Wednesday 18 November 2009

Thanks for your support!

Congratulations to Nina Franklin who won the election to become Senior Vice-President. Marilyn Harrop will be Junior V-P.

With 3028 first preference votes, I was fourth of the six candidates, a creditable performance for a campaign without the support of one of the blocs within the Union and an execellent figure compared to the number of nominations I received.

I hope that the votes show that there are many NUT members looking for a campaigning Union - one that acts together to defend members from the attacks we face, and one prepared to take national action on workload. The Union urgently needs to take that united stand - or see even more fragmentation of education and further isolation and division of teachers and schools.

I hope that the support for a determined stand will also be shown in the elections for Deputy General Secretary through the election of Kevin Courtney. I am only disappointed that I cannot be there as a National Officer to give Kevin the backing that he will need.

I do, however, already have two nominations to stand in the election for the National Executive seats for Inner London next year. I hope that I can fill a seat left by Kevin as DGS and can add my voice to the Executive to help provide the strengthened leadership that we need to defend teachers and education after the General Election.

Martin Powell-Davies

Monday 9 November 2009

Coalition to stand general election candidates

Teachers and trade unionists know that all of the main parties offer a similar diet of cuts and attacks on public sector jobs, pensions and services. I have been a long supporter of campaigns for trade unionists to offer a clear alternative to voters by backing their own candidates in local and national elections - and to stop that vacuum being filled by the racist BNP instead.

An important step forward was announced at a conference hosted by the RMT this weekend. RMT General Secretary, Bob Crow, was one of those giving his personal backing to the coalition that hs been launched to stand trade union and socialist candidiates in the general election. As a minimum, it hopes to stand against as many current ministers as possible as a federal coalition under a common name, organised through a steering commitee of participating organisations and trade unionists.

If you want to get involved, contact the coalition on


Wednesday 4 November 2009

Urge your colleagues to vote!

Campaign supporters around England and Wales have reported that it has taken some time for ballot papers for the National Officers election to reach some home addresses - but most NUT members now seem to have received them.

Unfortunately, most NUT members won't actually get round to sending their votes back. In the last National Officers' election, less than 10% of members voted. Some teachers may be too ground down by workload, some may not see why voting can make a difference, some may just have lost it amongst all the rest of our teachers' paperwork!

But a determined national leadership CAN make a difference - as to whether we take national action on workload; as to whether we are ready to defend our jobs, pensions and services from the attacks that will follow the General Election.

That's why the covering letter with our campaign mailing stated "these elections matter to you". That' why we would urge every teacher to remind their colleagues to vote - and to vote POWELL-DAVIES 1.

Monday 2 November 2009

Vote to support a boycott of SATs

From Monday, NUT members in primary schools will be receiving an indicative ballot paper calling on them to support a boycott of SATs. Teachers should vote YES!

The educational argumnets against SATs are overwhelming. The recent Cambridge Primary Review was just the latest academic study to call for an end to a testing regime that narrows the curriculum and drives out enjoyment from teaching and learning.

A school's league table position and OFSTED grading, as well as teachers' individual pay and performance management, are all tied to SATs results. That's why teachers are forced to 'teach to the test' to make sure that Government targets are reached.

But securing a particular level in a narrow SATS test or a particular league table position gives only a limited - and often inaccurate - picture of a child's abilities - and a school's success. Teachers need to make clear that education would be much improved by abolishing SATS in England.

There will be colleagues that are worried about what teaching without SATS would be like - and whether it might be replaced by an assessment scheme like APP that could mean even greater teacher workload. But SATS are a key part of the bullying machinery that drives so much of our workload. We must fight to abolish SATS - and then demand alternative assessment schemes that can reduce teacher workload too.

It's taken too long since Annual Conference took the decision last Easter to launch a boycott for a ballot to be issued. But now the papers are out, even if only indicative at this stage, let's make sure teachers vote to support a boycott!

Friday 30 October 2009

Not just listing what's wrong - but what we're going to do about it!

As ballot papers start to reach home addresses, NUT members across England and Wales will have a chance to compare the election addresses from the six different candidates for NUT Vice-President.

All candidates can list the problems facing teachers and education – but who has set out an effective strategy to defend education?

Only Martin Powell-Davies explains that we must:
• Urgently prepare the united action that can make governments think again
• Reach out to parents and other unions for support
• Challenge any party implementing cuts and privatisation, including supporting trade union backed candidates in local or national elections

Only Martin says:
• Don’t leave teachers struggling in isolation
• Demand legally binding limits on working hours and smaller classes
• Act together in a national campaign to defend – and improve – national conditions

Only Martin promises to:
• Visit schools to discuss what combination of public campaigning, working-to-rule and strike action can best defend education
• Ensure we turn words into action!

To elect a Vice-President who is ready to meet the challenges ahead,

Tuesday 27 October 2009

We're Voting for Martin

Murray Sackwild: I've been going to Conference for 5 years now and by far the best speaker - every year - is Martin. I know there's lots of maneouvring behind the scenes at the NUT with a range of factions - but Martin cuts through the crap and tells it how it is. He talks about the issues that really matter to working teachers. He has to be the outstanding choice for NUT Vice-President.

Derek McMillan: I'm voting Martin Powell-Davies for NUT VP. We need a union leadership to take on the pro-banker anti-public sector policies of the government - whichever party wins.

Dan Thompson: I am voting for Martin in the election as I see him to be the best person to take our union forward and face the challenges which are coming our way, whichever party takes government in the next election.

From the Facebook Group: Martin Powell-Davies For NUT Vice-President

"No Trust" campaign materials

Faced with growing opposition to Academies, some governing bodies and Local Authorities are trying to promote "Trusts" instead as a 'softer' alternative. However, both Academies and Trusts will lead to the break-up of elected Local Authorities and the employment of teaching staff by a series of different federations. When schools are faced with cuts, isolated groups of staff will be easier to pick off than staff employed over a whole Local Authority.

This is just one of the reasons why teaching and support staff unions are uniting to oppose the plan to set up a "Goldsmiths Trust" in Lewisham. We are also supported by the lecturers in the UCU in Goldsmiths itself.

I have just completed the latest "No Trust" campaign bulletin which can be downloaded from the homepage of the Lewisham NUT website Please do have a look on the website if this could help your local campaign too.


Saturday 24 October 2009

Campaign fliers reach schools

A number of schools reps have been getting in contact having received a mailing from the campaign asking NUT members to vote 'POWELL-DAVIES 1'.

One rep was particularly interested in the NUT lanyard I am wearing around my neck in my photo - one that I had kept from NUT Annual Conference - and wanted to know whether they can be purchased. I am pleased to report that the Marketing Department at NUT HQ has told me that there is a plan to add these to the 'NUT Shop' that Associations can use to purchase materials. With so many teachers now having to wear ID, NUT lanyards would certainly be a good way to advertise the Union in schools.

Another rep wanted to clarify how I had been able to afford to mail schools. The answer is that it was only possible thanks to the financial support agreed by a number of nominating Associations, together with a number of individual donations from campaign supporters.

The donations enabled me to meet the costs of printing leaflets and posting them to at least some selected addresses nationally. As the campaign funds would not stretch as far as the costs of using a commercial mailing house, the mailing also would not have been possible without the hours of help given by a number of Lewisham NUT members and other supporters who volunteered their time to help stuff the envelopes.

A huge effort has gone in to producing the mailing from teachers who want to make sure that we elect a leadership that is up to the challenges that will face us after the next General Election. I hope that I can help provide that leadership.

I hope that, having read the fliers, teachers will choose to vote ‘Powell-Davies 1’ on their ballot papers for NUT Vice-President


Friday 23 October 2009

Unity to Defend Jobs, Services and Pensions

This is a summary of a report of discussions by officers of the PCS, NUT, UCU and other trade unions in London to prepare joint action to defend public services:

Whatever the outcome of the forthcoming General Election, all the mainstream parties are committed to massive public expenditure cuts - including cutting services, pay freezes and attacks on pensions - in order to reduce the budget deficit.

Given the imminence of the General Election, there is an urgent need to build an alliance and, therefore, the PCS London & South-East Regional Committee have taken the decision to seek to expand the Trade Union Co-ordinating Group (TUCG) at regional level. The TUCG has been formed by a number of unions coming together at national level, including the the Bakers, Food & Allied Workers union (BFAWU); Fire Brigades Union (FBU); National Association of Probation Officers (NAPO); National Union of Journalists (NUJ); Prison Officers Association (POA); Public & Commercial Services (PCS); Rail, Maritime & Transport Workers (RMT); and the United Road Transport Union (URTU). In addition, PCS had formed closer working relationships with the National Union of Teachers (NUT) and the University & College Union (UCU) through joint activity - such as the demonstration at the Labour Party conference.

A number of proposals were put forward in terms of developing a programme of action and an alternative to the cuts agenda:

• to call for a conference of public sector reps in defence of public services which would develop a perspective - including an explanation of the causes of the crisis and its implications for the bargaining agenda - and an agreed joint programme of action. This has subsequently been endorsed by the SE Region TUC Executive Committee.

• the programme of action would include consideration of campaign materials, (including propaganda and publicity), and activities, (such as local demonstrations which would feed in to a regional event and highlighting the issue of youth unemployment).

• building a “solidarity network” to support workers in struggle - including setting out the case for solidarity and organising public meetings/speaking tours.

Support the Postal Workers

Any teacher who gets into conversation with a postal worker will soon realise how much we have in common: bullying management, impossible workload and Government policy encouraging privatisation. With the postal workers' union, the CWU, having been left with no choice but to call national action, it is in every teacher's interests to make sure they are not defeated.

Of course, the best place to get into a conversation - and to show your support - is on a picket line outside your local delivery office. At Forest Hill, South London, this morning, there was a good turnout of pickets and a determined mood to defend their conditions.

The rep explained how 64 'walks' that had been taken out of the Sydenham and Forest Hill offices had already been cut to 38. That's how, nationally, 60,000 jobs have been cut since 2003. But they were keen to point out that the Royal Mail's argument that this was forced on them by smaller mail volumes just wasn't true. Instead, individual posties are being bullied into taking out bigger and bigger rounds.

Managers who receive bonuses directly based on the 'savings' they can secure are taking an increasingly belligerent attitude to staff. Instead of returning with undelivered mail at the end of their hours, as they are entitled to, workers are often bullied into working unpaid overtime to get the job done. Meanwhile, profiteers are allowed to 'cherry pick' the best parts of the business, allowing big firms to charge 13p a letter - but expect Royal Mail to deliver it!

Of course, all of this will sound strangely familiar to teachers who are also being bullied by managers, league tables and OFSTED into taking on increasingly impossible workloads. The next Government, whoever is elected, will be using the threat of cuts and privatisation to try and make things even worse for teachers too.

That's why, however annoying it might be when a letter (or a voting paper!!) that you've been waiting for doesn't arrive on time, teachers and the NUT need to back the postal workers. A long dispute will put financial pressures on CWU members, so collections for their hardship fund will be important. Many areas, including my own in Lewisham, are setting up local support groups that NUT Associations should support. We also need to answer some of the deliberate distortions and lies being thrown at the postal workers in the press. After all, it might be teachers who need other trade unionists to offer us the same support in the months and years ahead.


Tuesday 20 October 2009

Overcrowding and excessive targets - say the Tories!!!

Shock news: Conservative shadow secretary Dominic Grieve admits today that: "Chronic overcrowding and excessive centralised targets have put immense strain on staff."

Apparently he was talking about prisons though, not schools ...


Monday 19 October 2009

A national action strategy to cut workload

Workload is a national issue - and it needs to be tackled as part of a national campaign.

Lewisham NUT members are discussing this draft motion to put to our meeting in November as a motion for next year's Annual Conference - perhaps your Local Association can do the same?


Conference recognises that excessive workload remains one of the key issues for teachers and the Union. Working weeks of 50 hours and more, and the stress and intensity of our working days, continue to drive too many talented teachers out of the profession.

The policies of successive governments are the root cause for the intolerable pressures facing teachers. League tables, OFSTED and SATS are used to bully teachers into taking on even greater workload in order to meet imposed targets. Inadequate funding, which will be made worse by threatened spending cuts, means that there are insufficient teaching and support staff to share out workload so that children’s needs can be met while still ensuring that teachers enjoy the ‘reasonable work-life balance’ that we are supposedly entitled to.

As even the Government’s own figures indicate, the attempts by other unions to improve workload through ‘social partnership’ have failed to produce any significant reduction in working hours. However, we also have to recognise that our own strategy has also failed to protect members from the burden of excessive workload.

Conference recognises that, while school-based disputes can be valuable in protecting members from excessive workload demands, they are, alone, an inadequate strategy. While the present inadequate provisions of the Pay and Conditions Document remain, particularly the continuing open-ended requirement on teachers’ overall working hours, teachers will continue to have inadequate legal protection against excessive workload. In order to give all teachers real protection against excessive workload, we have to win a new national contract setting down improved national conditions for all teachers.

That is why the last two Annual Conferences have supported motions calling for national action to improve teachers’ working conditions, thereby bringing all members together to tackle a national issue as part of a national campaign.

Conference reiterates its support for a campaign of national action to win a national teachers contract and demands that the Executive delay no longer in implementing the clear view of Conference in pursuing such a course of action.

Conference therefore instructs the Executive to:
a) Draw up a claim that sets out specific improvements to teachers’ working conditions, including binding limits on teachers’ overall working hours;
b) Prepare a publicity, campaigning and action strategy to win such a claim, emphasising to the public that improved working conditions for teachers means improved learning conditions for children;
c) Hold a national ballot to sanction a national program of strike and non-strike action that would commence in the autumn term 2010;
d) Seek support from other trade unions to join our campaign of national action.

Friday 16 October 2009

Primary review: a 'damning indictment' of Government policy

Ever since New Labour was elected, they have sought to dictate to schools what to teach and even how to teach it. Policed by the threatening machinery of OFSTED inspections and league tables of SATS and GCSE results, schools have been bullied into following each new instruction imposed by Ministers and Whitehall officials.

But these central directives have been set with little or no reference to the views of classroom teachers and their unions. The growing evidence of the distorting effect of SATS, forcing schools to ‘teach-to-the-test’ to boost their league table position, has been ignored by the Government. A generation of pupils has been brought up in schools where overworked teachers too often have to sacrifice the enjoyment of learning, and the careful building of real understanding and self-confidence in youngsters, in the drive to achieve the sole goal of reaching narrow exam targets.

These fears have been confirmed in a major independent enquiry into primary education led by Professor Robin Alexander and the Cambridge Review group. It provides a damning indictment of the damaging effect of Government directives on the primary curriculum.

The Review confirms that the main cause of educational underachievement is not school ‘failure’ but poverty. Schools work hard to meet the needs of their communities. Yet, the report concludes that schools’ successes are made despite government policy, not because of it.

It recommends extending play-based early years curriculum approaches until the age of six, in line with most other countries, to prevent the long-term damage to confidence and learning that can come from trying to enforce formal learning too soon. It calls for a widening of the curriculum with more room for teachers to develop their own initiatives. It concludes that league tables are so flawed that they give no valid information about schools and that SATS tests should be scrapped.

The review covers many other areas, including raising concerns about the inadequate support for children with special educational needs and the need to increase funding to allow for more specialised teaching in primary schools. While some of its recommendations (for example calling for a shorter summer holiday!) might cause debate in staffrooms, it is a review based on educational expertise and research, unlike so much imposed policy.

The Review complains about the political interference in education where “discussion has been blocked by derision, truth ... supplanted by myth and spin”. Yet, predictably, the Government response has been further derision!

As detailed argument and research is being ignored by Labour and Tories alike, it will take trade union action to defend education. The Review provide further good reasons for teachers to vote to support a boycott of SATs in the ballot being issued to all primary-based NUT members in early November.

There has been real frustration that plans to implement a SATs boycott agreed at Easter’s Annual Conference have been delayed and that the November ballot is only an ‘indicative’ preparation for a further ballot. Such a formal ballot would have to be held after many schools were already well into their preparations for the 2010 SATs. Nevertheless, it is essential that teachers vote for a boycott if we are going to start to repair the educational damage described in the Cambridge Review.

Thursday 15 October 2009

Added pressure - added need for a national response

The second day of the NUT Divisional Secretaries' Briefing gave further reasons for the Union to be preparing for national action to defend teachers and education.

A briefing on the latest OFSTED framework exposed how the blunt emphasis on raw results would further penalise schools in working-class communities. As I argued, we need to explain how this unaccountable institution will be unjustifiably condemning schools as 'failures' in order to prepare them for privatisation into Academies.

Optimistically, the session on fighting Academies gave good examples of how joint action and campaigning could succeed. A parent from Tamworth explained how their campaign, which included standing candidates in local elections, linked to strike action by teaching unions, had kept up the pressure on the Council. Peter Flack from Leicester explained their success in putting together an educational alternative to Academies for the city which had persuaded councillors to reject the Academy route.

Secretaries also discussed how to build support for the indicative ballot of primary NUT members for a boycott of SATs. A newspaper-style campaign sheet for staff and parents is being circulated across the country.

The final question-and-answer session with the NUT General Secretary, Christine Blower, covered many issues. I was disappointed that my question, about what had happened to NUT Conference policy calling for national action on workload, was not clearly answered. I hope that my campaign in this election can keep up the pressure to ensure that this vital policy is implemented.

"Rarely Cover" isn't reducing workload

One of the main subjects for discussion at the National NUT Divisional Secretaries' meeting at Stoke Rochford Hall, is, not surprisingly, workload.

NUT Secretaries' own workload is a real issue in itself. Chatting with colleagues it is clear that the range and volume of individual cases that we are having to support is becoming unsustainable. We cannot successfully function simply as a casework organisation - vital though that is to supporting members - we have to look at the underlying isues and seek to turn those individual problems into collective action.

Teacher workload is, of course, a key issue underlying so many of the individual pressures that teachers face. As I have long argued, we need to take this up as a national dispute aimed at achieving a Pay and Conditions Document that really guarantees limits on workload - including maximum overall hours and guarantees on non-contact time.

The session at the Secretaries' Briefing on the "rarely cover" regulations again illustrated the weaknesses of the present wording of the Pay and Conditions Document. Unfortunately, the wording agreed by other unions on cover arrangements that was meant to reduce workload is proving, in practice, too easy for 'creative' school managements to get around. Instead of reducing workload, it is too often just being redistributed into other work.

For example, in order to get round the cover regulations, discussions revealed heads trying to limit time-off for appointments and compassionate leave; heads that are 'retimetabling' staff to cover absences, exam weeks etc; schools where the timetable loadings are being increased so that staf are covering less but teaching more.

In each case, we have to try and resist these attacks on a school and local basis where we can. In Lewisham we have one school in dispute over timetable loadings and will make the whole issue of 'cover' a priority at next month's reps training.

However, once again, the underlying problem is the weakness of the national conditions document. We need to address that through a national dispute that brings all schools together in united action.


Monday 12 October 2009

Is the 'big crunch' inevitable?

I had to dash from debating "The Big Bang" with my Year 10s this morning to get to a meeting in Congress House to discuss the "Big Crunch" facing public sector budgets.

I Chair the SE Region TUC Public Services Commitee and hope that it can be a body that can help co-ordinate the united trade union action that will be needed to defend services, jobs and conditions.

Myself and the PCS delegates present, in particular, spoke about the need to combat the tone being set by the media and all the main parties that cuts were inevitable and needed to rescue the economy. But why should we have to pay for the mistakes made by the politicians and financiers?

We agreed that SERTUC should look at producing model leaflets to circulate to afiliated unions and hosting a reps conference in the New Year to start to bring together union reps to discuss how to fight the onslaught that is likely to follow the next General Election.


Sunday 11 October 2009

Campaign Meeting success

A suuccessful campaign meeting was held in London yesterday.

Teachers came from the London area and beyond - including from the South-West, South-East and Eaastern regions - to discuss how to respond to the threats facing teachers after the General Election - and how to get a Vice-President elected that can help provide the strong leadership needed for the Union to be ready to meet the challenge!

Helped with some fantastic sandwiches provided by the pub, we also stuffed 5000 envelopes to post campaign leaflets around the country. With supporting Associations also helping to distribute materials in their own areas, our print-run of 60,000 leaflets is nearly exhausted already. However, do get in touch with the campaign if you would like copies - or download a copy from the Lewisham NUT website:

We had apologies from Young Teachers attending the South East Young Teachers Network meeting but Dan Thompson, the SE Network Chair, sent in this message for a local endorsement letter we are circulating in his area:

“ With Martin as Vice‐President of our Union, we will be in a strong position to fight against the threats to our profession from those who would freeze our pay whilst adding to an ever increasing workload”

Wednesday 7 October 2009

Lonoon Association Secretaries endorse Martin

Every teacher hearing the Tories' threats to attack pensions and freeze our pay must be worried about their plans to take on teachers and education if they win the General Election. Teachers in London schools may worry even more after Michael Gove's comments that teachers in 'failing' schools needed to be sacked - especially in London.

We need a leadership ready to meet the challenges that we will face. I believe that I can help provide that lead. That's why I am pleased that four London NUT Divisional Secretaries are writing to members in London schools encouraging members to make 'Powell-Davies' their first choice on the ballot paper for NUT Vice-President.

John Gourlay from Merton, Jill Saunder from Bexley, Tim Woodcock from Greenwich and Betty Calderbank from Bromley are writing (in personal capacities) to call on teachers to vote 'Powell-Davies 1'.

Betty writes that “ Martin understands the pressures facing teachers. His election would strengthen our leadership.”

Jill says that “ Martin is a powerful, charismatic and passionate speaker. As President, he would be a tremendous advocate for the teaching profession in whatever setting he found himself”

My thanks to all those recommending support for my candidature - in London and elsewhere.


United against the 'Goldsmiths Trust'

Last night, a packed meeting hosted by Goldsmiths Students' Union gave renewed confidence to the parents, staff and governors attending that we can successfully defeat the plan to set up a three-school Trust Federation controlled by Goldsmiths University.

Poet and writer Michael Rosen and Francis Beckett, author of The Great Academy Fraud, provided humour and analysis from outside Lewisham. Michael started with a poem about the "car school" which, as Francis went on to explain, wasn't actually so far from the truth of the business-dominated curriculum found in some Academies.

Maggie Pitfield from the UCU explained that lecturers valued the partnership nurtured over years between the Goldsmiths Education Department and local schools - but didn't want that relationship destroyed by the proposed Trust federation.

I spoke on behalf of staff and unions to explain why we had to stop the Trust damaging education and removing local accountability. It is a plan motivated by the belief in the power of privatisation rather than any evidence that Trusts benefit education. The Trust is also part of a wider attempt to break-up comprehensive community education in the borough. It threatened teachers' jobs and conditions as Ed Balls' recent speech about using federations to make savings had made very clear.

There are no convincing arguments to support the Trust. Small wonder that 89% of those responding to the first 'consultation' had opposed it. The consultants had to admit that the response showed the "lack of enthusiasm" for the proposal.

Of course, those behind privatisation proposals don't worry about the fact that the public don't support them! That's why the meeting agreed to step up the campaign, including possible strike action in the schools concerned. Parents would also be key and we needed to go out and increase their involvement to stop the Council trying to pretend that it was only staff with 'vested interests' that opposed the proposal. Parents who attended the meeting have already got in touch to offer their support in building parents' opposition.

Together, we CAN defeat the Trust!

Saturday 3 October 2009

Tories threaten mass teacher sackings

Shadow Schools Secretary Michael Gove tonight gave a stark warning that teachers - and the NUT - are high on the list of a future Tory Government's targets.

Building on stories already circulating last week (see my 26 Sept. blog entry), Gove spoke on Channel 4 news about a 'cull' of teachers in supposedly poorly-performing schools. The news item even specifically talked of teachers in London, Liverpool and the North-East being on their hitlist!

Of course, a Conservative Government would only be only picking up where Labour would have left off. It was their idea that schools could be handed over to private sponsors. Now Gove proposes to accelerate the Academy programme and let Academy Heads carry out mass sackings of up to a third of staff for the crime of supposedly 'failing' children.

But, of course, it is the politicians who are failing children, not teachers. Teachers working in the most challenging schools should be rewarded for their hard work, not bullied out of their jobs. Instead of privatisation (which, as research consistently shows, does NOT improve education), governments should be providing schools with the resources required to meet the growing needs of our students and communities. Instead, they promise cuts and unemployment for over 1 million youth.

Gove also reiterated his plan to abolish national pay rates for teachers, hoping to divide staff and drive down the overall pay bill in the face of school budget cuts.

Once again, we have been warned of the onslaught that is facing teachers after the General Election. We need to alert teachers to the threats we face and urgently consult over a national action strategy to defend teachers and education.

In this month's NUT National Officers' election, it is vital that we elect a leadership that is ready to meet the challenges that lie ahead. Please vote "Powell-Davies" as your first choice on the ballot paper.

Friday 2 October 2009

Download my new election leaflet

The 2010-14 National Officers will be elected at a time when teachers and education are facing very serious challenges. Whoever wins the next election, schools can expect significant spending cuts. Teachers’ jobs, pay and pensions will be under threat. A Tory Government threatens primary Academies and the break-up of national pay and conditions.

The newly-elected officers will have a vital role to play in giving confidence to NUT officers, reps and classroom teachers to stand together to defend education. I am standing in this election because I believe that I can help provide that strong leadership that we will need in the battles ahead. I am calling for unity to oppose cuts and privatisation and for NUT Conference policy calling for national action on workload to be implemented.

If you support my campaign, please help circulate my leaflets to NUT members. Get in touch if you want coloured leaflets sent to you or download a leaflet from the Lewisham NUT website and forward it to your colleagues.

Download leaflets from:


Wednesday 30 September 2009

City of Leicester nominates on the deadline!

Today was the last date for NUT Associations to nominate candidates for the National Officers Election. City of Leicester Association were meeting to decide their nominations tonight - after inviting candidates to speak to them last week - and agreed to make Martin one of their nominations.

The final list of Associations nominating Martin for the election is as follows:

City of Leicester

West Cheshire


The Wrekin


Amersham, Chesham & District

Isle of Wight County

Lewes, Eastbourne & Wealden







Blackburn with Darwen

Lancaster, Morecambe & District



Sunday 27 September 2009

Jobs, Education, Peace

They say that the sun always shines on the righteous - it certainly shone on the 'Jobs, Education, Peace' demonstration to lobby the Labour Party Conference in Brighton this afternoon. There was a fair turnout of NUT banners as we marched along the promenade.

On the way back to the car, my kids saw an altercation between a car driver and three skateboarding youth. Angry at the motorist, the youth made their feelings known, but with an unexpected term of abuse: "Labour!"

With many young people alienated from all the main political parties, trade unionists have a responsibility to offer a way forward that challenges cuts and gives the young people that we teach the chance of a decent future.

Saturday 26 September 2009

Tories plan draconian attacks on teachers and education

After Ed Balls’ announcement last weekend that schools should expect £2 billion cuts, comes confirmation that a Conservative Government are planning even more draconian attacks on teachers and education.

The Guardian and TES report that Michael Gove’s draft Education Bill will include regulations that would allow a further acceleration in the break-up of Local Authority schooling. Under the Tories, private sponsors would find it even easier to set up Academies, supposedly to help ‘raise standards’ - despite clear evidence that many Academies are struggling compared to community comprehensive schools. While privatisation through Academies and Trusts has been largely restricted to secondary education under New Labour, a future Conservative Government would also encourage their rapid expansion into primary education as well.

The Tories’ plans are also set to include a stark threat to teachers and teacher unions – the end of our national pay and conditions arrangements. This would mean that even the weak protections in the existing School Teachers Pay and Conditions Document would be thrown aside. Faced with spending cuts, schools will seek to attack pay, introduce more ‘teaching-on-the-cheap’ and further worsen workload. Unions need to organise to defend – and improve – national pay and conditions by taking national action to win a clear National Contract limiting working hours and class sizes, a contract that should apply to all teachers.

Whoever wins the next General Election, teachers and education face some of the severest challenges we have faced for decades. That’s why it is vital that the NUT National Officer elections are won by candidates prepared to offer strong leadership that can galvanise members to take the national action necessary to meet the challenges that we face.

Thursday 24 September 2009

Taking the campaign around the country

A packed NUT General Meeting in Lewisham, with nearly 40 in the room, started off a busy week of campaigning for support in the National Officers election. I then travelled to Liverpool, Coventry and Leicester to explain why we needed a strong union leadership ready to stand up to the attacks on jobs, pay and pensions that are being prepared for us. Unfortunately nominations could not be made at the meetings, but my call for united national action on workload and to defend our hard-earned pensions was well-received in all of them.

I was pleased to be notified by the Isle of Wight Association (who had invited me to speak to their reps' training event last term on workload) that they have voted to nominate me for the Vice-President election.


Sunday 20 September 2009

£2 billion cuts puts teachers' jobs, pay and pensions under threat

Ed Balls' announcement in today's Sunday Times of Labour's plans to impose £2 billion of cuts - 5% of the total schools budget - spells out the onslaught that all the main parties plan to unleash on teachers and schools after the next General Election.

Many teachers expect a Conservative administration to brandish the public spending axe but it was only yesterday that Nick Clegg, the Liberal Democrat leader, also warned of the need for 'savage' cuts and attacks on public sector pensions. Ed Balls' announcment confirms that, whoever forms the next Government, the mainstream politicians want teachers and school students to pay for their economic mistakes.

Schools spend most of their budget on staff, so 5% cuts can only mean one thing - significant job losses and pay cuts. But schools are already understaffed in reality - that's why most teachers already work a 50 hour working even according to Ball's own official figures. Cutting posts will mean inflicting even greater workload on the staff that are left. Education is bound to suffer as a result.

Where does Balls expect schools to be able to make these cuts? His talk of cutting back on 'bureaucrats' is the kind of nonsense that civil service unions have already had to put up with. Most senior staff and Heads of Faculty are already run ragged trying to keep on top of the demands inflicted on schools by the Government's testing and targets regime, not sitting in an office twiddling their thumbs.

Of course, if Ed Balls genuinely wanted to 'cut bureaucracy' without harming education, he could start by abolishing OfSTED and SATs - but he won't because they are both key parts of his Government's bullying machinery.

Ed Balls even has the cheek to suggest that another part of his agenda - setting up 'Federations' (often as unaccountable Trusts designed to break up Local Authority schooling) can help make the required savings. In fact, Federations usually increase bureaucracy - introducing an extra layer of 'Executive Heads' on top of existing structures. But Balls imagines that Federations can cut posts and make staff take on roles across several schools. The idea that, say, a Head of Maths in one school can rush around supporting staff and students across a whole Federation, certainly without anyone filling in for the work left behind, is nonsense.

At least we have been warned. Teachers and their unions know what is coming. Now we have to prepare an urgent defence of teachers and education. Teaching and other public sector unions need to be liasing immediately to prepare a campaign of national action to defend pay, pensions and jobs. We need to reach out to our communities to explain what is at stake. A united campaign of staff and parents can make the next Government think again.

Martin Powell-Davies

Wednesday 16 September 2009

Are we ready for the battles to come?

Teachers don’t need to read the latest Government reports to know that our workload is as intolerable as ever and that too many non-teacher qualified staff are regularly taking classes. But, with politicians looking to clear a £1.4 trillion debt, we ‘ain’t seen nothing yet’!

I wrote in my original nomination leaflet back in May that we will have to be ready for more attacks as the recession bites. It is now absolutely clear that, whoever forms the next Government, public services, and public sector workers, face the threat of serious cutbacks and further privatisation.

As before, when this Government first came for teachers’ pensions, we have to be ready to respond with united trade union action to defend our pensions once again. We also have to unite with parents and our local communities in a joint battle to oppose cuts, job losses and further privatisation of schools. As Vice-President, I would make it my priority to build the unity in action that we need to defend teachers and schools.

The national officers that the NUT will elect this term will have to help lead the Union into action. But are we ready for the battles to come?

School reps and local union officers are already run ragged trying to keep on top of the casework and campaigns we face. We must inspire a new layer of teachers into union activity. Above all, we must give NUT members the confidence that we have a strategy that can successfully defend teachers and education.

On too many key issues, like workload, we have not been able to turn the tide. That’s why I have successfully argued at Conference for a change of strategy. A campaign of national action to win a National Contract that really limits teacher workload and class sizes is a strategy that can make a difference. It is time that policy is put into practice.

If you want a Vice-President who can speak up for teachers, who can help develop a strategy to defend education in the battles to come, and who can give confidence to teachers that we can change things for the better, please support me in this vital election.

Martin Powell-Davies

Bexley NUT nominates Martin

My thanks to Bexley NUT officers for the invitation to speak at their hustings tonight - and to the Bexley NUT members who voted for my nomination. I was pleased to receive the highest support given to any of the five names put to the meeting.


Tuesday 15 September 2009

Cheshire West nominates Martin

Following a hustings in Chester where all six Vice-President candidates attended, Cheshire West and Chester Association nominated Martin Powell-Davies and Nina Franklin

Sunday 13 September 2009

Unite to defend public services

Saturday night's an unusual time to hold a meeting (!) but last night was when a meeting had been called to pull together local campaigns defending public services. I was pleased to go along and offer my support.

A wide range of campaigns was represented, including some that had already registered successes. Tony, from the PCS, reported on their successful defence of Deptford Job Centre which had been earmarked for closure. Eleanor reported on how Lewisham Council had been forced to step back over their plans to demolish Lewisham Bridge school. Tania and Susanna explained how New Cross residents had successfully campaigned against a local pub being opened as a strip club, not the 'job opportunity' that they wanted to become the only choice available to young women as the recession takes hold.

I was able to report on the NUT's local campaigns against Trusts and Academies and to call on parents to help give teachers confidence to take action to prevent the break-up of Local Authority schooling.

The meeting also debated whether we should back a slate of candidates to challenge the various establishment parties in next May's council election. With local elections in London only coming once every four years, this could be an important opportunity to get our message across - as well as to see if we can get more voices in the Town Hall - alongside Lewisham's two existing Socialist Party councillors Ian Page and Chris Flood - prepared to speak out on behalf of local trade unionists and campaigners.

No final decisions were taken for now but, with similar discussions taking place nationally about how to provide trade unionists and other voters with a real choice in next year's elections, it is a move that I would certainly support, locally and nationally.

Too often, the NUT is defending local authority services against councillors and council officials who are only too keen to hand over their responsibilities to private sponsors. Standing our own candidiates in local elections in defence of education could be an important additional weapon in the Union's armoury and a strategy that I would like to see the NUT and other trade unions giving support.

Saturday 12 September 2009

SATS: We 'talk the talk' but will we 'walk the walk'?

The news from yesterday's NUT Executive will be a real disappointment to all of those teachers and parents who were hoping that they wouldn't have to inflict the pressure and drudgery of SATs on any more children.

Unfortunately, after news came that the NAHT had voted not to go forward with a formal ballot this term - but were only going to conduct a 'consultative exercise' for now - a majority (25 votes to 11) on the NUT Executive voted that the NUT also now couldn't carry out a full ballot this term. Instead, we will also carry out an indicative ballot, but I understand that no definite timescale was agreed.

This is a significant setback, I fear. By the time we come to Xmas, so many schools will already be so far on the road to booster classes, SATs preparation etc. that it will be much harder to convince members to vote for a boycott at that late stage.

The best way to have kept the pressure on the NAHT to join with us in action would have been for the NUT to have gone out and won a ballot to boycott SATs. While our campaigning must still be kept up, the boycott will now be much harder to win.

I am afraid that it is another example - as previously on pay - where the NUT Executive has shown that it hasn't thought through its strategy. The danger is that every time we march members up the hill and then back down again, teachers - and our opponents in Government - are left wondering whether the NUT is serious. In short, we 'talk the talk' but when do we 'walk the walk' ??

When Annual Conference voted for a boycott, urgent preparations should have been made straight away to prepare for the ballot and to convince members to vote for it. As I wrote in my nomination leaflet back in May, "The Union urgently needs to set out for primary staff a concrete course of action and a timetable for the ballot ... If we are serious about the boycott, then there is some urgent work to be done".

Conference delegates were serious about taking action to end SATs - just as they were about voting to take national action over workload. We need a Union leadership that can implement those decisions and develop a clear strategy that can win our demands - and give our members the confidence that we have a winning strategy too. Once again, that's why I want to add my voice to the Executive to help provide that leadership.

Wednesday 9 September 2009

Modernisation: More Work, Worse Service.

Standing on the picket line at my local sorting office in Forest Hill this morning, the banter among the striking posties would have sounded familar to many teachers - particularly tales of bullying managers who want to squeeze even more hours of work into the working day.

The result of this 'modernisation' is, of course, unmanageable workload and a poorer service. But it was heartening that a least one passing Australian commuter realised what was at stake, telling the pickets "the mail service is one of the best things about Britain. If this is about defending the service, I'm right behind you".

I explained that teachers face very similar attacks as schools try to squeeze even more work out of us, with new initiatives and demands always being added to our workload. Like the posties, we need to explain that this isn't just bad for teachers, it's also bad for public services. Stressed and overworked staff cannot provide the careful preparation and individual support that our classes and children deserve.

The latest report into teacher workload carried out for the DCSF has to concede that, despite all their promises, "there has been no overall reduction in teachers' workloads". Teachers know the Government cannot be trusted to improve our working lives - but that means that it is up to the Union to make a stand to enforce a real limit on our working hours. That stand is long overdue. Teachers cannot be left to put up with the intolerable stress and pressure most of us are facing at present.

Again like teachers, some of the pickets this morning expressed frustration at strike action only being taken in a few areas and were glad that the CWU are opening a national action ballot next week. For the last two years, I have helped convince NUT Annual Conference delegates to also vote for national action to tackle workload - but the policy hasn't been implemented. I think it's time we did.

I am standing in this election to add my voice to the NUT Executive and to make sure that the Union puts policy into practice and launches national action so that we can call a halt to excessive workload.

Join the Facebook Group

My thanks to Phil Clarke, Lewes, Eastbourne and Wealden NUT Secretary, for setting up a Facebook Group to support my campaign.

You can find the group listed as "Martin Powell-Davies For NUT Vice-President". Do add your comments and posts and invite your facebook friends to join as well!


Tuesday 8 September 2009

Academy sponsorship - but without the sponsor money!

CORRECTION added 9th Sept '09.
It seems that Academy sponsors make time to read this blog! The Federation Events and Development Manager from the Haberdashers' Aske's Federation has swiftly contacted me to state that, contrary to what parents, and I, had originally understood, points WILL be taken from the floor at their meeting on Monday evening. I am happy to make the correction and even happier that this gives an opportunity for parents to explain why they are opposed to their school becoming an Academy.
ADDITION Sept 14th: and many of them did indeed speak out! - we are now awaiting to see what is decided at the governors' meeting

Labour's latest announcement shows that they are determined to press ahead with their plans to extend the privatisation of schools. Taking a lead from the Haberdashers' Aske's Academies based in my borough of Lewisham - who reportedly never paid-up much of the £2 million sponsorship money then required - the Government now says that 'sponsors' can have future Academies for free!

Of course, this will only give the Tories the confidence to go even further. One London Tory borough, Barnet, is already talking of taking a "Ryanair" approach to services with just a minimimum service available to residents as of right, with other services to be paid for. The Council would employ just a few hundred employees to monitor contracts - while services would all be privatised. This would, of course, be combined with major attacks on council employees. That is the future that we face if we don't step up the fight to protect public servcies.

And here in Lewisham it's again Haberdashers' Aske's who are trying to extend their Academy empire. With the support of Council officers, they are trying to bully governors of Merlin School into supporting a takeover by the Aske's Federation (as followers of this blog will know). They have set up a meeting for parents on Monday which will be followed by a governors' meeting to again consider the proposal to support a takeover by the nearby Haberdashers' Aske's Knight's Academy.

A quick reponse had to be organised. I met with Merlin staff immediately ternm began and then discussed with parents on the local estate who are opposed to the plan. I have drafted a leaflet that we will be distributing at the school gates on Thursday to alert parents to the Council's real agenda.

As our leaflet says: The Council want to give away services to private providers - whether it is housing or schools. Academies like Knight’s are part of this policy. Privatisation doesn’t work.
There is no evidence that Academies help raise standards. In fact a recent South London Press article confirmed that GCSE results were “significantly lower in academy schools than local authority schools in Lambeth, Southwark and Lewisham”.
If a Council fails to deliver on education, you can vote them out. But Academies are run by unelected sponsors. Why should Aske’s be given control of Merlin School?

The Union must stand firm in taking action to oppose the threat of Trusts and Academies - but I fear that there are some on the NUT Executive that do not have the stomach for the fight. That's why I am standing for election to help strengthen those that are determined to build a united campaign to defeat privatisation.

Sunday 6 September 2009

Politicians prepare to take on the public sector

As ever, it hasn't taken long for the summer break to disappear under another barrage of targets and tasks. Many teachers have gone back to work to find their school manaagements determined to try to squeeze even more out of staff. Even where schools' SATs or GCSE results have improved, the only 'reward' is to be given even higher targets - without any regard to the worsening difficulties facing our pupils and their communities. Faced with those rising needs, it's a testament to the skills and dedication of teachers that so many students do succeed.

Bot if the pressure's bad now, the signs are that things will get even worse after the General Election - unless we stand firm. Darling is beginning to admit that Labour will need to make significant spending cuts - so that we can pay for the cost of the state taking on the debts run up by the profiteers of the private sector. The Tories will undoubtedly take the attacks even further.

A Newsnight debate over the summer gave a panel the task of coming up with the best proposals for reducing government debt. The 'solutions' (actually reducing our spending power could make matters even worse economically) included an indefinite public sector pay freeze and a renewed attack on our pensions.

So the politicians are ready for a battle - but are trade unions? Public sector unions will require a firm and tenacious leadership in the months and years ahead if we are to protect teachers, and education as a whole, against these threats. That's why I am standing in the National Officers election this term to stand as a Union Vice-President that can strengthen the NUT leadership and make sure that we are ready for the battles that lie ahead.

Martin Powell-Davies

Monday 31 August 2009

Lewisham Council forced to retreat

Over the summer, confirmation came that the parents' campaign to oppose the demolition of Lewisham Bridge primary school in Lewisham had won a victory.

Local campaigners, supported by a long-running rooftop protest, had successfully achieved 'listed building' status for the school. Facing local protests and growing difficulties with primary school place provision, the Council have had to accept that the listing has been upheld by the Department of Culture Media and Sport and that they will have to go back to the drawing board.

The Lewisham Bridge proposal formed one part of a wider plan by Lewisham's Labour Council to divide up our community schools into competing Academies and Trusts. Their setback is an encouragement to all of us campaigning to oppose Merlin School being taken over by Haberdashers' Aske's Academy Federation and to oppose the proposed Goldsmiths Trust taking control of three local schools.

Staff and pupils will be returning from their temporary decant site to the original Lewisham Bridge building at half-term. Staff will be weary of once more having to pack up their classrooms and set up again in another building. The NUT will be working with teachers to make sure they get the support they need to minimise the workload involved.

It's a pity that all bar the two socialist councillors voted for the school to be moved out in the first place at easter, when officers knew full well that the listing application threatened their plans. Perhaps they had got too used to getting away with everything they wanted to push through - despite opposition. This time they haven't!

A film produced by the rooftop protestors is on youtube on

Youth Against Racism in Europe

British tourists driving their hire cars from their Corfu resorts in early August may have been surprised to see a large banner proclaiming “Show Racism the Red Card” at the side of the road. It marked the entrance to the 16th Youth against Racism in Europe summer camp, held in a beautifully wooded campsite near the village of Karoussades.

The event was both a fantastic holiday for the participants and an opportunity to discuss how to defeat racism and fascism and to unite workers across Europe. The campsite quickly filled up with tents as coaches and cars arrived from across Greece. Amongst the many Greek youth and campaigners attending, including migrant families, international participants arrived from elsewhere in Europe, including from France, Italy, Belgium, Germany, Cyprus and the Czech Republic.

The campsite was a short walk from the sandy beach and the cheap canteen and bar kept everyone going, usually well into the early hours! A shady open-air meeting area behind the bar was a great place to meet up during the day and also provided the venue for meetings and film showings in the evenings. International visitors, including myself, felt privileged to be able to participate in the debates, with translators doing a great job to make sure we all understood each other!

Virginie Pregny, a member of the NPA, the new anti-capitalist party in France, and Marco Verrugio from the PRC left party in Italy both spoke in a lively meeting on the development of new workers’ parties in Europe. These parties are a vital development to challenge reactionary right-wing parties. Without a socialist alternative being offered, racist and nationalist ideas can gain an echo with voters who are angry at the failure of establishment parties to provide jobs and services as the recession takes hold. Speakers, including members of the Greek left coalition SYRIZA, discussed the need to make sure those new parties offered a real fighting alternative with open democratic structures.

I helped to introduce a meeting on the rise of the far-right, explaining why parties like the BNP had made gains in many countries in the recent European elections. The BNP’s populist slogans attacking politicians’ corruption, combined with the collapse in Labour’s vote, had helped win them 2 MEPs. Their support can be undermined by campaigns demanding jobs, homes and services instead of racism. Trade union struggles like the occupation then going on at Vestas and the victorious action at Lindsey Oil Refinery can also cut across racist divisions, uniting workers in action to defeat the bosses’ attacks.

Monday 20 July 2009

Stll battling against workload - time for a well-earned rest

We're finally into our last week of term but the calls keep coming into the Union office to be answered - advising on 'flexible working', preparing for an unfair dismissal tribunal case management discussion, supporting a teacher instructed to take down a Stonewall poster from a citizenship display (at a Catholic Academy if you're wondering), making sure an NQT gets the pay they're entitled to, reassuring a teacher threatened with a loss of a day's pay after being off for two weeks with swine flu and then going ill again (you can't make these things up!!) ...

The biggest issues have been at my own workplace in Catford where, with just days left of term, the timetable has finally been released for next year. As suspected, the proposed loading for a class teacher has gone up from 83% to 88%! A well-attended emergency meeting was held tonight and members supported my call to seek an urgent Regional Deputation at the beginning of term and to prepare a ballot to support members in refusing to accept the increased loadings.

At least the holidays are nearly upon us (or in some areas, already started!), giving time for teachers to recharge batteries that have long since run flat under the relentless workload we have all faced over the last year - workload that we have to tackle through the national campaign of action that I am arguing for in this election.

Let's all take a well-earned rest. I will return to the blog at the beginning of the autumn term.


Wednesday 15 July 2009

Ca ira, ca ira, ca ira!

I phoned the rep today at Haggerston School in Hackney, to pass on a message of support to NUT members who were taking part in two more days of strike action to oppose job cuts. They are up against a management who gave out redundancy notices to staff on sports day and threatened an NASUWT member (who had not been balloted unfortunately) with disciplinary action if he refused to teach a special timetable set up just to get round the action.

But NUT members have responded magnificently with a 100% turnout in the strike ballot where they voted 36 to 1 in favour of action.

But this was no ordinary picket line! Kate, the rep, tells me that July 14th was (of course) a French revolution-themed picket line while today, at Year 10's suggestion, was a suffragette-themed action! There's more action due for September so let Haggerston NUT know if you've got any good themes for the next days of action!!


How can we support Local Association officers?

Before deciding on nominations, the Wrekin Division of the NUT wrote to VP candidates asking for views on how the NUT can support Divisional Secretaries. Their local secretary, Aly Langford, like local officers across the Union, is being overwhelmed by the huge level of casework and campaign demands. I am pasting my reply below - and also adding my thanks to The Wrekin for now deciding to nominate me for Vice-President.

As Aly’s letter so clearly reveals, the years of underfunding and target-driven bullying of schools and their staff are taking an increasing toll on teachers – and on the local officers who are left to try and defend NUT members but without sufficient time or resources to do so as well as we would like. It is precisely the need to change those pressures that drives me to stand in this VP election.
Even from the relative luxury of the Lewisham Division, where we have managed to hold on to the better facility agreements gained under the ILEA, we are constantly battling to keep our heads above the flood of casework - as well as making time to prioritise vital campaigning work as well. As in the Wrekin and in Divisions across the Union, NUT Secretaries are spending hours, in and out of allocated facility time, trying to meet the rise in cases - capabilities, disciplinaries, grievances …
If elected National Officer, I can assure you that I would use my ongoing experience from over 15 years as Lewisham NUT Secretary to argue that the Union has to defend its key resource – the local officers. We cannot simply pile more tasks on local Divisions, a change of strategy is needed.
We must change the way we organise and support Local Associations and Divisions, for example:
• Increase Regional Office staffing to provide more frequent and more reliable support for Divisional Secretaries and other local casework officers.
• More opportunities for local secretaries to meet colleagues in neighbouring divisions to overcome isolation and share and discuss casework demands and successful strategies.
• To try to turn individual casework into collective union disputes wherever possible.
• Overhaul ‘Hearth’ so it can better provide the key information needed by local officers.
• Campaign for improved facility agreements – but this will require a national campaign.
We must change the emphasis on local action and bring Divisions together with national action.
Changes like those above can help provide more support for associations and divisions. However, as cuts, privatisation and new methods of bullying staff like the White Paper’s threatened ‘licence’ scheme continue to worsen conditions, we will be facing even more casework and campaigns. We will not be able to respond successfully unless we organise collectively to oppose the root causes of the problems we face – underfunding, targets, workload and the lack of a decent National Contract that sets real limits on our working hours – and guarantees improved facility time as well.
For too long, the Union has looked to isolated local action to try and solve issues. While local action can win results, it takes a great deal of confidence, even in a well-organised school. Above all, the root causes of the pressures we face cannot be addressed school-by-school or Division-by-Division.
That’s why I have argued successfully at the last two NUT Annual Conferences for the Union to tackle workload through national action. I believe that we have to prepare a clear claim to win the National Contract that we have long called for as a Union, and prepare a program of national action to win it. Yes, we would have to go out and win support for that action, just as we are doing over SATs, but I believe that members would respond, as they did over pay on April 24th last year.
We cannot continue as we are now, allowing the energy and spirits of the best local officers to be exhausted through endless casework. A determined national campaign would lift the confidence of teachers to stand up for themselves, in turn helping with the individual battles and cases we constantly face. It is to help build that campaign that I seek your nomination as Vice-President.

Martin Powell-Davies,
Secretary, Lewisham NUT.

Sunday 12 July 2009

Trusts won't help working-class communities

Denis Mongon, a consultant who, in his words, I have already 'locked horns with' in the debates over Trust schools in Lewisham, proved a controversial speaker at the second day of the NUT's National Education Conference.

Billed as a discussion on working-class underachievement, Denis failed to provide the analysis that could have got to the heart of the issue by looking at the many factors that impact on working-class children such as poor housing, lack of access to books/internet at home, lack of job prospects etc. Instead, he semmed to focus solely on the need for strong 'school leadership'. While being one factor, the top-down leadership model presented can prove extremely divisive to staff and students alike.

However, it was when Denis was asked to explain his support for Trusts that delegates most strongly objected to his responses. He made clear that he believed that Local Authorities should have a 'commissioning' role - i.e the Blairite model of services being put out to other providers to run - including schools. He questioned whether the state school system had worked after schools were 'nationalised' (an interesting term to choose!) and thought that the NUT should support Trusts on a case-by-case basis - such as the Goldsmiths Trust he was supporting in Lewisham.

Denis can be a persuasive speaker but his arguments angered teachers at the Conference. Breaking-up Local Authorities with Trusts and Academies won't help working-class communities. Rather, in a polarised system, it will be those that are most at the margins - by class and ethnicity, who will lose out the most.


Saturday 11 July 2009

Assessment for learning - not for league tables

The first day of the NUT's National Education Conference in Stoke Rochford this weekend focussed on the issue of assessment, the discussions coming against a background of the awaited ballot to boycott SATs for 2010.

Sue Horner, from the QCA, introduced a session on curriculum and assessment. Some of her contribution, suggesting what it might be possible to achieve if teachers were given more control of what they taught, was welcome, as was her statement that "assessment must not just be to feed the data machine". However, a number of teachers spoke with anger about how the demands to meet imposed targets meant that meaningful curriculum initiative was impossible for many schools. Others, including myself, warned that 'assessment for learning' and APP had to be operated in a way that considered the workload pressures on teachers and the size of our classes.

A provoking presentation from Tim Oates from Cambridge Assessment laid bare the fault lines running through the whole National Curriculum structure, not just SATs themselves. In short, the whole idea of allocating 'levels' to children was based on dubious grounds. Instead, he believed, as I do, that the simple numerical level should be thrown out. Instead, teacher assessments that show understanding of specific concepts need to be developed, which in turn can be used to help explain to pupils how to progress in a way that a simple number cannot do. As APP also relies on the same levels as SATs, it is also not an adequate replacement, even if it can be managed in a way that avoids excessive workload for teachers.

At the end of the day, I chaired one of the groups of secondary teachers to discuss the NUT's campaign against SATs. We agreed that the curriculum-narrowing, pupil-stressing, inaccurate SATs must be stopped - but so must the league tables that unfairly label schools and pupils be stopped too - whether they are created by SATs or teacher assessment. In the same way that secondary teachers are already trusted to carry out GCSE coursework, moderated threough external assessors, teachers should be trusted to assess their pupils without having SATs.


I also attended an excellent workshop on teaching about transatlantic slavery, with an emphasis that I welcomed on how slavery was fought by enslaved Africans themselves. Have a look for resources on

Friday 10 July 2009

Local ballot nominates Martin in Amersham & Chesham

Nominations can be made at a quorate general meeting - but also by local ballot.

I was pleased to be given the news tonight that Amersham & Chesham NUT members voted to make me one of their two Vice-President nominations. The choice was made by sending ballot papers to home addresses and allowing members to make their choice from the materials circulated by candidates. My thanks for their support.


Standing up to the bullies

Yesterday, while on the train to and from Shrewsbury, I took a number of urgent calls from staff at Merlin primary school in Downham, Lewisham. That morning, the Local Authority had served an ultimatum on the governing body - agree to be taken over by Haberdashers' Aske's Knights Academy - or else.

This is a politically-motivated threat, quite simply. The Authority has been trying to bully a number of Downham schools into being forced into the Academy federation, up to now without success.

Unfortunately, cowed by threats of Ofsted visits and given the impression that there was no alternative, by the end of the day governors started to abandon any fight and the mood rubbed off on staff who also voted - if narrowly - in a meeting at the end of the day to accept the Academy.

That mood had to be changed - and having visited the school tonight, it has been! Why should teachers accept the threats and the blame and be steam-rollered into an Academy? Why should the community lose its school to an Aske's takeover? Why should governors be bounced into a decision before parents have even been consulted? Staff left for the weekend determined to fight the bullies and fight for their school.


UPDATE: On Monday evening, the Merlin governors met and a majority voted to reject the takeover. The Authority will no doubt be back with a 'warning notice' to try and bully the school into submission but now they know they have a fight on their hands. A parents' meeting is planned for the beginning of next term to explain what the Authority intends - and why staff and governors want to join with parents in opposing it.

Representing members in rural schools

A wide-ranging discussion at the Shropshire Division meeting in Shrewsbury tonight focussed on the funding pressures on rural Authorities.

I was invited to give my views as Vice-Presidential candidate – and afterwards received Shropshire’s nomination. Above all, it gave us all an opportunity to compare the issues that were common to all teachers, whether from Lewisham, Shropshire or elsewhere, as well as the particular pressures facing rural schools.

Concerns about workload, threats to pensions, support from Regional Offices, the loss of work facing supply teachers and the pressures of ‘APP’ were to the fore, as they would be in many Divisions. But concerns about how the threat of funding cuts would hit already cash-strapped rural authorities were the main subject of debate.

As I pointed out, the latest White Paper refers to the ongoing discussions about the ‘formula review’ which the DCSF are conducting to decide how funding should be distributed amongst different authorities with different levels of need.

Shropshire members pointed to the difficulties that didn’t seem to be recognised in the present funding arrangements such as the high cost of school transport in rural areas and lack of adequate internet access, as well as the conflicting pressures between protecting small village schools and adequately funding larger urban schools within a poorly-funded Authority.

We discussed how funding had to be needs-led – making sure all schools were adequately funded to meet the needs of their students – instead of just having schools and Authorities argue about how best to carve up an inadequate overall budget cake. But with the ‘cake’ threatened by government cutbacks, we all recognised that a national battle to defend education funding would have to be fought, linking up with parents and local communities too.

But the Union needs to recognise the particular pressures on rural areas, which are not often discussed at Conferences which can sometimes be dominated by larger metropolitan areas. The White Paper’s solution to protect rural schools by looking at ‘shared posts’ and federations to provide ‘value for money’ could add to the pressures on staff. I agreed to pursue the suggestion of a national meeting aimed at bringing rural associations together to discuss specific concerns such as funding, school closures and union organisation.

I hope Shropshire’s nomination will help towards getting me elected as a National Officer where I would seek to help convene just such a meeting.


Wednesday 8 July 2009

Union must listen to members when deciding action policy

While the Executive has yet to implement Conference policy calling for national action, union groups have been encouraged to take school-based action. Yet reps from two school NUT groups are expressing their concern at the decisions taken by National Action Officers over the action proposed for their schools. An opportunity for the Union to show that it is taking a firm lead in defending members is in danger of being replaced by confusion and even bitterness.

Members at Prestwich Arts College in Bury were disappointed that the one-day strike action which they were going to take on July 7th - against the threat of increased timetable loadings (a threat faced by school groups around the country as a consequence of not funding the 'rarely cover' provisions) - was reduced to just a one-hour strike, without consultation with members at the school. They are calling for one-day action to be reinstated to take place next week.

Members at St.Pauls Way school in Tower Hamlets have been angered by the postponement of strike action proposed to oppose compulsory redundancies. In this case, the proposal to call off the action was put to the members at a school meeting where 40 attended. However, the rep reports that the meeting voted unanimously for the strike action to go ahead. They understandably feel let down that the national Union has, as yet, not changed its position.

I have today spoken to both my Inner London National Executive members to pass on these concerns. Both Kevin Courtney and Alex Kenny agreed that the Union needed to reconsider its position in these two disputes. I hope that this will be the case.

As in any dispute, there are bound to be differences over strategy. In both these disputes, I understand that key National Officers felt that their decisions correctly reflected some concessions made by the employers. However, it is clear that this is not the view of the members in the schools concerned.

If the Union is to successfully build the confidence to take action, then we must listen to the views of members directly involved in the dispute and consult fully with school groups in developing the correct strategy at each stage. Where members are prepared to take action, then there would have to be very good reason not to back them in taking it. Where there are differences, then every effort has to be made to debate, discuss and come to a common agreement on the right way forward. Imposing a strategy from above will only demoralise and divide.

In both these cases, members are prepared to act. We should grab opportunities to show the strength of the union by taking such action, raising confidence to fight in these Associations and beyond.

Another nomination from Ipswich

My tenth nomination for the Vice-President election was agreed by a meeting of the Ipswich Association, who also voted to nominate Nina Franklin.

Roger Mackay from the Ipswich Association reports that "members who had attended annual conference spoke of Martin as a forceful and persuasive speaker with a strong personality"


Thursday 2 July 2009

Two more nominations - make that three

My thanks to Merton and Blackburn with Darwen NUT Associations for nominating me at their meetings tonight.

Blackburn with Darwen nominated me for Vice-President alongside Simon Jones while Merton confirmed their promised support at their July meeting tonight, which I attended as a speaker. As usual, Merton had a lively meeting with a high proportion of young teachers present. The discussion after the meeting was a good opportunity to talk to young colleagues about their concerns - including debts, workload, organising in Academies and the problems with implementing 'rarely cover' in practice.

My thanks also to Leeds NUT who have contacted me to confirm that I was also nominated at their General Meeting.


Wednesday 1 July 2009

Back to the future with the White Paper

Ed Balls' White Paper promises to build a "21st century schools system". But our politicians' visions for the 21st century seem to hark back to 19th century schooling instead of post-war 20th century comprehensive education.

Take my own school in Catford where a consultation paper has just been issued proposing that we become an "Associate School" of Colfe's, the local independent school that charges fees of over £4,000 a term. It is being sold to parents with the promise that a handful of our students might be given bursaries to attend the Colfe's sixth form. Of course, in return for this help for our 'deserving poor', Colfe's can show the Charity Commissioners proof of their charitable works so that they continue to gain tax advantages while they undermine the state system.

Balls' White paper promises yet more Academies and Trusts and introduces the new 'licence' that teachers will have to renew to prove that they are up to the job. This will become just another weapon to hold over teachers' heads with the threat of non-renewal of licences being used to bully staff into even more unacceptable workload and acceptance of unreasonable instructions.

We have to stop this juggernaut of privatisation and workload. As Carole, the Bexley NUT President, rightly said in her speech at their summer 'do' that I attended tonight, there's no pleasure to be gained out of saying "we told you so". We know these plans will make education even more divided and drive even more dedicated staff out of the profession. We have to act to make sure it doesn't happen.


Monday 29 June 2009

Three good meetings

This morning's SE Region TUC Public Services Committee meeting in central London reflected a growing mood for action amongst public sector unions. PCS members spoke of the need to build unity to defend pensions and fight off public sector cuts, NUT members spoke about Academies and Trusts while UNITE members pointed to their victories at Lindsey, Visteon and Linamar. I was re-elected as Chair of the committee.

After debating with Council officers at their official 'drop-in' event about the plan to set up a Trust federation, I drove over to Greenwich NUT for their hustings. I appreciated their backing in nominating me for NUT Vice-President. As on the Isle of Wight last week, there was general agreement that national action was needed to win on workload - and to oppose privatisation - but useful discussion on what such a program of action might consist of - combining both strike and non-strike action.

It was then back over to Goldsmiths where, unlike the Council's thinly attended 'drop-in', over fifty parents, teachers, support staff, councillors, lecturers and students attended our own public meeting to oppose the Trust. All left with a renewed determination to oppose the Council's proposal by all means necessary - responding to the'consultation', lobbying governors, leafletting parents, protest meetings and strike action.


Saturday 27 June 2009

Shop Stewards Network - an inspiring conference

After spending a morning leafletting in Deptford Market against our local 'Trust' threat, I had thought twice about then going on to Camden to attend the National Shop Stewards Network Conference - but what an inpsiring event it proved to be!

Many trade unionists still lack confidence that struggles can be won - but here was a Conference full of contributions about struggles - and, more to the point, struggles that had won!

Speakers included:
* Joe Higgins, "The best fighter money can't buy", elected as a socialist Irish MEP;
* Keith Gibson from the Lindsey Oil Refinery Strike Committee who had just won a complete victory against Total's attempts to sack hundreds of workers;
* Visteon workers who had occupied their plants in Belfast, Enfield and Basildon;
* Rob Williams, UNITE convenor at Limamar Swansea, where his colleagues had responded to his sacking - a blatant victimisation of a trade unionist - with an all-out strike threat that had won him his job back.

Baljeet Ghale, NUT Ex-President, opened the workshop on "Education for What?" which helped build links between UCU lecturers, NUT teachers, UNISON support staff, students and parents - including Eleanor Davies from the Lewisham Bridge occupation. My calls for national action to oppose both cuts and privatisation were well received. I was particularly pleased to meet with young teachers from Wales and Bristol looking to build the NUT and NUT Young Teachers activities.

Rob Williams' warning that employers will use the recession to attack pensions, terms and conditions applies to teachers as much as any other public or private sector employee. As Rob summed up the conference - "If you fight, you may not win but if you don't fight you will always lose". Rob had won - so can we!


Martin discusses with Isle of Wight members

An invitation to speak at the Isle of Wight NUT Reps' Training Day gave me a welcome opportunity to visit the island for the first time.

The meeting was certainly held in a more scenic spot than Lewisham can offer! But the scenery won't be too much solace for local teachers who face an uncertain future under school reorganisation plans which could see the end of middle schools and all their high schools turned into Academies.

Discussion therefore centred on TUPE and possible legal remedies to defend staff. However, as I also pointed out in my contribution on workload, while we have to use the limited legal protections we can find, the only real defence is union organisation, campaigning and action.

Members agreed with the need for national action to win real limits on hours and the Union's longstanding policy for a minimum 20% non-contact time for all. As John, the Association Secretary put it, that doesn't mean we want a 4-day week as the papers claim, but it does mean we want to win back a 2-day weekend!

A useful discussion began on what a program of national action to win such a demand might look like - national strike action, rolling action with levies from other regions and 'work-to-rule' action short of strike action too. Unlike the one-day strike on pay - which was enthusiastically supported but gave members no idea of where we were going next - we need to discuss and agree on a strategy that can win our demands and get maximum support from members across all regions of the Union.


Wednesday 24 June 2009

Report from Lewisham Bridge School

Today a large number of parents and other supporters turned out to support the occupation of Lewisham Bridge School, that has now been going on for two months. The protestors occupied the school in protest at the Council's plans to demolish the existing primary school on the site currently, and re-build it as a through school for 3 to 16 year olds. There have been many concerns expressed about this by parents, including the loss of the school as 'community school', as well as concerns re the site being potentially contaminated and there being an inadequate water supply! The Commission for Architecture and the Build Environment and English Heritage have even opposed the build! Yet Arrogantly, Lewisham Council, with its directly elected Mayor has as per usual, proceeded with its un democratic decisions.

The occupiers were to be confronted and removed today by baliffs. The police attended with great numbers and had four police vans and even a helicopter circling the school protest site!

The parents, some of whom were on the roof, and community supporters probably totalling about 100 throughout the morning, stood their ground.

After a stand off the police and baliffs must have realised that this was not going to be won easily and decided at about 11.30 to leave.

The battle is not over yet however. As the possibility is still there of the baliffs returning and a harder policing line being used by the authorities.

Chris Flood

Tuesday 23 June 2009

My thanks to Lewes, Eastbourne and Wealden NUT

Tonight's meeting in Lewes heard from three Vice-Presidential candidates - myself, Simon Jones and Nina Franklin. After a discussion, where candidiates were asked to concentrate on workload issues, the meeting voted to nominate me and Simon Jones. The support is much appreciated.

Informal discussion after the meeting centred on the issue of competency procedures and how they are being used to break and intimidate our members. We agreed to keep in touch over drafting a motion for next year's Conference to strengthen Union policy on the issue.


Sunday 21 June 2009

Gordon needs some career advice!

Saturday's Guardian reported that Gordon Brown has been so hurt by personal attacks that he's thought about throwing in the towel and becoming ... a teacher!

I think his career adviser needs to warn him that the classroom might not be the right place for anyone with any sensitivity to personal remarks from students. The staffroom might not be too sympathetic either, given New Labour's record on privatisation and scapegoating of teachers & schools.

In fact, as there may be a few MPs facing an enforced career change soon, they had all better be warned that there's little room for outrageous expense claims either (unless you're an Academy Headteacher perhaps). In fact, it's more likely that you'll end up spending out of your own pockets for resources that your class needs.

Getting a few more classroom teachers and other trade unionists to take their place in Parliament - to argue for proper funding of education and all our public services - might be very welcome!

Friday 19 June 2009

Bromley discusses workload and nominates Martin

I'd like to thank members of the Bromley NUT Association for unanimously agreeing to nominate me for Vice-President at their General Meeting on Thursday.

I was invited to speak to the meeting on workload and was pleased at the support given to my call for the Union to put into place the national action that I argued for - and was voted for by delegates - at NUT Conference this Easter. But one Bromley officer wanted to know, "Why isn't workload the priority with the present Executive that it should be?". I answered that classroom teachers had to keep up the pressure on the Executive for action to take place but appealed for support in this election so that I could argue for action on workload from within the Executive, rather than from outside it.

There was a range of workload issues raised, particularly from the young teachers present. A number of colleagues talked about the pressures caused by APP. In order to win the SATS campaign, we have to make clear that in ditching SATS, we're not going to accept their replacement with a teacher assessment scheme that reproduces the same target-driven mentality - but with even greater workload for teachers.


Tuesday 16 June 2009

No Trust in Trusts

Lewisham NUT, with the support of the NASUWT, ATL, UNISON, GMB, UCU and local campaigns, including Hands Off Lewisham Bridge, are organising to defeat the proposed Goldsmiths-led Trust which threatens to take over three local schools.

Campaigning materials - which may be useful for other camapigns to adapt - can be found on the Lewisham NUT website:


Monday 15 June 2009

Young Teachers debate the way forward

There was plenty of debate and discussion at the Young Teachers Conference - not least on workload. Martin Powell-Davies' call for national action struck a chord with many of the young teachers attending.

After the Conference, a Young Teacher Rep sent in this message of support to Martin's campaign:

"There are many issues affecting us all as teachers. One of the most pressing is that of recruitment and retention. Many young teachers leave in the first three years. This is a travesty and must be stopped. The reasons commonly put forward for this are the vice like grip of poor pay on one side and the increase in workload on the other. We simply cannot be expected to work more hours for worse pay. We must look beyond the facade of the TDA advertisements with their spin to the truth of the day to day realities for many teachers. I believe that Martin is the man to do this in a position as vice president of our union".

Dan Thompson
Young Teachers Rep
Windsor and Maidenhead
(Personal Capacity)

Sunday 14 June 2009

Another broken promise

Figures revealed by the Liberal Democrats have exposed another broken promise from Gordon Brown's government.

In 2006, Gordon famously promised that he aimed to fund state school children at the same level as private school pupils. If met, that really would have been a reform that would have made Gordon popular, genuinely making sure that 'every child matters'.

The truth, however, is that the spending gap hasn't just remained, it has got even wider - increasing from a gap of around £3,400 per pupil in 2006 to over £4,400 now.

We can't rely on Governments to meet their pledges on funding - apart from those that are starting to pledge cuts of course. That's why I am campaigning for national action to win the funding needed to meet pupil needs - and to cut teacher workload.

Martin Powell-Davies

Phoney consultation replaces real debate

A few years ago, the public relations manager for Orange - in charge of convincing people that they could trust the safety of their mobile phone masts - decided to post his cynical definition of 'consultation' as "a formal system for ignoring public views while patronising them at the same time". Sound familiar?

Local Councils seem to have taken this definition to heart when 'consulting' over chnages to education. In Lewisham, the Council has consistently pushed ahead with reorganisation plans despite parental and staff opposition.

Their latest 'consultation' is about the plan for Goldsmiths College to set up a Trust with three local schools. The NUT, alongside other unions such as Goldsmiths UCU, are campaigning to stop this threat. But we know that we can't trust this to be any kind of genuine consultation.

The Council have helpfully provided a supposedly 'independent' organisation to evaluate responses to the Trust proposal, called "The Innovation Unit". A quick web serach reveals their 'independent ' board to include David Albury, Principal Adviser in the Prime Minister's Strategy Unit from 2002-2005, and Matthew Horne who advises the Cabinet Office Strategy Unit on 'public service improvement' amongst others !!

We certainly won't be relying on their independence! We will be relying on our organisation and arguments, leafletting, lobbying and, if necessary, organising strike action to oppose these threats to locally accountable comprehensive education.

Sunday 7 June 2009

Giving NUT members a choice in this election

A letter recently circulated by Bill Greenshields, the NUT ‘Ex-President’, stating his preferences for the upcoming union elections, has apparently caused a bit of a stir.

As it states boldly on our new Lewisham NUT banner, I agree that ‘unity is strength’ and so pulling trade unionists together to fight for our common interests is vital. That’s why I have been pleased that, putting aside our differences, both Bill and I have been supporters of the “No2EU, Yes to Democracy” initiative that started to provide a trade-union backed alternative to our sleazy privatising politicians in the June 2009 European elections.

I also agree with Bill that Local Associations and NUT members should have a chance to decide for themselves which candidates they want to support in union elections, rather than particular groupings believing that they have the right to impose on the Union who is allowed to stand – and who isn’t.

I’m used to the argument being made against me – for example at both the recent NUT nomination meetings in Lancaster and Bristol – that I’m not part of the ‘left slate’ of candidates chosen by the Socialist Teachers Alliance (STA) or Campaign for a Democratic and Fighting Union (CDFU). However, in both cases, the argument didn’t cut much ice with most teachers present – they were most interested in each candidate’s merits and demands – rather than which groups backed them. I’m glad to say that, on that basis, both meetings chose to give one of their nominations for Vice-President to me.

I know that the choice of this year’s VP and DGS candidates has proved controversial within the STA and CDFU. It has led to Simon Jones deciding to stand for VP separately to the CDFU’s official choice of Ken Cridland. Without agreement on a single candidate, Hazel Danson and Kevin Courtney are also now both seeking nomination for DGS. But what’s wrong with having that debate as part of the election? NUT members can hear the arguments and use their transferable vote to order their choice of preferred candidate.

Like Bill, I have my own preferences. I will not be supporting his choice of Martin Reed for DGS but will be backing Kevin Courtney. While Kevin and I have differed, e.g. over ‘cover supervisors’ at the 2009 Conference, I believe that, of the three DGS candidates, he is most willing to build the united action that we need to take to defend teachers and education. For me, Martin Reed is too much part of the ‘old guard’ that has held back such action for too long - while teachers’ working lives have got worse and worse.

I also can’t agree with Bill when he argues that, because of the undoubtedly serious threats to education, ‘factions’ in the Union should just put their arguments aside and all agree to ‘unite’. The logic of this approach is that there should be no elections at all, just leaving the leadership to decide who takes what post amongst themselves (Of course, leaving out those individuals, like myself, who aren’t part of any of the various groupings presently in the Union leadership!!).

Of course, there’s no room for petty squabbles because unity is indeed strength – but unity around what action strategy? When you face a serious threat, you also need a serious debate about how best the Union can respond to it. That’s what these elections are all about – to decide who can provide the best leadership with the correct strategy to answer the attacks on our conditions and on comprehensive education.

I am standing because I believe that I can help provide that leadership - as do others who are backing me, particularly many supporters of ‘Classroom Teacher’. I think anyone who knows me, or who reads my election materials, will be clear what I stand for.

Above all, I am campaigning for schools to be funded to meet the real needs of staff and students. Schools need more teachers, not less, so as to cut teacher workload. We also need staff to provide appropriately qualified cover and support to meet the needs of all our school students. But how can we win that? - by implementing the Union policy that I have argued for and won at successive Annual Conferences, calling for national strike action to be built for and organised to win our demands.

If you agree with my policies and if, in Bill’s words, you want the Union leadership to be “responsive to the whole membership and the diversity of view within it”, then please make sure that my views are indeed represented within that leadership by electing me as NUT Vice-President.

Martin Powell-Davies

Look at the comments below for a quick reply from Bill

Thursday 4 June 2009

A national union unites all schools and all teachers

I have been grateful for the emails and calls that have followed my recent mailing to all NUT Associations (and many thanks to the Lewisham NUT Committee for agreeing to fund the mailing).

One NUT Officer responded with a question about the funding pressures in more rural Authorities like her own. Although not said directly, I appreciate that the question might reflect, in part, an understandable concern that the Union needs to recognise the pressures in all areas - and must guard against just reflecting the outlook of NUT officers working in the larger metroplitan areas and Associations. However, far from suggesting we hold back from action, I think it is why national action is vital.

The whole funding issue is critical in every area, but with rural Authorities often being particularly badly hit. Whoever becomes the next Government, spending is likely to become even tighter if we do not act. This is why the policy of 'funding according to need' rather than a fixed and faulty national Government and/or local LMS formula is so important. Each school should be able to rely on at least the minimum funding to have a class size of 30 or less, sufficient additional teachers for PPA, Cover and Leadership time, and additional teaching and support staff to support individual children, to release staff from admin tasks - as a minimum.

My secondary school in Catford is also in the middle of a funding crisis - department Heads have had their budgets slashed and management are seeking to increase timetable loadings to solve the 'rarely cover' funding pressure. We may well need to take action at the school to defend teachers and education.

However, London is very different to many other areas in terms of roll trends. My Authority is desperately searching for extra reception classes to open in September because of a lack of places, while many Authorities nationally face the opposite problem. Nevertheless, that has still meant linking up with parents (some of whom have been occupying a school roof since Easter!) to oppose school closures (yes, even when the Authority are short of places!!). Linking up with parents in this way is a very important tactic - and with students too, as the recent pupil walkout in Barrow demonstrates.

I believe that we have to take up funding and workload (which are so closely linked) as a national campaign, backed with national action so that all areas of the union, from the strongest organised to the weakest, can have the confidence to support the action - and to appeal to parents for support for our campaign for funding that meets the needs of every child.

Martin Powell-Davies