Wednesday 25 July 2012

After the summer - Lobby the TUC for joint action !

If you're a teacher looking at this post over the summer break, first of all make sure you've sent off your ballot paper with a YES YES vote for strike and non-strike action next term!

If you have lost your ballot paper or have not received one, please call the ballot hotline on 020 7380 6300 (Monday-Friday, 9am-5pm) which will stay open until Friday 31 August. Returned ballot papers must be received by Electoral Reform Ballot Services by 2pm on Thursday 6 September.

The NUT Executive meets just before the TUC Congress on September 7th to hear the result and, hopefully, to put plans in place for joint action with the NASUWT. But it's not just the teaching unions that need to be taking action together! 

Since the tremendous united strike back on November 30 2011, some of the big unions meeting in Brighton for Congress have stepped back from the action needed to defend jobs, services and pensions. There will, rightly, be a lot of talk about building the national demonstration in London on October 20, but a demo alone is not enough. We don't just need to march together, we need to strike together!

That's why the  National Shop Stewards Network have called a Lobby of the TUC on Sunday 9 September, with a march to the Congress assembling at 1pm at the Level park, Union Road, Brighton BN2. It will conclude with a rally where speakers will include Bob Crow, RMT general secretary  and Mark Serwotka, PCS general secretary.

For updates and transport information (including train tickets from London) go to . 

Sign the petition calling on the TUC to take action on:

Download a leaflet from

“We are in the fight of our lives. The shocking Beecroft report shows just how much further the bosses and the Tories want to go, with the right to hire and fire at will. We need to mobilise for the TUC demonstration on 20 October to ensure it becomes the springboard for the mass movement that can end the brutal austerity drive.” Bob Crow, RMT general secretary

Thursday 12 July 2012

It's not too late to VOTE YES YES !

The July meeting of the NUT Executive met in the middle of the action ballot which has been issued to NUT members right across England and Wales.

Teachers are exhausted at the end of another long year of incessant workload, stress and pressure. Too many are resigning, some with no job to go to. But, unless teachers take action together, things are only going to get worse - a lot worse.

From September, Gove wants schools to adopt DfE model policies that could fast-track teachers onto formal capability procedures and would leave us open to unlimited classroom observations.

Gove wants harsh procedures, backed up by a harsh Ofsted framework, to be used as evidence to ‘fail’ & bully even more hard-working teachers. New regulations may also force schools to tell future employers about all capability proceedings.

But the NUT is not accepting these changes. With a YES YES vote we will be able to take strike action to oppose Gove’s removal of observation limits, perhaps targeting schools who refuse to adopt policies & protocols acceptable to the NUT.

On top of a pay freeze and increased pension contributions, we face ‘pay-cuts-by-performance’. Gove wants the Review Body to recommend that appraisal judgements are used to block your pay-rise - or even to pull you back down the pay scale!

If that’s not bad enough, Michael ‘if morale’s low, you know you’re doing something right’ Wilshaw, has been lecturing Heads about demanding staff work even longer hours than we work already!

It’s vital that we deliver the strongest message we can to Gove, Wilshaw - and school managers too - that NUT members are saying ‘enough is enough’ - by voting YES - and by taking action!

This is the timetable discussed at the Executive:

1) VOTE and ask all your colleagues to vote too:

Many members will have already voted but there will be others that will have left the ballot paper with other ‘things to do’ once term has ended.

It’s not too late to vote! Ballot papers can still be returned right through the summer holidays. If a ballot paper hasn't arrived at your home address - or you can’t find it - ring the NUT ballot hotline on 020 7380 6300 or email

2) Look out for instructions and the ballot result:

The NUT Executive will meet to be told the ballot result on Friday 7 September and, with a YES YES vote confirmed, notice will then officially be given to employers for the start of our action programme.

The July Executive had a detailed discussion about what the proposed ‘action short of strike action’ will include - plans which are also being discussed with the NASUWT. Plans for strike action over observation limits and national action over pay, pensions and workload were also discussed - and I hope definite dates for action can be set soon.

3) Hold a school meeting in September

Have a meeting date ready so that members can meet to discuss implementing the action, and also to recruit and welcome new members of staff too.

4) Get ready for joint strike action too:

The TUC Congress will be meeting in Brighton in September. The NUT, alongside other unions, will be calling on unions to co-ordinate action against attacks on pay and pensions and to build for a mass turnout at the TUC demo on October 20th.

A Lobby of the TUC is being held on Sunday 9 September at 1pm by the National Shop Stewards Network with Bob Crow and Mark Serwotka speaking. Transport will be being organised from London. (see details on

While still fighting the serious threats to the Teachers’ Pensions Scheme which covers most NUT members, the July NUT Executive also voted to reject the proposed agreement over the Local Government Pensions Scheme – which includes some NUT members – as it fundamentally still means most will ‘work longer, pay more and get less’.

Enjoy your summer break when you get to it - recharge those batteries - vote YES for action - and let's come back ready for joint national action to defend teachers, education and all our public services !

Wednesday 11 July 2012

Tell Wilshaw - teachers should work LESS, not more!

Another week, another attack on teachers and our working conditions from Wilshaw and Gove.

This time, reported in today’s ‘Independent’, Wilshaw is lecturing Headteachers on the importance of making their staff work even longer hours to support students with extra-curricular activities.

Nobody would deny the importance of extra-curricular opportunities for our students, especially in working-class areas where families don’t have the cash to fork out on the activities other families might be able to pay for. Most teachers already ‘go the extra mile’ to do what they can to support their students both in, and out, of lesson times. To suggest otherwise, as Wilshaw implies, is another outrageous slur on the teaching profession. But how much more can they expect from teachers?

The reality is that teachers are already working over 50 hours a week, even according to official figures. The supposed right to a ‘work-life balance’ is already denied most teachers . Most colleagues are already working most evenings and weekends as it is - and for no extra pay, of course.

It’s not just the overall hours, it’s the incessant pressure of school life, with ever-increasing demands and little time for any kind of break during the working-day.

The mental exhaustion being suffered by every teacher – particularly wearing now at the end of a long term – is not good for education and not good for teachers’ health. Teachers should be working LESS, not more!

But while Wilshaw wants us to work even longer, he also wants us to get less for doing so! The Independent points out that Wilshaw was also encouraging Heads to use their ‘freedoms’ to deny teachers an annual pay rise if they’re not fully meeting the excessive demands placed on them. This is, of course, exactly what Gove is calling on the School Teachers' Review Body to recommend as new ‘flexibilities’, perhaps even CUTTING teachers pay by pulling them back down the pay spine if they don't make the grade.

The Independent editorial, without any evidence to back its claim and without an explanation as to how we are meant to find any extra hours in the day, states “teachers must do more”. But it goes on to state that “even the best can only achieve so much”. Perhaps this final note of caution is some recognition that bullying teachers to do even more, when they are already on their knees, may not cow them into submission as Gove assumes. Instead, it may inspire a revolt from the classroom as teachers say ‘enough is enough’ and demand proper resourcing for teachers, schools and students - instead of cuts and attacks.

A big YES vote in the NUT ballot for strike action and non-strike action can give Gove and Wilshaw’s attacks the firm reply they deserve. The NUT – and NASUWT – now need to give teachers the confidence to take action together to stand up for teachers – and demand LESS workload, not more, for the good of education and our students.

Tuesday 10 July 2012

Twigg backs Gove on Military Schools

(Post updated on 14/7 on David Lammy's support for the scheme - see below)

Just when you thought New Labour couldn’t get even worse, Shadow Education Secretary Stephen Twigg - sounding just like the hated Michael Gove - announces that he wants to set up military ‘Service Schools’ in every region of the country!

It’s an idea based on so many dangerous right-wing assumptions, it’s hard to believe it can be seriously proposed by a Party that still has the gall to pretend it might be ‘left-of-centre’.

First of all, it’s based on the false idea that the problem schools face is ‘lack of discipline’ rather than the fact that overstretched staff are not given the time and the resources to meet the growing needs of young people.

Secondly, it’s based on the teacher-bashing agenda that the other problem facing schools is ‘poor teaching’ and that a group of ex-service personnel could do the job better. The reality is that experienced teachers have a whole range of essential skills which some ex-service personnel may have – but many will certainly not. After all, are personnel who have been trained to prepare for war really going to be best prepared to support and educate young people?

Thirdly, it’s based on the equally false idea that the main problem facing young people is ‘lack of discipline’ rather than a lack of jobs and hope of a decent future. No amount of ‘military ethos’ ( and what kind of ethos is that exactly?) will solve the problem that successive big business Governments – Tory and Labour – have wrecked the hopes of many young people hoping for a worthwhile career or to be able to afford higher education. What our communities need is investment in real job opportunities, not ‘service schools’ and ‘character formation’ through cadet training!

But, of course, the military backers to this proposal have one job prospect in mind, that's boosting the military reserves – and providing jobs for those losing theirs through cut to jobs in the armed services. Twigg points to a report by the right-wing “think tank” ResPublica “Military Academies: Tackling disadvantage, improving ethos and changing outcomes” as backing for his proposal. But that report is crystal clear in its argument that ‘Our Reserve Forces are in decline and urgent actions are needed to reverse this trend’. To address this decline, it suggests that teachers might be given jobs if they agreed to join the Reserve Forces – i.e. sign up, or no job ...

The report goes on to claim that “A military background can be a huge asset when it comes to the delivery of pastoral care to troubled youths” particularly because recruiting predominantly male soldiers "could ‘unsettle’ the current status quo where teaching is increasingly delivered by white females”. Shall we wait for the headline, “Too many women teachers make our children riot” ?!

Twigg’s dangerous proposal is just further proof that New Labour are no alternative to the hated Con-Dems. As well as organising industrial action to defend education and our public services from cuts, it’s high time trade unions used their resources, not to back Labour, but to back a real political challenge to all these parties of big business.

UPDATE: 14/7/12 - it seems that there is a serious drive by some forces in New Labour to back this idea of 'military schools' - with David Lammy now adding his support in an article in the New Statesman.

Lammy takes to task those on the 'liberal-left' that have opposed the idea as if they are saying that all squaddies are 'brain-washed killers'. It's true that, in correctly opposing this scheme, opponents must guard against exaggerated and unfair attacks on military personnel. However, there's no avoiding the fact that the 'teamwork' for 'a common goal',  that Lammy hopes military schools can foster,  is ingrained in the forces for the primary goal of killing an enemy - and with a 'discipline' reliant on personnel obeying orders at all costs - an attitude which I certainly would not want to be part of school education.

Lammy's also extols extending the virtues of public-school education to state schooling through the 'military school' scheme. But the army remains as class-ridden an institution as any in Britain, with many officers recruited from public-schools while many of the 'poor bloody infantry' come from unemployment black spots where the army offers one of the few job opportunities on offer. Many return from conflict zones physically and mentally scarred, but, as a recent letter in the Guardian points out, harassed by the 'work capability tests' introduced by a Government that wants to ignore the mental health difficulties that face many ex-soldiers.

Hypocritically, Lammy tries to justify the scheme as introducing "adventure training, flying, sailing, white water rafting" etc to schoolchildren through the Cadets. But why should these activities only be available through military organisations? Why aren't youth services being funded to offer these activities to working-class kids? Of course, the real facts are that youth services are being cut by Central Government and by Labour Councils - including in Lammy's own constituency

Yes, Mr Lammy, there's plenty of reasons to to shout 'betrayal' at New Labour - unfortunately, the 'service schools' idea is just one of many.

Friday 6 July 2012

Taking Pride - TUC LGBT Conference 2012

For the last two days, over 200 delegates to the TUC LGBT Conference have been meeting at Congress House in London under the banner of “against austerity, for solidarity”.

As a straight member of the National Executive, I was made to feel very welcome by the excellent NUT delegation. Throughout the conference, I was impressed by the determination expressed by the many trade unionists present and enjoyed the opportunity to hear colleagues discussing some of the key issues facing LGBT workers.

Of course, many of those issues are common to all workers – the attacks on pay, pensions, jobs and services. However, LGBT people often find themselves at the forefront of those attacks, with services LGBT people rely upon often first in line for cuts, too often vulnerable to workplace bullying, and specifically hit by the Government’s supposed ‘Red Tape Challenge’ which will cut Equality legislation.

The NUT’s motion condemning Government privatisation and cuts ‘on services, education and provision for LGBT young people’ was passed unanimously. I was asked to second a motion tabled by the NASUWT – also unanimously supported – applauding “action by affiliates” campaigning on pay, pensions, working conditions and job security. It was encouraging to be applauded when I said that, not only were the NUT looking forward to taking joint action with the NASUWT, but we hoped that many other TUC affiliates would also join us in further joint strike action too.

Conference debates covered a range of issues, such as the international persecution facing LGBT people, homophobic bullying in schools, civil marriages and partnerships and tackling workplace prejudice.

As with many TUC conferences, there were few motions where clear differences were expressed. However, the NUT did speak and vote against a UNISON amendment which, while rightly criticising the prejudice that can particularly exist in some faith schools, wrongly said that tackling bullying in schools was “unachievable”. There was also a close vote on a motion from TSSA which called for the UK to use its ‘unique influence in Commonwealth countries to achieve progress in LGBT rights’. In this case, I agreed with a UNISON speaker who pointed out that we cannot ignore the fact that some of the repression stems from homophobic legislation originally imposed by British imperialism itself.

A motion from UNITE suggesting that the TUC should support Cameron’s threats to withdraw aid from countries who do not “adhere to proper human rights” was remitted. However, an alternative motion from the PCS was agreed, correctly pointing out in my views the dangers of such an approach as, “this creates alienation of LGBT people everywhere and diverts attention from our economic crisis caused by the government’s discriminatory austerity measures and bankers’ greed”.

Emergency motions were agreed calling for a massive turnout on 20 October, to oppose the Government attacks on the Equality Act and Equality and Human Rights Commission and, as the first business of Conference, to oppose the “drastic curtailment of events planned for 2012 World Pride” in London this Saturday and for an urgent discussion of “how to avoid such a fiasco in future years”. 

Some speakers shared the viewpoint expressed in the centre-page article in this week’s copy of ‘the Socialist’ that we need to “keep big business out of Pride events”. It was announced that the TUC will be hosting a discussion at 7pm at Congress House on Monday July 16 to discuss the lessons of this year's curtailed Pride and to plan ahead for the future.

World Pride, even without all its floats and events, will still be a great opportunity to celebrate and protest this weekend. The trade union ‘walking group’ will be gathering at 10.15 am on Baker Street between Fitzharding Street and George Street. The procession will finish with a rally in Trafalgar Square, where the NUT will also have a stall (... and that's where I'll be!), in front of the National Gallery. 

The NUT at Pride 2012