about the need to remove asbestos from all schools.
My election materials were taken away by many NUT Secretaries who gladly agreed to distribute them in their schools.
Sunday 7 October 2007
- REJECT THE 2.5% DEAL
National Union of Teachers posters rightly proclaimed the refusal by Government to reconsider the schoolteachers pay award of 2.5% for this September as a “matter of honour”. Fortunately, you might think, as we still have negotiating rights when it comes to the pay of teachers in sixth-form colleges, we could insist on a better deal for them?
But when the same below-inflation 2.5% award was proposed by sixth form employers for their teaching staff, the NUT’s negotiators, including Martin Reed, agreed to it!
At a time when the National Union is meant to be gearing up for national strike action to reject pay cuts, how can we agree that sixth-form college staff put up with 2.5%? Like other teachers, their debts and bills, mortgages and rents are also rising at well above 2.5% a year. So this would mean, in effect, agreeing to a pay cut. It must be rejected.
An acceptance of 2.5% would also undermine our national campaign for all teachers. How serious would we appear to Government if they knew that we had already recommended 2.5% to sixth-form staff ?
Fortunately, NUT members in some sixth form colleges quickly picked up on the news and sent in their protests to the National Executive members. The original advice to recommend acceptance of the 2.5% deal was changed at Thursday’s National NUT Executive into not putting out any recommendation, for or against the deal, in the ballot that is now being issued to sixth form college members. (Unfortunately a proposal to actually recommend a NO vote was also defeated however).
I believe that teachers should be encouraging their sixth form college colleagues to vote to reject the offer. I am attending an NUT meeting at the Sixth Form College in Lewisham on Tuesday to put this case to my members. Every NUT Association with a sixth form college should try to do the same.
Staff in schools and sixth form colleges should be taking united national action to demand the 10% rise agreed as NUT Conference policy and to win the Government funding needed to pay for it as well. We should be uniting with other colleagues taking action like postal workers and civil servants too. After all, when billions are needed to bale out the banks, money can quickly be found. Aren’t teachers and other public sector workers a priority too?
ANOTHER MISSED OPPORTUNITY FOR UNITED ACTION
The NUT National Executive meeting on Thursday October 4th again decided to put off the national ballot on pay that we have been waiting for. A majority voted to wait until after the Review Body has reported, rejecting a timetable for an earlier ballot that had also been suggested.
Their lack of urgency exposes a lack of belief that teachers are prepared to take action. Yet the hundreds of postings on pay listed on the National Union’s own website confirm the widespread anger against continued below-inflation increases and the difficulties colleagues already face in paying their bills. A determined leadership should certainly be able to translate this discontent into a positive ballot result.
What this delay also means is that they have thrown away the chance for NUT members to take united action on pay alongside UNISON support staff. UNISON are presently balloting for action on pay for action this November. In rejecting this golden opportunity for unity, the NUT leadership is letting down both teachers and our support staff colleagues. Instead of joint action, we face the prospect of NUT members being told to cross UNISON picket lines.
What a confidence boost it would have been to UNISON members in schools if they knew that teachers were also looking to take national action on the same day as them! There would then have been no doubt that schools would have closed across the country, making sure the pay cuts hitting all school staff were firmly in the headlines. It would have helped make sure that UNISON got a positive result in their ballot, in spite of the poor materials being circulated by the national UNISON leadership.
The Union will be preparing more materials for schools to explain our case for national action on pay. But why hasn’t more been done already? Of course, every NUT member must carry on explaining to colleagues why we can’t afford to sit back and allow five years of below-inflation pay increases to be imposed on us - and why we need to vote for national action on pay. But members will want to know when the ballot is happening!
The ballot timetable discussed at the Executive apparently proposes a ballot starting on December 10th to allow action in January 2008. I am sure I am not the only teacher that will think straight away that balloting in the crazy last weeks before Christmas might not be ideal.
Of course, we will have to make the most of what opportunity we are given by the Executive majority to take action to defend our pay. But their mistaken decisions again point out why we need a change in our national leadership. That’s why I am standing to be Vice-President in the National Officers elections.
Another lively lobby of parents and staff gathered outside Lewisham Town Hall on Wednesday October 3rd to protest against the Council’s proposals for the future of special needs in the borough.
After waiting five months for the results of supposedly ‘independent’ consultation, the Mayor and Cabinet were meeting to push through plans which parents and professionals have consistently warned could damage education for all pupils.
Campaigners from Brent Knoll, Pendragon and Meadowgate special schools are angry at the plans to relocate and reconfigure their provision without any detailed plans being provided which would show that the new sites will allow for sufficient specialist provision. Parent Debbie Lester, who has been working alongside us in building the ‘Defend Education in Lewisham Campaign’, explained her fears on a phone-in on Radio Five Live the following morning.
The programme also included opinions from several protestors, including my own. I explained why mainstream teachers feared such reorganisation plans were too often a mockery of inclusion. Children ended up being placed in mainstream classes without the staffing and support to meet their needs. As the NUT’s national research on the ‘Costs of Inclusion’ points out, ‘The presence of even one child with complex needs without relevant support and resourcing could be enough to upset the balance and flow of teaching for all’.
Tuesday 2 October 2007
There must be a General Election on the way - the politicians are trying to sell us their latest gimmicks ! In this case, it's the Tories, trying to convince voters that they can solve behaviour problems in schools - by making pupils wear blazers ! If only it were that simple...
On Monday night, I was invited to join the panel on BBC Radio 5's Anita Anard show to discuss the issue. I'm always pleased to take such an opportunity to put a case on behalf of teachers to their listeners.
I have been invited on to several similar shows over the years. Presumably, the producers recognise me as somebody who can put over a clear but good-humoured argument. However, this was the easiest argument I've ever had to win !
Of course, anybody who understands education (unfortunately that often doesn't include education ministers and shadow ministers) knows that whether a pupil is wearing a blazer or not is so far down any list of key factors that it isn't really worth spending time debating. However, given the chance, I hope that I was able to raise some of the real issues - like having an enjoyable curriculum, enthused teachers with the time to build a relationship with individual pupils, class sizes, selection and child poverty.
All the calls and e-mails in to the studio joined me in ridiculing the Tory proposal. Even a Conservative councillor who rang in rejected it as nonsense ! It was good fun to have a chance to have a laugh at the expense of the Tories in the week of their Party Conference.
Of course, few teachers will have any more confidence in the other main parties either. That's why I will continue to argue for the NUT to set up a political fund, not just to combat the BNP, but also to be able to support trade union-backed candidates defending education against the privatising policies of all the main parties. After all, if the election is called, many colleagues will be wondering who there is that's worth voting for. That's why I also support the Campaign for a New Workers' Party calling for the trade unions to put their authority behind a new party that can offer a real challenge to the main parties that most voters have presently got to choose between.
The show was also further evidence that, if we explain our case clearly, parents and the public will support our campaigns for a good education for every child.
Saturday 29 September 2007
One of the liveliest hustings meetings held so far took place in the Liner Hotel in Liverpool on Wednesday September 26th. Members of the Liverpool and Wirral NUT Associations met to listen to speeches, and ask questions, from the three candidates that had agreed to attend - Martin Powell-Davies, Roger King and Hank Roberts.
The tone of the debate was friendly but clearly brought out the different approaches between the candidates. Martin and Roger explained how a majority of the present NUT National Executive could not be relied on to vote for the action needed to defend teachers and education.
Martin’s call for the Union to enact the national ballot on pay alongside UNISON for joint action this November struck a chord. An emergency motion supporting this approach, moved by National Executive member Julie Lyon-Taylor, was later passed by the meeting. Both Julie and Robin Pye, St. Helen’s NUT Secretary, were also nominated for next year’s new elections for the NUT National Executive.
Unfortunately, there were not enough Wirral members attending to make any formal decisions, but the Liverpool Association voted overwhelmingly to nominate Martin Powell-Davies and Roger King. Martin thanked those attending for their support and urged them to take news from the meeting back to their schools and to urge colleagues to vote for change in the NUT when the election starts at the end of October.
Elsewhere, Martin was also nominated by the West Cheshire NUT Association.
Wednesday 26 September 2007
The vote was unanimous and a number of supply teachers who don't generally attend meetings were there. They wanted action over the appalling treatment of supply teachers and are becoming increasingly involved in the union as a result.
Alison's letter was reproduced as a leaflet for the meeting.
Monday 24 September 2007
May teachers already know that there is a big difference between the spin in favour of Academies and educational reality. But some new facts revealed at the Anti-Academies Alliance Steering Committee meeting in London on Saturday appalled a secondary science teacher like myself.
Roger Titcombe, a retired Headteacher who has been doggedly researching the actual exam performance of Academies, revealed graphs showing how many supposedly “successful” schools were simply playing the system to boost their 5 A*-C pass rate.
The news that many schools have used GNVQs to boost their league table scores will be of little surprise but Roger’s revelation that science education was particularly vulnerable in these supposedly “most improved” schools may be news to many of us. His figures suggested that, while concentrating on the English and Maths needed for the new exam statistics, science was being pushed aside in some schools. Results in one Academy showed a third of the pupils that has been entered for double award science doing so badly that their results were ungraded and none at all obtaining an A*-C grade.
There was a good turnout to the Steering Committee. We exchanged reports from campaigns across the country. Romayne Phoenix, a Green Party councillor, and I attended from Defend Education In Lewisham. Plans were made for further campaigning, including co-ordinated days of action to highlight how Academies are undermining comprehensive education.
Sunday 23 September 2007
Roger King, Martin Powell-Davies, Gill Goodswen and Hank Roberts were all put forward for consideration. Everyone at the meeting agreed that Martin's visit to the Association a few years ago had left a good impression and those who had been to conferences knew well exactly what Martin stood for !
Hank’s role in the Wembley anti-Academy occupation was acknowledged, but there was some uncertainty with regards to his stance on other issues. There were also doubts about nominating a headteacher, Gill Goodswen, as President.
We concluded by unanimously agreeing to nominate Martin Powell-Davies and Roger King.
The meeting also passed a motion calling for an immediate ballot on pay and united action with other public sector trade unions.
Roger Mackay, Ipswich NUT
Thursday 20 September 2007
Martin drove south to speak at NUT meetings in both Lewes and Brighton on Tuesday September 18th and came away with two further nominations from these NUT Associations.
Martin pointed to the stories posted on the National Union’s website from teachers already struggling to pay their bills. One had calculated that their heavy workload and low salary translated into an hourly rate of less than £5. Another pointed out how teachers tell their students to work hard to get a university degree so that they can get better paid – then find that their own experience makes them wonder whether it was worth it! No wonder so many teachers were leaving the profession – especially in the South-East where the cost of housing was so high.
But he particularly pointed to the comments posted by a Surrey teacher: “It's time the NUT joined with other unions and called for more serious action to raise teacher's pay - not just petitioning the government or doing a paper vote, we need strike action to be effective or more effective campaigning. If you don't show power in numbers, then it is pointless and the government will just ignore campaigns. Then the Unions will lose support of members who will feel they are not doing their job and our hard earned, and ill afforded subscriptions, paid to date would have been wasted. Please, please do something soon before I am forced to leave teaching due to financial reasons”.
That viewpoint would be echoed by many frustrated NUT members. We had promised to ballot on pay – so what were we waiting for?
Martin’s message that the Union had to show its members that it was serious - by organising firm national action - struck a chord with the classroom teachers present and helped win him two further nominations.
LEWISHAM MEETING CALLS FOR PAY BALLOT TO BEGIN
Lewisham NUT’s September General Meeting unanimously agreed a motion drafted by Martin Powell-Davies calling on the NUT’s National Executive to seize the time and vote to launch a national ballot for strike action.
As Martin and other teachers pointed out, the TUC had agreed that unions should be co-ordinating action over pay. With UNISON now preparing to ballot their members for action in November, the NUT now has a golden opportunity to turn that policy into action with co-ordinated ballots by NUT teachers and UNISON school support staff. Civil servants in the PCS are looking to ballot too.
The next timetabled meeting of the NUT National Executive is on October 4th although a request for an earlier Special Meeting of the NUT Executive has also been submitted by members supporting the call for action.
Martin Powell-Davies is urging NUT members to call on the Executive to meet and launch the national ballot agreed at Annual Conference without delay.
The motion agreed in Lewisham was as follows:
Lewisham NUT restates its determination to build the Union’s campaign to oppose both the failure to honour the ‘pay trigger’ over our below-inflation awards for 2006 and 2007 and the threat of just 2% awards for 2008-11.
We welcome the fact that the Executive has agreed to ballot members for national action this term but believe that it is now time to carry out such a ballot, for discontinuous national action, without delay. This would send a clear message to the Review Body of the Union’s determination, and allow us to prepare to take co-ordinated action alongside colleagues in other unions.
We are encouraged by the action taken by civil servants, postal workers and prison officers already this year and the proposal by UNISON to ballot their Local Government workers for national action. We believe that united action by teachers and support staff, co-ordinated with other trade unionists where possible, would raise the confidence of trade unionists and apply pressure to the Government to think again over public sector pay.
Tuesday 11 September 2007
The meeting was held at Wembley Park Sports Ground where Hank and other 'Tent City' campaigners have been protesting against the threat to build an Academy on the site.
Not surprisingly, the need for the Union to fight the threat of privatisation and the break-up of state education was an important focus of discussion. Other questions centred on the pay dispute with Martin urging the Union to launch the promised ballot for national action without delay.
Wednesday 5 September 2007
Teachers will have come back to school clinging on to their memories of a summer break when we can remember what it’s like to forget about the stress of the classroom for a week or two.
Those of us who are trade unionists will also have been left smiling by the pictures of prison officers being led into action by their union leaders – despite the Government trying to make their action unlawful. But more than a few NUT members will also have been thinking – “when are we taking the action agreed at Easter’s Annual Conference on pay?”
July’s NUT Executive again put off any firm decision and so there’s no firm news that we can yet give our members. However, Steve Sinnott’s preference is to wait until the Government respond to whatever the Review Body’s recommends in November. That would leave January 2008 as the earliest likely date for any national action – a plan that – whatever its intention - seems designed to lose the momentum that has been built up.
However, I was called today by a member of UNISON’s National Executive to be given the encouraging news that, despite the opposition from some of their leadership, their national council has voted to ballot their Local Government members to oppose the shoddy salary deal that their members are being offered.
If their plans go ahead, this could see school support staff – and other local council colleagues – balloting for a possible strike in mid-November. Surely the NUT can’t stand aside and leave teachers facing UNISON picket-lines instead of balloting too?
Now’s the time to announce that the NUT will be balloting too, sending a warning shot to both Ministers and the Review Body, and approaching other unions to join in a solid public sector action to show Gordon Brown that we aren’t putting up with “2%” !
Martin Powell-Davies September 4th 2007
Friday 31 August 2007
Friday 13 July 2007
Lewisham voters may have hoped that they were electing their Council to run local schools and services. But it seems that Lewisham's "New Labour" councillors think their job is to give schools away to private bidders instead!
A long-running parental campaign finally convinced Lewisham Council that a new secondary school was needed to provide additional places in the north of the borough. But there was never any suggestion that the ‘
I was granted five minutes to speak to the July 11th Mayor and Cabinet on behalf of the joint teacher unions. But Cllr.Massey, responsible for schools, responded by saying that I was defending an "outdated" idea from 40 years ago. What would previous generations of Labour campaigners for comprehensive education have said to that ? Instead of persuading Gordon Brown to change Government policy, Cllr.Massey wants to "celebrate it" !
But, unlike Lewisham, some Councils have at least shown the political will to fight to hold on to their schools. The London Borough of Haringey decided to put in its own ‘bid’ to run its new school as a community school. It successfully beat off other bidders, including Lewisham-based Academy sponsor Haberdashers’ Aske’s, so it can now run the school as a Local Authority comprehensive school.
Clad in bright yellow ‘Defend Education in Lewisham’ campaign t-shirts, parents and staff lobbied last night's meeting. We believe the Mayor should be fighting the whole damaging ‘competition’ legislation. But, if the Labour Council won’t challenge its own Government’s policies, we at least expect them to try and follow Haringey’s lead. Regrettably, the Mayor rejected that approach on July 11th. There will be a further debate at the Council meeting on July 18th where sympathetic socialist councillors are again proposing the Council seeks approval to submit its own bid.
If the Council isn’t prepared to defend Lewisham’s schools, then the Defend Education Campaign is !
Tuesday 10 July 2007
Our Union correctly challenged Alan Johnson to
“honour” the commitment to review our 2006 and 2007
pay awards if inflation went over the 3.25% “trigger”.
He refused and then made clear we could expect 2% up
until 2011 to boot ! The Government had called the
NUT’s bluff and waited to see how we responded.
The Union promised a “robust response” but June’s NUT
Executive put off a decision on a national ballot
timetable until July. But now we have been told what
the General Secretary is proposing that timetable
should be - to wait until JANUARY 2008 before we take
This delay will only confirm fears that the Union is
failing to grasp the nettle and call the national
action agreed unanimously back at the Easter
Conference. The supposed ‘unity’ at the June Executive
to commit to a ballot for action “in the Autumn Term”
can now be seen as a way to gloss over two very
different approaches to action.
Steve Sinnott’s proposal is to delay a ballot until
December, after the Review Body reports in early
November, and hope to then get the NASUWT aboard for
joint action in the New Year. But that delay risks
losing the momentum that is building up, frustrating
members who are ready to support action now and, most
of all, prevents us from linking up with unions that
are really serious about taking national action in the
Autumn like the PCS. Why wait for the Review Body to
confirm 2% or thereabouts?
The right approach, as I have been arguing for in my
campaign, is to hold a ballot in September, before the
Review Body reports. This is the only way to protest
against the failure to honour the “trigger” and to
apply real pressure to the Review Body to meet our
demands for a 10% pay rise and for the end of
An early ballot would also help us coordinate action
with other public sector unions and apply the same
kind of pressure that persuaded the Government to
retreat over pensions. It would also be the best way
of pushing the NASUWT into action. A united public
sector strike would be a huge confidence boost for
trade unionists and a blow to Gordon Brown’s prestige.
Of course, that could be the very reason why some
union leaders are holding back.
Unfortunately, some people have accused me of
exaggerating differences over the pay ballot timetable
simply for ‘electioneering’ purposes. But the
differences are very real - and too important for the
future of teachers’ salaries to simply wish away. As I
have said before on this blog, nothing would have
pleased me more than to be proved wrong and for the
Union to agree on an early ballot after all.
Unfortunately, members’ fears that the Union is
“dithering” will only be strengthened if the July 18th
Executive meeting votes to delay action until the New
A delayed ballot will be a setback. NUT Divisions will
have to find ways to maintain the campaign throughout
the Autumn Term such as organising joint rallies with
other public sector unions. A national demonstration
against the pay freeze, as the PCS are proposing to
the TUC in September, would help sustain the momentum.
But when Linda Taaffe suggested this at the June NUT
Executive she could hardly find any other support!
One thing is clear – that this Union needs a fighting
leadership. That’s why I am challenging to be
Vice-President. I hope my campaign can encourage
classroom teachers, reps and local officers to get
organised to build a Union locally and nationally that
is ready and willing to stand up firmly for teachers
The summer holidays are drawing near to provide
welcome relief to weary teachers everywhere! However,
there has certainly not been a quiet end to the term
As colleagues in other Divisions and in Regional
Office are also telling me, the level of individual
casework is huge, reflecting the pressures weighing
down on teachers and schools. Top of the Lewisham list
of individual issues this year has been 'ill-health',
advising and supporting teachers that are signed off
work, more often than not with work-related stress.
We've also been trying to keep up the pressure on
schools to adopt as supportive a performance
management policy as possible. However, even with the
best policy in place, the new Regulations will still
be biting hard in September. Many staff will find
themselves facing "robust" targets that will
effectively mean "payment-by-results" for teachers on
the Upper Pay Spine. Instead of the Union taking up
the issue as a national fight against the Regulations,
as I argued for at the Easter NUT Conference, staff
will have to rely on the goodwill - or lack of it - of
their own school management. Even when we present a
good case, as two NUT primary colleagues who I
represented in a UPS pay appeal last week discovered
to their cost, governors can usually find a reason to
turn down pay progression if they want to. Staff are
left demoralised - and out of pocket.
The Union has to try and gather that individual anger
into a collective response. That was exactly what I
hope we can achieve at Merlin School, a primary in the
south of the borough. Like hundreds of teachers across
Lewisham, most of the teaching staff there have been
receiving an additional 'retention allowance' which we
won during the battles around staff shortages and
London Allowances some years ago. Now the Governors at
Merlin are trying to take them away. (This is also
happening in other boroughs such as Camden where NUT
members at Parliament Hill School are on strike this
week over the same issue). I met with the Head and
Chair of Governors to try and persuade them to
reconsider but without success. The angry response of
the NUT group was to vote unanimously for strike
action. An indicative ballot should go out this term
that we hope may help persuade governors to think
We had another success last week in persuading the
Council that another primary school would have to
close early for the summer because of the risk from
asbestos in its roof. However, this will be of little
consolation to staff that already fear they may have
been exposed to the fibres. An apparently botched
removal job by sub-contractors last February created a
real risk - and one that was only recognised in July.
Unions certainly won't be letting the matter go away
without some clear answers being provided. The Health
and Safety Executive will be making their own
I've also had to organise a protest at short notice
outside Lewisham's "Mayor and Cabinet" meeting on
Wednesday July 11th. Staff and parents will be
protesting about the threats to community
comprehensive schooling in the borough. That's because
under New Labour's Education Act, the new secondary
school, won by a long-running parental campaign, is
likely to be subject to 'competition' to see which
bidder wants to run the school. The Council may have
to fund a £10 million shortfall in the funding for the
New School, only to then have to hand over the
building to a Trust, Foundation or Academy !
The New School would then also have control of its own
admissions arrangements, further undermining
comprehensive education in the borough. The
polarisation between schools is already widening
within Lewisham. The pupil intake at my own school,
Catford High, has been badly skewed by the setting up
of the nearby Haberdashers' Knight's Academy. That's
why we're demanding that the Council makes its own bid
for a community school - following the successful
example of Haringey where the Council beat off
'competition' from external bidders including the
Lewisham-based Haberdashers' Aske's Hatcham Trust.
Fortunately, we have already built up a lively "Defend
Education in Lewisham Campaign" linking together
different campaigns against Academies, Trusts and
Special School closures. We organised a march of over
300 staff and parents to the Town Hall earlier this
term. I don't expect to get anything like that kind of
turnout at short notice tomorrow but we'll still be
able to make sure our protests are made clear enough
to the press and councillors alike.
Finally, I attended the National Shop Stewards Network
Conference in London on Saturday along with one of our
primary school reps. It was uplifting to discuss with
other reps from different unions and workplaces about
how they were organising against the threats they
faced. (Unfortunately, we had to also warn other
unions hoping to take joint strike action over pay
alongside the NUT that it now looked like we won’t be
taking action until January). Bob Crow, RMT General
Secretary, summed up the Conference by calling for
trade unionists to support a new party to challenge
Labour and the rest. If major trade union leaders like
him put their weight behind such a call, trade
unionists will be able to start to build a political
challenge to the establishment parties that can give
teachers a reason to go out and vote for candidates
that are really prepared to stand up for comprehensive
education at last.
Sunday 8 July 2007
week. St. Helens and Bolton associations both nominated Martin.
Alongside Wigan association who were the first association to
moninate Martin, this means Martin has a geographically contingous
belt of support stretching across industrial Lancashire; not bad for a
South London boy who reportedly gets a nosebleed when he ventures
North of Watford!
Members were attracted to Martin's call for national action on workload
and performance management alongside the national campaign on pay.
At the recent Divisional Secretary's meeting in London, Lancashire
Divisional Secretary, Ken Cridland, asked the question, 'Is the
Workload Campaign working?' It was one of those questions where to
ask it is to answer it.
The fact is that our members are struggling with unprecedented
workload pressures, but feel isolated when asked to take action in
their own schools. National action on workload would give members
the confidence to say ' enough is enough!' and would support our
efforts to build for national action on pay.
Those association secretaries who are genuinely trying to build school
by school campaigns on workload can see the limitations of a policy
based on isolated pockets of resistance. By nominating Martin, they
are sending a clear message to the National Executive that more
needs to be done.
Saturday 7 July 2007
Can we move beyond the well-worn "Martin is a leftie" and consider some of his other attributes? For those of you who do not know me, I am deputy secretary and H&S adviser for Lewisham NUT and am not a member of any political party. The Martin I know is clever, courteous and caring. He is a highly effective negotiator, mostly because he listens carefully and understands the arguments and standpoints of all sides.
Martin works tirelessly to get the best deal for all teachers. He spoke at National Conference of the need for national action not only on pay but on workload and performance management regulations. This is not revolutionary politics, it is plain common-sense trade unionism. We only have to look at the TLR debacle to see that local action was only effective in those divisions with high membership and strong leadership. Action became a bit of a "post-code lottery" - if your local branch was well-organised and well resourced you had a better chance of effective action than if you were part of a small NUT group in your school and/or had local officers who were either over-cautious or who simply did not have the time and resources to help mount school-by-school campaigns.
We are a national trade union. We need to look to other public sector trade unions to help mount a joint campaign against below-inflation pay deals, the burden of unnecessary paperwork and bullying performance reviews.
This is not extreme left-wing politics - this is getting back to our trade-union roots. Ir baffles me that the STA continually passes over the chance to put Martin on the national stage. He is a very effective communicator, extremely knowledgeable about both education issues and trade-unionism, has energy and drive but is, at the same time, on of the most patient and good-humoured people I have ever met.
At our local meetings, it is the SWP who oppose Martin's nomination for national office, as I believe they also do within the STA. Isn't it about time that we ignored inter-factional far-left wrangles and got on with choosing the most competent people for the job? Nominate Martin for Vice President, and then go on to win the campaign to get him elected.
Remember there is a debate on the TES website and anyone can join in.
Sue Palmer in a keynote introduction to the conference drew attention to the way in which the unrestrained "market forces" on the one hand and the highly circumscribed public education system in the UK is damaging children in what she terms a "toxic childhood". On the one hand an unfettered commercial culture will use any means necessary to maximise its profits: this includes encouraging children to pressurise parents into buying the latest "must have" toy or to buy foods which have long-term adverse effects on their health and short-term adverse effects on their ability to learn. On the other hand children are increasingly alienated by the culture of testing in schools which militates against any feeling that knowledge is inseparable from "people who know".
In the debate on secondary education Martin Powell-Davies drew attention to the tension between trying to elevate the role of practical subjects and the perceived intention of using practical subjects to keep the working class pupils in their place while reserving academic subjects to the elite.
In summing up the conference John Bangs came dangerously close to endorsing the Brown premiership by hinting that Brown will put a stop to the academy program. It is true that cooler heads at the DCSF were concerned that the academies programme was doomed and would only generate failure and potential scandal. A tactical retreat by Brown would not signal an end to the New Labour "project" and is certainly no reason for the NUT to scale down its campaigning against academies.
P F***ing I (as the final speaker at the conference, Mavis Grant, called it) will be very much a part of Brown's agenda and he has displayed no tendency to backtrack on that issue.
Monday 2 July 2007
Thursday 28 June 2007
I’m not posting this item to make any claims for my campaign but just to help alert everyone to a real emergency for overseas trained teachers.
I attended a packed meeting organised by the London Region of the NUT last night in NUT Headquarters that was filled with teachers from South Africa, Australia, Jamaica, New Zealand and many other countries. Many had come because they were about to be thrown out of work. Some faced being thrown out of the country as a result as well.
This outrage is a result of Government legislation stopping teachers from outside Europe continuing in work if they have failed to obtain Qualified Teacher Status within four years of first taking a teaching post in England. But many colleagues, although well qualified in their own countries, were never given a chance to complete the necessary course to gain QTS in the UK. Many were invited to London to solve teaching shortages, often underpaid for the vital work they did – and now face dismissal.
Police restrictions mean we have to change the venue of the lobby on July 11th.
We are not able to assemble a the DfeS (or DCSF as it now is!)
We will therefore stage the protest outside the Home Office, which is in new buildings at 2 Marsham Street, SW1P starting at 5:00pm.
You can also add your name to a petition initiated by Jamaican teachers on http://petitions.pm.gov.uk/OTTQTSPetition/
A national meeting of NUT Divisional Secretaries was called at the Union’s headquarters on June 26th to discuss the NUT’s pay and workload campaigns.
NUT General Secretary, Steve Sinnott, opened the discussion by stressing the importance of ‘unity’ inside the Union in taking on such serious campaigns. In doing so, he was clearly having a dig at those, like me, that are critical of the Union’s strategy.
Trade unionists have always understood that ‘Unity is Strength’ - but it will only be true if we unite around the program of action needed to defend our members and education. If we are not careful, ‘unity’ is going to be used as an excuse for inaction instead.
Steve Sinnott stressed the importance of getting the support of the NASUWT and ATL but a number of secretaries, including myself, stressed that we needed to look, first of all, to unions like PCS and CWU if we wanted to find leaderships that were prepared to take joint action alongside us.
I pointed out how the NUT had taken the lead by calling the first London Allowance strike in 2002. The pressure from below had then convinced the NASUWT to ballot alongside us for the second day’s strike later in that year. My own discussions with ATL and NASUWT Executive members had confirmed to me that it would take similar pressure to move them into action this time.
The NUT has to take a lead, not wait for the NASUWT. But Steve’s reply that we couldn’t look for “shortcuts” was a worrying indication that this is exactly what he wants to do. He insisted that he needed to maintain “flexibility” over the timetable for action. But if we wait for the other teacher union leaders, bound up in their ‘social partnership’ with the New Labour government, we could be waiting for a very long time – instead of seizing the time to take action.
“WHY DON’T WE JUST GET ON WITH IT?
”Jane Nellist from Coventry countered by pointing out that what the campaign urgently needed was a clear date for a ballot to begin after the summer break. She quoted from one of the contributions posted on the NUT website from a Lincolnshire teacher, asking simply, “why don’t we just get on with it?”
Dave Thomas from West Sussex rightly stated that the best way of the Union showing it was serious – as Steve insisted we were – was to name a date for the ballot.
I reported from the meetings I had attended in Lewisham and Greenwich and warned Steve that many of the teachers attending had seen the delays in announcing a ballot as the Union “dithering”. That provoked an agitated insistence that “nobody is dithering”. Well, if he’s right, let’s hope that when the Executive meets in July to “examine a ballot timescale”, the General Secretary will be recommending a date for a ballot in September!
Unfortunately, I fear NUT members will have to keep up the pressure right into the Autumn for the Union to finally put Conference policy for national action into effect. If my Vice-Presidential campaign can help to apply some of that pressure, it will have been more than worthwhile. If I can then keep up the pressure as President, all the better !
WORKLOAD – THE STRATEGY ISN’T WORKING
The final session of the day focussed on the Union’s workload campaign. When one secretary asked simply, “is the Union’s strategy working?” most in the room knew the honest answer – no, it wasn’t. Workload was still as bad a burden as ever yet only three schools had held action ballots under the new guidelines across the entire union!
It was left to Divisional Secretaries at the sharp end of handling members’ complaints to try and suggest some ways forward. Some suggested that action short of strike action, like refusing to hand in lesson plans to Heads, needed to be pursued alongside strike action. Others pointed to the need to take collective action across an authority, not relying on isolated school-by-school action. One suggested a national push on a few key issues.
As I argued at Conference, the Union certainly has to stop putting all the responsibility on individual school reps and local officers and start to give a national lead. I will continue to argue for the Union to follow the strategy pursued by the PCS and hold a single ballot for national action over all of the main grievances we have with Government – workload, pay, performance pay and the break-up of comprehensive local authority schooling.
Martin Powell-Davies 27 June 2007
Tuesday 26 June 2007
Monday 25 June 2007
Imposing pay rises beneath inflation is cutting our salaries in real terms. In return for the long hours we put in to keep our schools going, he expects us to put up with a deteriorating standard of living.
Mortgages & rents, food & fuel bills, continue to rise. Too many colleagues, especially young staff, struggle with debt. We can’t afford to let the Government get away with robbery. The number of teachers leaving teaching every year is over 10%. Pay cuts will increase damaging turnover.
Teachers know the 2% pay limit is a threat to their salaries. They also know that performance pay - especially under the new regulations operating from September - can be just as big a threat. We need to inspire teachers to vote for action by campaigning for the Union’s full salary claim - a 10% increase in salary scales as well as the end of divisive performance-
But the Executive is still dithering about how to put Conference policy into action. May’s meeting agreed a ‘robust’ response was needed - but we’re still waiting for it. June’s meeting agreed we should ballot - but put off examining a timetable until July. When are we going to seize the time ?!
If the NUT allows Johnson to call its bluff and holds back from a ballot, the Government will simply gain confidence to step up its attacks - on workload and comprehensive education, as well as on salaries.
Surveys and petitions can help build the campaign but what will really galvanise members is a clear call to arms - by announcing the date for a strike ballot.
We should announce a ballot in September for a first day’s action against the failure to honour the inflation ‘trigger’. It would send a warning shot to the Review Body and help prepare members to take more action if they make an unacceptable award.
We cannot afford to wait for the NASUWT to come on board before we act. A September ballot would allow us to pursue joint action, first of all, with those unions that are serious about wanting to build unified action, like the PCS. The Executive needs to have confidence in its members that, with a firm campaign, teachers will vote for national action ”.
Download a leaflet for NUT meetings here
Thursday 21 June 2007
Wednesday 20 June 2007
There have been some objections from some on the left in the NUT to the nomination of Martin Powell-Davies for Vice-President.
The main objection seems to be that, by allowing his name to be put forward, Martin is splitting the left vote.
People raising these objections have short memories.
Two years ago, there were two STA candidates for the Vice-Presidency, Baljeet Ghale and Jane Nellist, as well as Sue Kortlandt as a CDFU candidate. Bill Greenshields also received some support from left leaning associations. In the election, Baljeet and Bill were, of course, elected.
Fours years ago, in the same elections, there were two recognisably left candidates, Baljeet and Roger King. Neither got elected.
2004 VP Results
First Preference Votes:
BILLS 15305 GHALE 7864 KING 5481 MOORHOUSE 9963
After transfers, Hilary BILLS and Judy MOORHOUSE were elected.
2006 VP Results
First Preference Votes:
DAVIES 4132 GHALE 5154 GREENSHIELDS 7506
HARROP 5636 KORTLANDT 4429 NELLIST 3362 SHEPHERD 4163
After transfers, Baljeet GHALE and Bill GREENSHIELDS were elected.
So having more than two recognisably left candidates in these elections seemed to help get left candidates elected rather than prove to be an obstacle.
The main issue dividing the Union at the last conference in Harrogate was, of course, the question of whether the Union should include performance management and workload among the issues over which it ballots its members for national strike action.
There are only two candidates in this election that voted for this policy. One is Martin Powell-Davies who argued for this approach at conference, and the other is Roger King. The other candidates, including Gill Godswen of the CDFU voted against this course of action.
Given that this is the case, it seems perverse to argue that there is some over-riding imperative to achieve unity that means that those of us who supported the call for national action over performance management and workload should support a candidate for the Vice-Presidency who did not. Particularly as past experiences in these elections suggests that fielding two socialist candidates alongside a candidate from CDFU actually helps to get one of the socialists elected.
The postal workers are looking to join the PCS in taking on the government over pay, jobs and privatisation. The Brown government is not riding high in the polls and looks vulnerable. The NUT needs to be decisive in taking its place alongside other public sector unions and should be building support for national action on workload and
performance management, as well as pay, to build the broadest possible support for action.
As part of that campaign, socialists should be arguing for the election of candidates who support that aim. Nominating candidates who do not support that aim will merely strengthen those pessimistic elements in our Union's leadership who are in danger of undermining the Union's ability to take action alongside other public sector workers.
I was pleased that my nomination for Vice-President got such overwhelming support at Lewisham NUT’s General Meeting on Monday June 19th.
Of course, you might expect that Lewisham NUT members would support their own Divisional Secretary, but this vote was about much more than appreciation for my work supporting members in Lewisham.
The meeting had first unanimously passed the motion I proposed calling on the Union not to delay any longer in announcing that we will balloting for national action to oppose Johnson’s pay freeze (see leaflet on webpage) . By rejecting the “trigger” to review our pay award for 2006-8, and then insisting on a maximum 2% settlement for 2008-10, Johnson was effectively calling the NUT’s bluff. Will we now carry out our threat to ballot – or will we back away again?
That was the theme of many of the contributions in the discussion over nominations. Conference had voted unanimously for action – but was the leadership really serious in defending its members? Was it really serious in building united action with other unions? They knew Martin would be a President that would not back away.
In contrast, the material circulated from Roger King and Gill Goodswen failed to clearly spell out where they stood. After all, at the Harrogate Conference, some on the Left, including Gill, had voted against Lewisham’s amendment calling for national action over performance pay. Perhaps that was why Gill’s nomination only received one vote at the meeting. Ian Murch had even spoken against, warning delegates to have a ‘reality check’.
But the NUT members at the meeting knew exactly what reality for classroom teachers is like – long hours, divisive performance management and now a pay freeze. I was arguing for a clear program to build national action on these issues instead of the isolating school-by-school approach being adopted by the Union. That was why they supported my stand.
The argument about ‘splitting the left’ was put to the meeting. I understand the concerns – but I don’t accept the reasoning. Four years ago, there was a united slate of two Vice-President candidates – Roger and Baljeet – but neither was elected. Two years ago, there were three Left candidates – but instead of “splitting the vote”, Baljeet was elected.
In this election, there will also be three Left candidates and, with the transferable vote, my stand will help make sure at least one of us wins. The key factor is to have a platform that will attract teachers to return their vote – a platform that shows that they are voting for a President that will stand firm and give a real lead once elected too.
I am standing in this election to offer a platform that does offer a way forward for the Union. It was an approach that won the support of Lewisham teachers. I hope it can win the support of many other NUT members too. Most of all, I hope that my campaign can help make sure the Union starts to put policy into practice and builds the national action that we need to finally turn the tide in favour of teachers and education.
Tuesday 19 June 2007
To support the campaign contact:
Martin Powell-Davies for VP • 32 Tannsfeld Road • Sydenham • LONDON SE26 5DF
Phone: 020 8659 8478 • Mobile: 07946 445488 • E-Mail: martinpd_uk(at)yahoo.co.uk substituting the @ sign for the (at)
Friday 15 June 2007
The National Union of Teachers has to show its members that we can turn the tide. With determined effort, school reps and local officers have won important victories through individual casework and local disputes. But the pressures only grow greater. The continuing stress of working in our underfunded and divided schools is taking its toll on teachers and on Local Association officers struggling to do the best they can to defend NUT members.
The 2007 National Officer Elections are an opportunity to strengthen our leadership. Local Associations need the support of a President who understands the pressures facing classroom teachers, can express their discontent, and help offer a strategy to take us forward.
We urge your Association to give one of your two nominations for Vice-President to Martin Powell-Davies. Martin will already be well known to many as Lewisham NUT's Secretary since 1992. He has regularly been a pivotal contributor to Annual Conference debate and an articulate campaigner for teachers' interests in school and public meetings, inside the Union and to the media. By electing him as Vice-President, NUT members can ensure that his skills and determination can also be used to strengthen the National Union.
Martin argued forcefully at Annual Conference 2007 that a strategy of defending members through individual school disputes alone is totally inadequate. As National Officer, he will campaign for the Union to lead from the front and build support for the national action that is required if we are to seriously tackle the national attacks we face.
The unanimous vote to prepare for national strike action to protect our pay was an important step forward. Martin will be campaigning within the Union to make sure that this policy is put firmly into practice, answering those who will try to find reasons not to stand firm, while forging links with other public sector unions to build strong united action.
Please do put Martin's name forward at your Association meeting and/or in any ballot held for nominations by the closing date of September 30th 2007. If you would like to add your personal support alongside ours, invite a speaker to your Association, order copies of Martin's campaign materials, or to donate to the campaign, please contact the address below.
Alison Long, Assistant Secretary, & Gabby Mullins, President, Lewisham NUT
Tim Woodcock, Divisional Secretary, & Joanne Sanderson, Membership Secretary, Greenwich NUT
Robin Pye, Secretary, St. Helens NUT Jane Nellist, Joint Secretary, Coventry NUT
Linda Taaffe and Julie Lyon-Taylor, members of the NUT National Executive
Phil Clarke, NUT Young Teachers Advisory Committee