Thursday 25 March 2010

Thanks for your support!

A BIG THANK YOU to everyone who has supported me. Your help has made sure that I HAVE BEEN ELECTED onto the NUT National Executive.

The results for the Inner London seats (two places to be filled) were:
ALEX KENNY 1100 (elected)
Sara Tomlinson 682

This victory comes despite (as usual!), my candidature not receiving the backing of the STA and CDFU left groups within the Union. I hope that the result will remind others on the Left within the Executive that many classroom teachers are frustrated at the Union's failure to take firm action to protect teachers from the constant pressures we face.

The platform that I stood on was clear - for a national ballot on workload and for united action to fight cuts to pay, jobs and pensions. I hope that my election can help make sure that we can build such a program of action - to defend teachers and education.


Saturday 20 March 2010

NUT support London UCU demo against cuts

The National Union banner on today's march against cuts in Higher and Further education.

£2.5 billion of cuts to Higher Education are planned - out of a total budget of £12 million. These proposed cuts mean that many courses and colleges will struggle to survive. It also means the squandering of the potential of many thousands of school leavers who will not be able to find a college place.

Reports from those on the march who had been up early to join the BA pickets at Heathrow also reported the strength of feeling of UNITE/BASSA members there.

Thursday 18 March 2010

The threat of the Swedish 'free-schools' model

A seminar, hosted by Ken Purchase MP and the Anti-Academies Alliance, held in Westminster last night focussed on the threat to education from the Swedish 'Free Schools' model favoured by the Tories.

A representative from the Swedish teachers' unions explained how these 'independent' schools - funded by the 'state' but increasingly run by large for-profit education companies - have opened up an educational divide in their country. Twenty years of research have shown that the schools do not improve quality, but increase costs and social segregation.

Professor Stephen Ball warned how this threat was the latest step in the break-up of state education alongside Academies, Trusts, and 'contracted out' schools like those already given over to education businesses to run in Surrey and Enfield. The 'free schools' are allowed to make profits, leeching money out of hard-pressed school budgets. To do so, multinational education businesses will want to grab hold of whole chains of schools to boost their profit margins.

I was a number of contributors from the audience who pointed to the danger of new schools being opened to meet roll pressures in London that, under Labour's 'competition' rules, would be run by private concerns, not Local Authorities. As spending cuts bite, these schools would look to cut costs by selecting those pupils that could achieve the best results for the minimum input. In other words, pupils with the greatest needs would find themselves pushed aside.

Local Authority schooling has been under attack from both the Tories and New Labour. The Liberal Democrats are now calling for 'sponsor managed schools' which are just Academies under another name.

Whoever wins the election, trade unions will face an even greater attack on comprehensive education. We have to respond.

Saturday 13 March 2010

United against cuts and racism in Barking

I was proud to carry the Lewisham NUT banner on the Youth Fight for Jobs march today through the streets of Barking, where the BNP's leader Nick Griffin is hoping to be elected MP.

As the demonstration went through the council estates and streets, residents came to their doors to hear our chants calling for workers' unity against racism and against public sector cuts: "When they say cut and privatise, when the BNP tell racist lies - We fight back and organise"

The car horns from motorists and the many leaflets taken by those we passed showed the welcome the march received. One local community worker who joined the march explained to me how the BNP had few active members in the area but that they had won council seats out of the frustration of local voters for the way the main parties had treated them. He hoped to work with Youth Fight for Jobs in Barking to offer young people a way forward in fighting for a future and in rejecting the BNP.

Trade unions have to campaign to expose the lies of the BNP - but we have to go further. It is the fact that all the main parties share the same policies of cuts and privatisation that allows the BNP to pose as something different. We need to offer a real alternative at the ballot box. That's why I have called in my election address for unions to support anti-cuts candidates for councillors and MPs as another weapon in challenging the attacks facing teachers and education.

Tuesday 9 March 2010

Please support Lewisham NUT members taking action

NUT members at Northbrook School took strike action today - see the report on the Classroom Teacher website and send in your messsages of support.

Sunday 7 March 2010

Thanks for visiting my blog

If you have decided to take a look at my blog after receiving a ballot paper for the NUT Executive election, many thanks for taking the time to read further.

There is obviously only so much that I can write in the few hundred words allocated to each candidate in the election address booklet. I hope the various posts on this blog will help explain what I stand for - and explain why I am asking for your support in this election.

I am standing for election because, bluntly, the NUT's present strategy has failed to defend teachers and education. That doesn't mean that the NUT is to blame for the problems we face - that's down to the shared policies of all the main parties who have been responsible for Ofsted, SATs and league tables, privatisation and all the endless initiatives piled upon us (and upon our pupils too). But it does mean that we need a leadership with a strategy that can start to successfully respond to these challenges - and the even greater ones to come after the General Election.

On pay, workload - and now on SATs - our national campaigns have lacked a clear direction. I will argue for clear campaigns, where the Executive goes out and builds support in schools so that we can take the collective action needed to defend teachers and education. For example, as one primary rep who had just heard about the restriction of the SATs ballot to just Heads and Deputies told me yesterday, "We need someone on the Executive who knows what they are doing - I'll be asking all my staff to vote for you".

I have a long record of dedicated support for members and successful campaigning. That has included battles against Section 11 redundancies, Performance Pay, opposing Academies (with my research quoted in the latest Civitas report on "The Secrets of Academies’ Success"), marches and rallies with parents against cuts and closures (like the one above through Lewisham High Street), for London Allowances - and many more.

One of my proudest achievements was the successful defence of Alison Moore, a black teacher attacked by racists in her school grounds. We successfully encouraged Alison to stay in her workplace - where she still is today - and organised a huge rally of local people standing together against racism in their community.

I am also proud of the dedicated support that I have given hundreds of teachers over the years, helping to win numerous cases and to defend members against allegations, capabilities, disciplinaries and so on. That individual work has also helped build Lewisham from the 900 or so members it had when I first became NUT Secretary to around 1800 today. Lewisham NUT is now a strong Association with consistently quorate meetings, a diverse range of members and committee officers, and always one of the best Associations in the country when it comes to turnout in action ballots.

But I also know that there are real limits to what a Local Association can achieve alone. The present Executive strategy of fighting school-by-school on issues like workload just isn't good enough. National issues need national action, bringing all members together so that they are confident to act. That's what I have successfully argued at the last two NUT Annual Conferences - but the Executive has still not implemented that vital policy. My election can strengthen those of us - like the supporters of the 'Classroom Teacher' newsletter (see web link on right) - that want to cut workload through national action. So please VOTE POWELL-DAVIES 1!

SERTUC Public Services Conference success

The desire to build united opposition to public sector cuts was evident in the response to yesterday's meeting called by the SE Region of the TUC at Congress House.

Trade union delegates from across the public sector packed in to hear firstly from the economist Graham Turner. He pointed to the madness of cutting posts in HM Revenue and Customs while tax avoidance and tax evasion continued to bleed the economy of the funds needed for public services.

As I pointed out from the Chair, for some delegates it was still a 'phoney war' waiting for the cuts to come but for others the attacks are already very real. Chris Baugh, PCS Assistant General Secretary, explained why their civil service members will be taking two days of strike action on Monday and Tuesday. Mark Campbell from the UCU Executive outlined the massive cuts that have been announced for post-16 education, in both FE and HE.

But the tone of discussion in both the plenary sessions and the workshops was not that these cuts were inevitable but that, together, we must organise to defend pay, pensions, jobs and services.

The joint demonstration to "defend the welfare state and public services" from Embankment to Trafalgar Square on Saturday April 10th was announced as an important date in the diary to build for.

Those of us on the SERTUC Public Services Committee will also be meeting later in March to discuss the campaigning proposals made on the day, including the suggestion that we hold another conference after the General Election to respond and prepare to the attacks that may soon be announced by an incoming Government.

With International Women's Day on Monday March 8th, the workshop on equalities at the SERTUC Conference was particularly timely. Teresa Mackay from UNITE reported back on a range of issues from bullying and harrassment, inequality in pensions provision, homophobia and the danger posed by the BNP.

Many women workers will be taking part in the civil service strike on March 8th and 9th. Try to visit the PCS picket lines at your local Job Centre and, if you are not working, support the London demonstration on Tuesday. It starts by the Imperial War Museum from 11.30am and finishes with a rally at Westminster Cathedral Hall from 1.00pm.

UPDATE: The latest TUC report, Women and the Recession – One Year On, warns that early public spending cuts would hit female employment hardest because around four in ten women work in public sector occupations, compared to less than two in ten men.

It points out that cuts to public sector pensions would also increase the gender divide in retirement income and lead to greater poverty for female pensioners.

Wednesday 3 March 2010

Let's build national action on workload!

Lewisham NUT's AGM agreed the joint amendment that I have helped to draft for this year's NUT Conference. Let's hope that this time it isn't only passed, but acted upon!

Here are some of the main points:

Conference recognises that reducing teacher workload, vital to improve both teachers’ working conditions and children’s learning conditions, can only succeed if all of the following are achieved:
A. Limiting the duties of the teacher to those that are really necessary for teaching
B. Limiting class sizes
C. Limiting the number of hours of teaching
D. Limiting the overall number of hours of work
E. Ending the inspection and management culture that believes teaching is improved by making ever more demands on teachers in a more and more bullying way
F. Ending the Government’s fake ‘standards agenda’.

The inadequate provisions of the existing Schoolteachers’ Pay and Conditions Document do not provide such binding limits. Even these existing provisions are under threat through the increasing number of employers of teachers. For this reason it is vital that the Union returns to focusing its work on teachers’ workload and conditions of employment and on the development and implementation of the National Contract for teachers as agreed by previous Conferences.

The amendment includes these key campaigning points:
* to publicise and build our workload campaign from the start of the summer term, in preparation for a ballot for national action;
* for this preparation to include the organisation of local and regional meetings for union members to build support for the campaign and to consult on the nature of strike and non-strike action that might be taken following a successful national ballot.
* that, unless a satisfactory agreement has been concluded in line with this motion, for the union to hold a national ballot to sanction a programme of both strike and non-strike action, which would include new National Guidelines enabling members to ‘work to contract’ modelled on the ‘Beating back bureaucracy’ campaign
* to seek support from other trade unions, including through workplace joint-union committees and local trades councils, to join our campaign of national action.

The government has promised £1.2 trillion to bail out the banking system. That is more than ten times the UK's annual spending on health. RBS, which is 84% owned by the taxpayer, is paying out £1.3 billion in bonuses. So why is that education and other council services have to pay the price? Like many Authorities, my own local Lewisham Council announced this week that they may need to make cuts of up to £70 millionover the next 3-5 years, due to what they describe as 'difficult times'. We need to prepare united action to defend our jobs, pay and pensions - and children's education.

Monday 1 March 2010

March - only two more months of unpaid overtime to go!

The TUC have just released figures confirming what teachers, and their families, already know only too well - that we clock up hours of ‘unpaid overtime’ every week.

The report, released to mark “Work Your Proper Hours Day”, describes the 18.7 hours of extra work that an average teacher carries out in the evenings and weekends as ‘extreme’ overtime.

Put a different way, the report points out that, in effect, it as if we worked the first FOUR months of the year for free - before we actually start working the 1265 paid ‘directed hours’.

Teachers can be exploited and overworked in this way because the existing Pay and Conditions Document puts no limit on the additional hours that we have to put in outside the teaching day. That’s why we need a national campaign to win a National Contract that sets a binding limit on overall working hours.

That's why I have helped draft an amendment for NUT Annual Conference (again!) calling on the NUT to hold a national ballot to sanction a programme of both strike and non-strike action to win such a Contract. This should include clear guidelines that allow teachers to refuse to carry out excessive demands.

Let's build united action to stop the cuts

The latest edition of Classroom Teacher includes an article I posted here last month ('The Axemen are Coming!') about the 'savage cuts' we can expect to hit schools in London - and nationally - , whoever wins the General Election. Indeed, as the BBC are reporting tonight, many Councils are already preparing for those cuts.

Since the original post, millions have joined a General Strike in Greece on Feb 24th to protest against cuts. That kind of determined action - backed up by community campaigns - can make Governments think again.

We ned to prepare for that action now. That's why I drafted the amendment below for the Lewisham NUT AGM - where it was agreed and will now go forward to be debated at NUT Annual Conference this Easter:

Reword point 5 to read:

5. The main political parties may be arguing over the exact timescale for cuts to begin, but this should not conceal the reality that, whoever forms the next Government, they will, sooner or just a little later, seek to inflict a savage programme of public spending cuts on a scale not seen for decades. Indeed, in some Local Authorities major cuts have already been announced.

Add new h, i and j. to read:

h. to encourage NUT Associations to approach trades councils and other local trade union branches to host joint public meetings in order to help prepare united campaigns and action to defend public services;

i. to approach the TUC and other national trade unions to propose the calling of a national demonstration to warn the incoming Government of our determination to act to defend jobs, pay, pensions and services.

j. to call on the TUC and other national trade unions to join with us in organising a co-ordinated ballot for a 24 hour public sector national strike as a swift response to any attempt by an incoming Government to impose a programme of public spending cuts.

Hackney hustings debates 'what type of union do we need'

I was pleased to speak at the hustings meeting held tonight by Hackney NUT - one of my nominating Associations - alongside Alex Kenny and Sara Tomlinson, the other two candidates for the two Inner London seats.

I made clear that I am standing in the election to build a Union that can successfully defend teachers against workload, bullying, cutbacks and all the other attacks we face. Unfortunately, our national campaigns - on pay, workload and SATs -have lacked clear direction and strategy.

A lot of teachers wanted to know why a belated decision had been made to only ballot Heads, Deputies and Assistant Heads over boycotting SATs. Most agreed with me that the Union should have prepared for the campaign far earlier - issuing instructions to teachers not to prepare classes for the tests at the beginning of the year - not waiting to issue advice at this late stage. Nevertheless, we have to go out and convince as many NAHT and NUT Heads and Deputies as we can to support the boycott.

A wide range of other questions included equalities, democracy in the Union, fighting Trusts and Academies, fighting the BNP and even taking over the banks!

I was pleased at the support that I received and hope that teachers in Hackney - and across Inner London - will look out for their ballot papers this week and vote 'POWELL-DAVIES 1"