Sunday 31 January 2010

Sao Paulo teachers fight casualisation

The photo shows CPERS members on the march at the start of the Social Forum meeting in Porto Alegre. CPERS has twice forced the state governor to retreat from attacks on teachers' conditions over the last two years.

Apeoesp - the biggest union in Latin America
I travelled to Sao Paulo to meet with members of Apeoesp, the teachers' union for Sao Paulo state. With around 150,000 members, they are the biggest union in Latin America.

Apeoesp colleagues explained how they faced an attack from their state governor which aims to increase the casualisation of teachers. This was to be done by subjecting teachers to an annual 'test'. The results have just come out and only about half of teachers have been told they have 'passed', threatening many long-serving teachers' eligibility for work. At best, they will only be allocated a few hours of work a week.

This attack - which is a warning to teachers in England and Wales facing our own 'MOT test' - is of course heralded as a way to 'keep up standards'. Of course, it is really about blaming teachers for problems in education and keeping teachers fearful of their jobs. Answers to a narrow 'multiple-choice test' do not measure the worth of a teacher. As the teachers' say, colleagues have gained their teachers' qualification - they should not have to now pass this annual test to prove their abilities.

Unfortunately, the struggle has been complicated by some in the leadership of the union having links to President Lula's government - who have a similar education policy to the right-wing state governors'. Lula may have been elected with a history as a fighting trade unionist, but his policies no longer represent the interests of trade unionists as they did in the past (doesn't that sound familiar too!).

The discussion was also useful to exchange views about trade union organisation and our respective school systems. Brasilian schools work three 'shifts' a day to educate all children. Union meetings certainly can't be 'after school' as they would clash with the 'evening shift'. But general meetings are held four times a year during school time and every school rep is allowed to attend. Each 'shift' has a rep, so this could be up to three reps attending per school. With school union reps in England struggling to get release time from some bullying Headteachers - and some areas finding it difficult to build quorate general meetings - wouldn't this be a good example to demand ourselves?!

Martin Powell-Davies

Thursday 28 January 2010

Kevin Courtney elected as NUT DGS

Kevin Courtney has been elected (by 53% to 47% for Martin Reed) to become the next Deputy General Secretary of the NUT.

I strongly supported Kevin as the candidate who most strongly called for joint action to defend teachers and education from the attacks that will follow after the General Election.

Kevin´s election also confirms that I will be standing for the now ´vacant´ seat on the NUT Executive from Inner London in the elections which will be held in March (see post below).

A visit to meet teachers in Brasil

At the invitation of CPERS, the 100-000 strong teachers´ union of the Rio Grande do Sul state, I have travelled to the World Social Forum in Brasil. The Social Forum gathers together a wide range of organisations and campaigns to discuss building an alternative to the ´neo-liberal´ attacks coming from many of the world´s governments.

It has been a tremendous opportunity to discuss, particularly with teachers and trade unionists, about the common battles we face against cuts, privatisation and governments who are seeking to undermine trade unions.

I have been able to explain to Brasilian colleagues about the battles teachers face in England and Wales. In turn, I have discussed their struggles - in a country where arrests on demonstrations and repression of activists are still too common. CPERS have been battling against the state governor´s attacks on trade unions (and her corruption) while teachers in neigbouring Sao Paulo state face a battle against attempts to make teachers pass a ´test´ to continue in work - rather like the threatened ´MOT for teachers´ back home.

Speaking from the platform to a meeting of 600 teachers called by CPERS to discuss íf ´another education is possible´, I outlined the struggles facing teachers in Britain, whoever wins the next election. The audience reaction to my criticism of inspectors who had little recent experience of teaching themselves showed that OFSTED-style criticism is certainly not just an English problem!

I concluded that ´another education is possible ´ but only if we mobilise trade unions and communities to fight to win it. Another - much worse - education is also threatened if we allow cuts and privatisation to take hold.

Brasil also faces national elections this year and I also attended a fringe meeting addresssed by Plinio, who will hopefully be selected as a joint left candidate for President. Once again, I was able to bring support from trade unionists in England who - like them - are battling to challenge the privatising politicians at the ballot box as well as through trade union action.

CPERS are known as one of the best organised and most militant unions in Brasil. I hope that we can keep up links between CPERS and the NUT - and particularly with supporters of Classroom Teacher who are campaigning to build a determined Union. I distributed a few copies of the latest ´Classroom Teacher´ to CPERS members so that they could read about the struggles we face on cuts, academies and workload.

I am also hoping to meet members of the executive of the teachers´ union of Sao Paulo state before I leave Brasil. I will post a further report when I return to England.

Martin Powell-Davies

Monday 18 January 2010

Standing for the National Executive

Lewisham NUT passed the folllowing motion at its General Meeting tonight:

Lewisham NUT
1) Welcomes the fact that three Associations (Lewisham, Hackney and Greenwich) have nominated Martin Powell-Davies to stand in the election for the two Inner London seats on the National Executive this March.
2) Backs Martin's decision to stand in the election should Kevin Courtney be elected as NUT Deputy General Secretary

This is Martin's election statement:

As a teacher and trade unionist, I know how:
• Workload and bullying keep getting worse.
• OFSTED and endless initiatives demoralise dedicated teachers.
• Academies and Trusts are spreading across London, even to primary schools.

After the General Election, we know pay, jobs and pensions are in danger – meaning more:
• Debt for young teachers.
• Pressure to meet targets – or else!
• Divided communities and disaffected pupils.
• Privatisation, threatening the very future of Local Authorities.


Every candidate can list similar grievances – but who will best provide determined leadership? My campaigning record shows I can give teachers confidence to stand firm together. Lewisham NUT’s membership has doubled since I became its Secretary.
... and clear strategy? I believe the present Executive’s strategy is failing. Individuals and school groups are left to struggle in isolation. National problems need national action.

The last two NUT Annual Conferences have supported my call for national action over excessive workload. We don’t want any more empty promises about ‘work/life balance’. We need to win legally binding limits on overall working hours, class contact time and class sizes.

Why should our pay, pensions and public services be sacrificed to pay for a crisis caused by the ‘banksters’ greed? We must organise with parents and other unions to oppose cuts and privatisation, including:
• Building joint meetings and demonstrations
• Backing anti-cuts candidates for MPs and councillors
Above all, united action can make Governments think again. Let’s prepare for it! I would visit London teachers to discuss the best combination of public campaigning, working-to-rule and strike ballots - then ensure we turn words into action!

Saturday 9 January 2010

Join the Classroom Teacher Network

Action and Change for Teachers
A group of teachers who backed Martin Powell-Davies’ recent stand in the NUT Vice-President election

For action on workload
To defend public sector schools
To defend the rights of classroom teachers in academies and trust schools
And to resist the attacks on education whichever canaille wins the general election!

Click here to join the facebook group.
Click here for the blog