Saturday 8 September 2012


THIS GOVERNMENT is going all-out to hound and demoralise teachers and to attack our pay, conditions, jobs and pensions. 

Not content with trying to increase our pension ages to 68 or more, they want schools to adopt policies that would fast-track teachers onto formal capability procedures and allow unlimited lesson observations.

On top of a pay freeze, we also face 'pay-cuts-by-performance'. Gove wants appraisal judgements and new ‘Teachers’ Standards’ to be used to block pay-rises - or even to kick teachers down the pay scale! 

As the scandal over GCSE grading has shown, the standards that teachers and schools are judged against are also open to political manipulation too. We face a Government intent on blocking opportunities for our students, trashing teachers, cutting our pay and pensions, attacking union facilities and widening school privatisation.

But, after the NUT ballot, the key message to tell our colleagues is: "it doesn't have to be this way!". The ballot result gives teachers the chance to stand up for ourselves and for education. We must make sure we seize that chance.

The NUT and NASUWT, making up 85% of teachers in England and Wales, will be releasing common advice to members about ‘action short of strike action’. The NUT will be issuing notice to employers so its members can legally begin this action from September 26 onwards. For details of the action advice follow this link to the NUT national website:

Members of both unions will be issued with jointly agreed instructions covering a range of actions intended to enforce union objectives, such as:
  • APPRAISAL and PERFORMANCE MANAGEMENT policies must be in line with the latest NUT/NASUWT checklist - e.g fixing a maximum of three objectives 
  • OBSERVATION PROTOCOLS must be in line with the NUT/NASUWT checklist - e.g all observers to have QTS and no more than three observations a year
  • NEW INITIATIVES and POLICIES must be workload impact assessed and agreed to by union reps
  • LESSON PLANS should not be submitted to the senior management team - planning should be to help teachers teach, not for managers to monitor us!
  • COVER: teachers should not be covering for absence
Collective ‘non-strike’ action to enforce these objectives could let teachers take back control of their workload at last. But experienced union reps will know that these kinds of actions take determined effort. Above all, to succeed, they need colleagues to stick together. 

That’s why it’s vital that NUT and NASUWT members meet together in schools to discuss union advice and to plan ahead for the action in their school, encouraging every member to take part. Regular local reps’ meetings, comparing experiences across schools, will also be vital.

The immediate battles may well be around appraisal and observation policies. Where schools are imposing unacceptable policies, strike action is the best response. 

NUT school reps have already been told that: "The NUT is currently in dispute with the Secretary of State and, in Wales, the Minister for Education. In part this dispute is about the failure to negotiate a satisfactory system of appraisal and observation with sufficient protections … members will be supported in refusing to cooperate with all aspects of a schools appraisal policy if it does not meet the terms of the joint NUT/NASUWT checklist and observation protocol. Where schools continue to refuse to adopt [those] provisions … the NUT and NASUWT will issue, in accordance with required legislative procedures, a notice to the employer, to take further action".

Where Local Authorities are ignoring union protocols, we need to be urgently discussing about escalating action to coordinated strike action in line with NUT advice.

But, alongside this localised action, we also need to call national strike action. That’s what really hits the headlines and puts the Government under pressure. It also most easily unites members from across different schools and regions - from the best-organised through to those that perhaps are not yet confident to act. The NUT has been talking to the NASUWT about national strikes but nothing yet has been agreed. Members of both unions need to demand dates are set for this term. Discussions about co-ordinating national action should also be held with unions like the PCS - and others like the firefighters and prison officers who have recently voted to reject the Government’s pensions proposals. 

Trade unionists must mass together from across the country on 20 October at the TUC march in London. The NUT have asked that ‘68 is too late’ is a key slogan on the day. But classroom teachers must make sure this isn’t just a day to ‘let off steam’. It has to be a springboard to rebuilding united national strike action.

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