Saturday 27 October 2012

Socialism 2012 - join the debate and discussion

This is the place to be next weekend - come and hear a South African miners' leader, Bob Crow, one of the anti-cuts Southampton councillors, Peter Taaffe - and more !

Saturday's rally is just part of a whole weekend of debates and discuusions:

I'll certainly be going to Satruday's discussion on:
Where next for the fight against austerity? Can we bring the government down?

and Sunday afternoon's debate between Owen Jones and Clive Heemskerk on:
"Is the Labour Party a vehicle for socialism" ?

Find out more on

Sunday 21 October 2012

Schools escalating to strike action - send your support

ACTION SHORT OF STRIKE ACTION is already achieving successes and boosting members' confidence. Victories are being won at school level and some of the worst workload practices knocked back.

But if action short of strike action doesn’t persuade schools to think again, then the NUT has made clear that school strike requests are likely to be supported - and that strikes will be financially sustained by the union as well.

The action is part of our national dispute with Gove, so school groups don’t have to be formally balloted again. National unions just have to give a minimum of seven days notice of the start of strike action. A victory over the withdrawal of a threatened 'mock inspection' was won in a Tower Hamlets school after notice was given - without needing to strike.

As explained in an earlier post on this blog,, NUT and NASUWT members at Deptford Green School in Lewisham have voted overwhelmingly to take strike action if their Head refuses to withdraw plans that could mean eight or more classroom observations a year.

Staff in an Academy in Buckinghamshire and at Stratford Academy in Newham have also voted for strike action in response to threats to dock their pay if they stick to the union action guidelines.

Incredibly, at Stratford, staff were told that they had to inform management individually that they were not going to participate in action short of strike action - any staff who did not do so were told they would be deducted 15% of their pay!

To this serious threat, the NUT has given a serious response and served notice that members will strike for one day next week, (Thursday 25th October), two days in the week after half term (Tuesday 6th and Wednesday 7th November) and three days the week after tha
t. The action will go ahead if the management does not withdraw its threats to deduct pay.
It's a big step for teachers in all these schools to have to take - but it is the right one. The only way we can stand up to such bullying is by threatening to escalate our action to strike action. 

But members in these schools need to know that, if they strike, they have the support of NUT members around the country. So keep sending in your messages of support to the NUT reps at:

Academy in Bucks: Chris Butcher

Stratford Academy:
Steve Charles

Deptford Green: Karen Wheeler

Saturday 20 October 2012

October 20 - union leaders call for united strike action

Over 150,000 people marched through London today in a huge demonstration against cuts and austerity. While the numbers were not on the massive scale of eighteen months ago, this was an important show of strength from which to rebuild united national strike action.

But many on the march didn't just want to have a parade, they wanted to know where the movement was going after today.
Leaflets from the National Shop Stewards Network calling for a 24-hour General Strike against austerity were eagerly taken from me by trade unionists from right across the many different unions on the march.

Significantly, at the closing rally in Hyde Park, it was not only RMT General Secretary Bob Crow and PCS General Secretary Mark Serwotka that made speeches calling for united strike action, Len McCluskey, UNITE General Secretary, also backed calls for building a general strike. In contrast, New Labour leader Ed Milliband was booed by large sections of the crowd angry at his Party's lack of any clear commitment to opposing cuts and austerity.

The speeches by Bob Crow and Mark Serwotka, along with other footage of the march, can be heard on this youtube video:

There was a keen interest in socialist ideas as well - I sold over twenty copies of a special demonstration edition of 'the Socialist' paper, also calling for a 24-hour General Strike - and, amongst other things, carrying an appeal for solidarity from South Africam mineworkers. See the issue online on

October 20 - marching together today - then let's strike together !

This Saturday, October 20, another monster demonstration will be marching through the centre of London, called by the Trades Union Congress. There are so many reasons that teachers will be there …. 

… perhaps:

  • Because 68 is too late to retire
  • Because teachers shouldn’t be treated this way by the Government
  • Because Gove wants schools to be able to cut our pay if we don’t meet targets
  • Because our school students deserve a decent future
  • Because the 99% shouldn’t be suffering to boost the wealth of the 1%
But there was also another very good reason to march – and that was to make sure we get the message across to every trade unionist that,



On November 30 2011, trade unions came together for one of the biggest and most powerful shows of united strength that Britain has ever seen – with NUT members to the fore on all the many rallies right around the country.

Since then, trade unions have failed to take national action – and Cameron, Osbourne, Clegg and Gove have not been able to believe their luck!

We need a monster march today to show the Government that we haven’t gone away – and to show that our movement is ready to strike together again ! 

Reports are already coming in from trade unionists travelling down to London.

here's a picture of three who WALKED to London from Wales - arriving for a weary celebration at the Bread and Roses pub in Wandsworth last night:

Look out for more reports on the day on

I'll add more pics and updates of my own later!

Tuesday 16 October 2012

Teachers vote to escalate to strike action over excessive observations

For over a year, there has been an ongoing concern over excessive observations at a Lewisham secondary school. Even worse, those observation outcomes are then linked to a system where teachers are placed in groups according to Ofsted categories. These can, and have been, then linked to harsh capability procedures.

Following the announcement of our action short of strike action, the school NUT rep sought discussions with the Headteacher, seeking changes to procedures to meet the NUT/NASUWT check-lists.

Unfortunately, the Headteacher has said that the profiling system will continue with staff being allocated into the categories of Satisfactory; Satisfactory to Good; Good; and Good to Outstanding (now downgraded from 'outstanding' which is no longer listed as a category !)

Staff would be observed too often, without adequate notice, nor with agreement over the lesson to be seen – only being given a ‘window’ of 6 periods:

• Each observation period will include 2 lesson observations over a 6 period 'window'
• Each teacher receives 48 hours notice of their 6 period window
• A teacher deemed “Satisfactory to Good” would receive 4 observation periods over the next four half-terms – i.e eight observations. ‘Satisfactory’ and ‘inadequate’ teachers may receive even more.

A joint NUT/NASUWT meeting this evening agreed that these arrangements were unacceptable as they

• were in clear breach of the NUT/NASUWT Joint Classroom Observation Protocol
• focus on Ofsted categories rather than performance management objectives
• fail to provide genuine professional development and support to teachers

Following discussion, the meeting of 39 NUT members and 10 NASUWT members voted in support of proceeding to escalate to strike action. A secret paper ballot was issued to NUT members asking if they would support strike action if called upon by the National Union. The votes were 38 YES, 1 abstention, 0 NO. NASUWT members met as a sub-group and agreed to support the NUT’s decision.

The meeting agreed with a proposal that we urgently seek a meeting with the Head and Chair of Governors to seek urgent negotiation over an acceptable appraisal and observation procedure but that, if there was a refusal to meet before the half-term break, we would ask that the NUT and NASUWT issue a notice for strike action.

Look out for further updates on this story

Sunday 14 October 2012

March to defend education on October 20

Stop the onward march of academies and free schools
It’s rumoured that Michael Gove has ‘war charts’ on the walls of his office plotting the onward march of academy schools.  

If true, then Gove must already feel able to label some parts of the country as ‘conquered territory’. Around half of state-funded secondary schools have now broken from their elected Local Authorities to become privatised Academies.  

In areas like Bromley, Bexley, Swindon and Darlington, virtually all secondary schools are now academies. While far fewer primary schools have academised, their future will also be in doubt once a Local Authority decides it can’t afford to run education if it has lost most of its secondaries. 

Some schools have chosen to become academies, bribed by dubious promises of better funding and the chance to use their semi-independent status to boost their position in the local pecking order of schools. Others have been forced out for failing to meet the harsh exam targets imposed by Gove. Yet there is no evidence that academies perform any better than community schools. Is that any surprise? Since when did privatisation improve public services?

Where some Academies have improved results, they have done so by using their control over admissions and exclusions to ‘improve’ their intake. Who will be left to look after the pupils with the greatest needs in Gove’s free-for-all education marketplace?

Of course, like in the NHS, privatisation helps those who help themselves. Academies are being mopped up by growing ‘chains’ of education businesses like ARK, Harris and AET. They can’t legally make a profit out of school budgets (yet!), but there are already plenty of lucrative contracts and management salaries to be secured. 

While many academy chains have adopted national pay and conditions, some already impose longer working hours. But if Gove succeeds with his plans to atomise national conditions, many Academies will then feel free to do as they please.

Gove also wants to set up thousands of privatised ‘free schools’ too. The Tories’ vision is a future without elected councils running services like schools and housing. Unfortunately, too many Labour councils seem to be following the same path.

It’s going to be up to the trade union movement and local communities to defend education from cuts and privatisation. That will certainly need determined strike action but requires a political battle too - to elect local councillors that are prepared to fight for public services.

Friday 12 October 2012

Teachers’ Standards – avoiding the next trap set for teachers

The NUT has just circulated some important advice for teachers on the ‘Teachers’ Standards’ that came into force in England last month. If all schools get away with implementing this new legislation in the same way that some have been trying in recent weeks, this could become another serious blow to teachers’ pay and job security. However, with the back-up of the ongoing NUT/NASUWT action, teachers need to make sure they resist any such abuse of the new regulations.

The eight standards, ranging from “make accurate and productive use of assessment" to “set high expectations which inspire, motivate and challenge pupils”, are really just a summary of the things that teachers already do every working week as part of their job. Indeed, the task group that came up with the standards described them as reflecting the “timeless” values of teaching.

There is, however, also an additional “Personal and Professional Conduct Standard” which includes points like “not undermining fundamental British values” – which values are these exactly?

There is a real danger that the standards – and the additional separate bullet-points that go with each of them - become used as a detailed checklist against which teachers will be assessed. The standards would then become a huge list of targets which, in the wrong hands, could easily give managers the excuse to brand teachers as failures. That could then be used to threaten ‘capability’ procedures and/or to block pay rises (or even, as Gove is threatening in future, to knock teachers down the pay scale).

Some private companies have already tried to corner the market in advice on the new Standards, picking up on the fear of many Heads that they will be failed by Ofsted if they are not seen to comply with every new Government change. Some are producing detailed matrices so that Heads can produce a tick-list for every one of the bullet points. Yet even the DfE’s own advice confirms that “there is no requirement to record detailed assessments against each of the Teachers’ Standards and bullets”. The NAHT has also issued advice making clear that they oppose this check-list approach.

Some schools are going even further and producing advice explaining how teachers at higher points in the payscale must justify their higher salaries by showing higher levels of ‘performance’. But the advice issued shows the farcical results of such an approach. The NUT’s advice gives an example from one employer that suggests that, to show a teacher is ‘establishing a safe, stimulating environment for pupils rooted in mutual respect’, for an M4 teacher relationships are expected to be ‘consistently calm, warm and respectful’ whereas for M6 they are ‘always calm, warm, respectful and mutually joyous’!

Again, even the DfE advice contradicts this approach saying that “the Government agrees that it is not necessary or helpful for schools to adopt rigid models that seek to set out exactly what the Teachers’ standards mean for teachers at different points on the pay scale”. However, while that advice is useful to know, the reality is that the whole Government agenda is to encourage schools to find fault with teachers and to threaten their pay. With budgets becoming ever tighter, some governors will conclude that blocking teachers’ pay rises, or even cutting pay, is the best solution.

The only reliable response to these threats is for unions to be ready to take collective action. Already, as part of the ‘action short of strike action’ instructions, the joint NUT/NASUWT checklist makes clear that we will take action in schools where an unacceptable approach to the Teachers' Standards is used.

But we need to go further as well. Gove would like to get away with allowing schools to cut teachers’ pay where they have deemed them to have failed to meet appraisal targets and/or these new ‘Standards’. Those threats are too serious to leave to local action alone. They must be met with national strike action.

The NUT guidance on Teachers' Standards can be found on:

Sunday 7 October 2012

Greece, South Africa - workers build general strike action

The two posts below from the Committee for a Workers International (CWI) website explain how workers are valiantly replying to the vicious attacks on their livelihoods by organising general strike action - despite the opposition of some of their supposed 'union leaders'. 

GreeceTrade unions pushed to escalate the struggle
Under pressure from below, a number of unions have started to adopt a program for occupations and escalation of repeated 48 hour general strikes.

German chancellor Angela Merkel is expected in Greece on Tuesday, 9 October. She will be greeted by an increasing bitterness and anger against the ongoing destruction of the Greek economy and living conditions of working people. An escalation of the struggle against the latest Troika-imposed austerity is developing from below.

South Africa  - "All out on united strike!"

The "Joint Strike Coordinating Committee" of all mines on strike in Rustenburg calls for a march next Saturday to confront the government. It argues for a general strike for a national living wage of R12,500 (US-$ 1400).
Socialists in the CWI are playing an important role in both countries. See in particular this report from South Africa's "Daily Maverick" website:

Friday 5 October 2012

Report from the October NUT Executive meeting

Even while the National Executive was meeting, reports were coming in of new victories being won over workload, appraisal and observations.  These gains were being achieved by NUT members making clear to Heads that they will be sticking together and implementing the joint action guidelines.

One Lewisham reps texted me to say that a planned ‘learning walk’ had been cancelled after the NUT group had objected as it would exceed our limits on annual observations. Another reported that they had secured a calendar of one meeting a week - and that included TLR holders.

Similar success stories were reported from right around the country - more are reported on


It was also made clear that the NUT is ready to support requests from school groups to escalate to strike action - with strike pay - where Heads are refusing to reach agreement with NUT members over key issues like observations. 

NUT Division Secretaries should contact their NUT Regional Office and/or NUT Executive members to start the fast-track process to consider requests for strike action. If there is clear support for action, the NUT can quickly issue a notice sanctioning strike action - and without the need for an additional strike ballot. For example, action may soon be called in a Tower Hamlets school in a dispute over a threatened 'mocksted' inspection.

We also ratified the NUT's model contract setting out the 35 hour working week that we are fighting for, in place of our existing open-ended contracts. This would limit overall weekly working-hours to:
  • a maximum 20 hours of pupil contact time
  • at least 5 hours of non-contact time for planning, preparation and assessment
  • no more than 5 hours for non-contact duties such as breaktimes and meetings
  • 5 further hours of PPA time outside 'directed time'

October’s meeting of the National Executive unanimously voted to build on the policy agreed at the TUC’s national Congress to support co-ordinated national strike action to defend pay, pensions and jobs.

Christine Blower will now be writing to other unions to “explore the  practicalities of a co-ordinated  programme of strike action”.

The motion also called on NUT negotiators to firm up and clarify with the NASUWT how we can build from ‘action short of strike action’ to set dates for a programme of  national strike action.
Such a programme of strike action will be vital given the further attacks that could soon be coming - on top of those we already face.

The Public Service Pensions Bill will receive its second reading on 22 October. It will legally force pension ages in the teachers’ scheme to be the same as the state pension age - which will be rising to 68 or more.

The Government will also soon be announcing the pay cuts we can expect to get next April when our pension contributions are put up again - and then again in 2014.

Later this term, we also expect to hear what the School Teachers Review Body has to say about our pay arrangements. As the Executive motion noted, this could include “serious reductions in the ability to move up the pay spine and even the possibility of headteachers reducing the pay of teachers”.

The full wording of the motion is in a previous post but the action points at the end of the motion - which I helped to draft - were as follows:

“ 1. The NUT negotiating team should urgently meet with the NASUWT to explain that the NUT believes that it is now time to discuss the circumstances in which joint strike action will be called and to consider when we set dates to commence a programme of  national strike action;
2. The General Secretary writes to other TUC affiliates, particularly those in the TUCG, to explore the practicalities of a co-ordinated programme of strike action on   pay, pensions and jobs.
3. The General Secretary and negotiating team will report on progress to the November meeting of the NUT National Executive”.


NUT members shouldn’t leave these cross-union discussions just to take place amongst the union tops. Talk to NASUWT colleagues in your school - and members of other teaching and support staff unions as well. 


Millions have been marching aginst austerity right across Europe. Now we need to turnout in our hundreds of thousands here in Britain too!

Bring your family and friends to the TUC march in London on Saturday October 20 - and ask everyone you meet on the demo to call for joint co-ordinated strike action too!

Thursday 4 October 2012

NUT Executive seeks to build co-ordinated action

At this afternoon’s meeting of the NUT National Executive, a motion was unanimously agreed that started to build on the motions passed at TUC Congress supporting co-ordinated national strike action.

The NUT agreed to write to other TUC affiliates to explore the practicalities of building joint action on pay, pensions and jobs.

The motion also called on NUT negotiators to firm up and clarify with the NASUWT how we can build from the action short of strike action that both the NUT and NASUWT are engaged in at present, and start to set dates for a programme of national strike action. This will be vital given the serious further attacks that could soon be coming – on top of the attacks we already face – from the Public Service Pensions Bill and from the attacks on pay likely to be included in the report to soon be issued by the School Teachers’ Review Body. 

No specific proposed dates for action were agreed, but progress on these discussions will be reported to the next meeting of the NUT Executive in early November.

The full text of the motion is as follows:

The executive welcomes the positive news about the implementation of action short strike action and the positive engagement from many school reps. We believe that this shows the benefits of the two largest teachers unions working together.

We call on the Secretary of State to meet and resolve the disputes with both unions. Failing that the executive agrees to do all in its power to advance the action and looks forward to the joint meetings in the regions with NASUWT executive members.

The Executive notes that the threat represented by the pensions bill which will receive its second reading on 22 October and continues to believe that teachers should not have to work to 68 or pay increased contributions for a pension scheme that has still not had the valuation done.

We further note the serious threats to teacher pay arrangements, which may for example result in serious reductions in the ability to move up the pay spine and even the possibility of headteachers reducing the pay of teachers, represented by the secretary of state’s remit and evidence to the STRB.

The Executive expresses its willingness to work seriously with the NASUWT to build the confidence of the members of both unions for further phases of our campaign including an escalation to a programme of strike action in order to defend teachers against these threats and recognises that this escalation will be needed if we are to prevent these attacks on teachers.

Given these serious and imminent threats to pensions and pay, and noting:
• the success of the non-strike action in boosting confidence and union activity
• the strong support achieved in the latest NUT ballots for both non-strike and strike action
• the decision of the TUC to support coordinated strike action against cuts in pensions, pay and jobs,
the NUT Executive resolves that:

1. The NUT negotiating team should urgently meet with the NASUWT to explain that the NUT believes that it is now time to discuss the circumstances in which joint strike action will be called and to consider when we set dates to commence a programme of national strike action;

2. The GS writes to other TUC affiliates, particularly those in the TUCG, to explore the practicalities of a co-ordinated programme of strike action on pay, pensions and jobs.

3. The GS and negotiating team will report on progress to the November Executive.