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

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