Saturday 16 May 2009


THE GOVERNMENT PROMISED teachers that their “Workload Agreement” would put an end to excessive working hours. It has become another broken promise.

The Review Body has had to admit that their official statistics show that changes in overall hours have been ‘negligible’. The stress of working 50 hours a week on teachers and their families continues.

The growing intensity of our working lives has made workload worse.Schools are bullied by Government and Ofsted. In turn, pressure is then piled onto staff through imposed targets, demoralising observations and capability procedures.
Thousands of talented staff have chosen to leave teaching rather than put up with more intolerable workload.

THE NUT HAS TO SHOW IT CAN DEFEND TEACHERS. We were right to warn that the NASUWT and ATL were wrong to think they could get a meaningful deal out of this Government by talks alone. But we haven’t taken the action needed.

The NUT’s workload strategy has been to encourage members to ask for strike ballots in their individual school. Only a small minority of schools have done so. It takes confidence and organisation to take isolated workload action alone.

Local action must be encouraged. It can successfully push back some individual managements - but it can’t tackle the fundamental reasons why the workload burden isn’t getting any lighter.

Real cuts in hours require less class contact time so we can get the job done during the school day. But that means taking national action to demand the Government funds schools to recruit the extra teachers that schools would need.

WE ARE IN DANGER OF RETREATING in the face of further attacks. For example, the change to teachers ‘rarely covering’ from September has been introduced without extra funding to pay for it.

I argued at 2009 Conference against any watering down of Union opposition to ‘cover supervisors’. Some staff, happy not to be losing ‘free periods’ to cover, may not worry about non-teaching staff taking lessons at first. But we have to warn that it is another step towards replacing teaching jobs with cheaper staff - at our, and children’s, expense.

The extended entitlement in early years is a similar underfunded initiative. We should neither accept teachers working longer hours nor nurseries making up hours with cheaper less qualified staff.

WE HAVE TO CHANGE OUR STRATEGY. That’s why I successfully argued at 2009 Conference for the Union to prepare a ballot for national strike action to win our workload demands - like a minimum 20% non-contact time for all teachers.

Unfortunately, the Conference Report in the “Teacher”, hardly mentioned the debate. As before, when Conference ‘08 agreed that the pay campaign should also be linked to workload, some on the Executive seem unwilling to take action. I’m seeking election to make sure we do.

Martin Powell-Davies

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