Monday 29 April 2013

Thank you Gove - Teachers Prepare for Action

Thank you Michael Gove! In response to your attacks, thirty-three teachers packed into Lewisham NUT's General Meeting tonight.

The meeting was largely made up from young, primary, women members, (with some of the secondary regulars stuck meeting coursework deadlines). Twelve teachers were at their first Lewisham NUT General Meeting, including two new primary school reps.

There were lots of good suggestions made - including very practical ones such as monthly meet-ups to get new reps together for after-school discussions and 'meet-and-greets' after school to help pull teachers together from schools where the Union isn't (yet!) as strong.

After a report from Annual Conference delegates and an update on Gove's latest pronouncements, the following motion was pulled together from the ideas from the meeting - and agreed unanimously:

Lewisham NUT agrees to:
a) Confirm our twinning with Liverpool NUT/schools and support for a London march and rally on June 27th
b) Encourage every school group to hold a school meeting, inviting NASUWT colleagues as well, to discuss the attacks on pay, conditions and education - and to prepare for strike action to oppose them. As part of that preparation, to collect for hardship funds and to encourage members to 'save to go on strike'
d) Build for a turnout from every school at the NUT Reps Briefing on Monday May 20th at Lewisham Town Hall
e) Campaign for every school to adopt a pay policy in line with the NASUWT/NUT check-list but, where schools fail to agree such a policy, to build co-ordinated strike action across those Lewisham schools, and wider across London.
f) Contact every Lewisham councillor seeking their support for the Union's campaign for education and for the Council to recommend a pay policy in line with the NASUWT/NUT check-list
g) Prepare publicity materials for parents explaining our campaign e.g. as being against cuts and privatisation, against lower morale and longer working hours, against 'teaching-to-the-test', for properly-funded education and sufficient school places. We should seek to co-ordinate a day when leaflets are distributed across the borough, and wider across London.
h) Call on the NUT and NASUWT to confirm, before the end of May, the calendar of regional and national action to follow June 27th and, in response to Gove's latest attacks, to consider bringing the regional action forward to July.
i) Ask the NUT Executive to call on other TUC unions to take co-ordinated strike action on the same day as our national action next term
j) To discuss with other NUT Associations about whether, if it should prove necessary, we should call for a Special Conference to review our campaign to defend pay, conditions and education.

Saturday 27 April 2013

NUT / NASUWT Pay Policy checklist released

The NUT and NASUWT have released a joint checklist for pay policies ready for the negotiations that should be taking place in schools, Local Authorities and Academy Chains across the country this term, now that Michael Gove has imposed the new School Teachers' Pay and Conditions Document.

As a new National NUT Reps Bulletin makes clear, "winning an acceptable pay policy in each school is important, but it is only a temporary expedient in our campaign to force Michael Gove to withdraw his proposals" 

An escalating programme of regional and national strike action is still the key. Nevertheless, it is important that NUT groups and Associations, alongside NASUWT colleagues, seek to "secure an acceptable pay policy in your school which protects members against the worst effects of the Government’s changes to the teachers’ pay structure".

The checklist - and the policy that will soon be released as well - "seek to maintain existing arrangements for pay scales and pay portability and establish fair standards for pay progression which are consistent between schools".

The Reps Bulletin makes clear that if schools persist in trying to impose a pay policy which doesn’t comply with the checklist, "members will be supported to take strike action with strike pay – where they are willing to do so – to win an acceptable policy".

Here are some of the key points in the checklist:

  • School pay policies which accord with the provisions in this checklist will help to recruit, retain and motivate teachers, provide the basis for sound financial and personnel planning and minimise the risk of grievance and discrimination.
  • The checklist sets out the minimum requirements for an effective pay policy and is entirely consistent with the revised statutory provisions for teachers' pay due to take effect from 1 September 2013.
  • The publication of the NUT and NASUWT joint checklist does not represent an acceptance of changes to the teachers' pay system introduced or proposed by the Department for Education.  
  • The school is committed to the principle of pay portability and will apply this principle in practice when making new appointments.
  • Teachers will be awarded pay progression on the Main Pay Range following a successful performance management / appraisal review. 
  • Teachers who apply to move to the Upper Pay Range from point six of the Main Pay Range will be awarded progression to that Range having regard to the two most recent performance management / appraisal reviews. 
  • Teachers will be awarded pay progression on the Upper Pay Range following two successful performance management / appraisal reviews. 
  • (In all the cases above) Reviews will be deemed to be successful unless significant concerns about standards of performance have been raised in writing with the teacher during the annual performance management / appraisal cycle and have not been sufficiently addressed through support provided by the school by the conclusion of that process.

  • Teachers on the Main Pay Range will be paid on the 6 point scale on the Main Pay Range - and teachers on the Upper Pay Range will be paid on the 3 point scale - attached:
  • The salary values contained in the above scales reflect the 2012 STPCD pay scales. A pay award is pending. The school is committed to award a minimum one per cent pay uplift to all existing pay points and allowances for all teachers from September 2013 and to a greater award if that is the outcome of the School Teachers' Review Body (STRB) pay review process.

There are other important points contained in the full version of the joint checklist. This can be downloaded from:

Regrettably, a glance through an alternative model pay policy, issued by the NAHT, makes clear what a serious battle we are engaged in if we are to protect teachers and education.
Shamefully, given the serious damage that will be inflicted on teacher morale and staff cohesiveness by Gove's performance-pay plans, the NAHT appear to be advising their Headteacher members to recommend to Governors that they accept some of the worst aspects of the new 'flexibilities'

For example:

The NAHT model pay policy does NOT ensure 'pay portability' but will let governors decide what they will pay:
Pay on appointment: "The governing body will determine the starting salary of a vacant classroom teacher post on the main pay range or upper pay range, such as the governing body determines"

The NAHT model pay policy makes clear that even main pay range progression will require teaching to be judged as 'good' by Ofsted. This will leave teachers wide open to victimisation and harsh judgements through subjective observation records, with little or no account being taken of the particular challenges that their classes might present:
"To move up the main pay range, one annual point at a time, teachers will need to have made good progress towards their objectives and have shown that they are competent in all elements of the Teachers’ Standards. Teaching should be ‘good’, as defined by Ofsted.

If this is the 'standard' the NAHT says that teachers will have to meet to be awarded annual pay progression on the Main Pay Range - which has, rightly up to now, been almost automatic for main scale teachers - imagine what standards will be set by some Headteachers for 'crossing the threshold' and for Upper Pay Range progression!
The NAHT policy states that: "Appraisal objectives will become more challenging as the teacher progresses up the main pay range".

Just like the DfE model policy, the NAHT model policy also ratchets up the requirements on staff seeking to progress to the UPS. The NAHT policy now makes progression to UPS1 dependent on requirements more like some schools previously set for UPS3, particularly in terms of the need to show 'wider impact' across the school. The teacher will be required to show that they are "highly competent in all elements of the relevant standards; and that the teacher’s achievements and contribution to the school are substantial and sustained". In this school, this means: 
“highly competent”: the teacher’s performance is assessed as having excellent depth and breadth of knowledge, skill and understanding of the Teachers’ Standards in the particular role they are fulfilling and the context in which they are working.
“substantial”: the teacher’s achievements and contribution to the school are significant, not just in raising standards of teaching and learning in their own classroom, or with their own groups of children, but also in making a significant wider contribution to school improvement, which impacts on pupil progress and the effectiveness of staff and colleagues.

Let there be no doubt that we are involved in a fierce battle to defend teachers and education. Every teacher needs to prepare for urgent action, starting straight away with the battle to win an acceptable pay policy.

Send support to Seattle teachers boycotting MAP testing

From the Teacher Solidarity website
The attacks on teachers and education from the likes of Michael Gove are worldwide. Internationally, neo-liberal politicians are trying to use imposed testing - like SATs or, in Seattle, the 'MAP' test, to unfairly label students and teachers alike as 'failures' in an effort to justify cuts and privatisation.

As the article below on the boycott of the MAP test by teachers at Garfield High School Seattle explains  "standardized tests are used to bind teacher pay and even their employment to student evaluations ... Bad or failing test scores are interpreted as the products of a bad teacher, not the failure of the government to adequately fund education, and are used to justify the privatization of public education by pro-corporate politicians".

After successfully boycotting the MAP test this winter, the battle is now set for an ongoing boycott in Seattle and beyond this spring. The stakes are even higher this time because the spring test marks are used to decide on teacher evaluations too. 

Threats are now being made against the boycotting teachers who are appealing for international messages of solidarity. For more information and contact links see: and

Support Seattle Teachers! No more threats! Scrap the MAP!


"Garfield High School teachers voted unanimously to boycott the MAP test and in doing so have given bold action to the simmering anger amongst teachers in Seattle and nationwide at constant standardized testing. Inspired by the Garfield teachers, Columbia City's Orca K-8 and most of Ballard's Salmon Bay K-8 teachers voted to join the boycott. Meanwhile, Franklin, Ballard, and West Seattle High Schools, as well as the American Federation of Teachers and the Seattle Education Association, have voted to support the boycott by urging Seattle school superintendent José Banda to stop administering the tests district-wide. Additionally, the Chicago Teachers Union, whose victorious strike late last year points the way forward for the struggle against the systematic dismantling of public education and the savage attack on teachers unions, have offered their support.

The MAP and other standardized tests are used to bind teacher pay and even their employment to student evaluations. On the surface this may seem reasonable, but in the context of devastating attacks on public education funding and ballooning classroom sizes, this is really an effort to shift blame onto teachers. The MAP test is administered over several days three times a year. Its questions are not based on the topics covered in class, and its results are not detailed enough to be useful to teachers. Bad or failing test scores are interpreted as the products of a bad teacher, not the failure of the government to adequately fund education, and are used to justify the privatization of public education by pro-corporate politicians. When teachers and their unions fight back, they are painted as impediments to "education reform."In Washington State, K-12 education funding has been cut $3.5 billion since 2009 by the Democratic Party-run legislature. The cuts have been so destructive that the state Supreme Court was forced to rule that the legislature was violating the state Constitution by not adequately funding education. It's astonishing that in a state with the most successful and profitable corporations in the world, not to mention the richest people in the world, there is a problem of this magnitude. It's only conceivable when one understands that the Democratic and Republican Parties and their politicians ultimately do not represent the interests of students, teachers, families, or the wider community. Rather, they represent the super rich and corporations who demand huge tax breaks, and, in the case of Bill Gates, the dismantling of public education and vicious attacks on teachers unions. Bill Gates and his foundation are ardent supporters of charter schools, which this past election cycle, for the first time after 4 attempts, were able to win enough support to begin operation in some Washington school districts.

The Superintendent of Seattle Schools initially threatened a 10-day suspension without pay if teachers refused to administer the test. Although he has since revoked this threat, he has left open other possible retaliation against the teachers. This is an attack against all teachers, students, and the community. More teachers and schools need to be brought into the boycott, and protests like the 300-person protest at the Seattle School Board meeting need to be organized but on a larger scale. The local teachers' union, Seattle Education Association, could bring to bear its resources and organize a united and coordinated boycott of the MAP test in all Seattle schools. Broadening the struggle to university faculty and community college instructors, who are suffering under ferocious budget cuts and stifling working conditions, would also lend strength to the fight. Importantly, students should be brought into the struggle. Walkouts could be organized against standardized tests, threatened suspensions, and cuts to education funding.

This is a fight for the whole community because it is a fight waged against the whole community. The teachers are bravely stepping up and facing the onslaught head on, putting their jobs and resources on the line. It is well past time we join them. You can start by calling or emailing the Superintendent of Seattle Schools and telling him to back down from his threat to suspend the teachers, scrap the MAP, and meet with teachers, parents, and students to hear their concerns about standardized testing. Also demand that the Superintendent take a public stand in favor of the teachers, against the incessant testing, and in favor of full funding for education".

See also:

Wednesday 24 April 2013

Unity is Strength - Call a 24-hour General Strike

Martin Powell Davies speaking at the NSSN's lobby, Rob Williams on right, photo by N Cafferky

TUC: Set the date for a 24-hour general strike!

Up to 200 trade unionists, workers and campaigners lobbied the TUC general council from 8am this morning, 24th April. No one in the vicinity of the Great Russell Street TUC headquarters in London would have been left with any doubt about what was demanded: "Name the date - for a general strike!"

Rob Williams, chair of the National Shop Stewards Network (NSSN) that had called the lobby, compered a rally, inviting speakers to address the crowd. He explained that the NSSN has been campaigning tirelessly for the TUC to name the date for a 24-hour general strike. He reminded us of the 1,000-strong lobby of the TUC congress in Brighton last September. That day the TUC voted for the POA prison officers' union motion to consider a general strike.Today, with even more reasons to organise coordinated action, from pay freezes to the bedroom tax, the general council was debating it.

On the Lobby Photo: Martin Powell-Davies

Rally speakers

Martin Powell-Davies, from the national executive of the NUT teachers' union, was the first speaker in the rally, before dashing off to teach physics.
He, like all the speakers, provided ample reasons for a general strike - namely the Tories' vicious onslaught on education.
Gove's latest plan, to hack school holidays, is preparing students for a work-til-you-drop life, one that teachers already suffer.
Martin pointed out that the NUT has a plan for rolling regional strike action culminating with a national one-day strike in coordination with the NASUWT teachers' union. He asked the TUC to consider calling a 24-hour general strike for that same day.
Linda Taaffe, NSSN national secretary, developed this point later saying that the PCS civil servants' union had indicated it would join others in national action and that this proposal should be seriously considered.
She called on the TUC council to be brave, neither foolhardy nor overcautious, but to build on the willingness of those three major public sector unions to coordinate national action, by setting a date for all unions to build around, which if set now, will allow time for the serious preparations that are required.

Left union leaders

Two union general secretaries addressed the lobby on their way into the council meeting. From the POA, Steve Gillan, mover of the general strike motion at the TUC Congress, explained that the POA hadn't intended to cause division and recognised the threat posed by the anti-union laws.
However, Steve pointed out that his union is denied the right to strike but when they had defied the law, their last two walkouts had not led to the POA being served with injunctions, showing that the TUC needs to get over the fear factor and do what needs to be done - name the day.
John Hancock from the POA's executive also spoke and thanked the NSSN for never wavering in its campaign for general strike action.
Bob Crow speaking at the NSSN's lobby of the TUC,  24.4.13, photo by N Cafferky
Bob Crow speaking at the NSSN's lobby of the TUC, 24.4.13, photo by N Cafferky
Rail, Maritime and Transport union (RMT) general secretary Bob Crow was met with a big cheer, particularly from the large number of RMT members attending the lobby.
He said it was a crucial day for the TUC - for those in work facing attacks on pay and conditions but also for those not in work, facing the implications of the Con-Dems' ideological attack on welfare such as the bedroom tax.
He recalled the many times that solicitors had attended TUC meetings to explain why strike action was not possible.
Today the RMT and the POA were among those who had fought for legal experts Keith Ewing and John Hendy to speak to the general council to explain how a general strike would be legal.
Bob and others spoke of the threat of decline faced by the trade union movement if generalised action against austerity is not called and unions are not seen as fighting bodies.
But if a 24-hour general strike is called as a starter, people would join. He said his position is for the TUC to "name the day, and then another and another and another" to end austerity.
From the RMT's executive were Steve Hedley, Daren Ireland and Sean Hoyle. They firmly supported the call for action.
Daren said there was: "No alternative but to take this rotten government on". But he and others explained that Labour is also pro-austerity and pro-capitalist.
He called for support for the 121 Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC) candidates standing in May's county council elections. "We've got to start taking these steps, supporting candidates who will stand up for their communities". Adding to this message, Rob Williams read from an FT article on someone's Kindle that Labour leader Ed Miliband has "denounced as 'a terrible idea' the threat of a general strike".

Rank and file support

Unison member Paul Couchman made a very important point for the TUC general council to hear. It is not just trade union activists and revolutionaries who are in favour of a general strike.
His Unison branch has 5,000 members and the vote for one was unanimous at the recent AGM. In fact the south east region of Unison supports the call for general strike action and so does Unison and the TUC in Scotland.
Responding to the warning that no action will lead to a decline of the trade union movement he reported that Unison is currently spending millions of pounds on a recruitment campaign but the results so far have not surpassed the numbers who joined when the union organised to strike alongside millions of other public sector workers in November 2011.
April Ashley, a black members' rep on the Unison national executive, spoke in a personal capacity. Unison research shows that black workers are the worst affected by austerity.
But instead of drawing the conclusion that the union should lead those workers to fight back, Unison looks for excuses, saying that it can't fight attacks on pay because people are too worried about their jobs.
April explained that people say they want action. Southwark Unison supports the TUC naming the date for a general strike because they know: "We're the ones who can stop austerity."

Attacks hitting millions

A whole range of speakers made the case for the TUC to act. Les Woodward, national convenor of the Remploy trade union consortium, said that it was too late to fight for the Remploy workers but he supported the campaign wholeheartedly as he feared if the working class doesn't resist then his grandchildren could face the conditions suffered by his grandfather.
Raj Gill, an NHS campaigner from west London, pointed to the utter decimation of the health service. Nancy Taaffe, a library worker sacked through cuts, pointed to the latest figures in today's Guardian: by 2018 an estimated 1.5 million women will be unemployed, while the queues at food banks grow.
She argued forcefully that the time is not just ripe for a general strike but rotten ripe.
Speakers also made it absolutely clear that if the TUC sets the date, trade unionists would respond and so would millions of others suffering austerity.

Sacked agency workers who worked for Transport for London, at the lobby of the TUC, 24.4.13, photo by N Cafferky
Sacked agency workers who worked for Transport for London, at the lobby of the TUC, photo by N Cafferky
Everett and Sanjay spoke on behalf of 33 agency workers unfairly sacked by Transport for London after working for five years.They made an appeal for support and pledged their support to other workers in struggle. "We need to be more than 33".
Many union leaders argue that there are too many obstacles to organising coordinated general strike action but Suzanne Muna, from the Unite housing workers branch, smashed that excuse. She described how housing workers, often in tiny and scattered workplaces, were so determined that they were balloting for action despite all the difficulties.


Claire Laker-Mansfield spoke on behalf of Youth Fight for Jobs. Young workers are at the sharp end of the government's attacks and need a lead from the unions.
There are almost a million unemployed young people and millions more on the fringes of unemployment, in 'precarious' work with bosses feeling no obligation to recognise any rights.
Claire argued that the TUC has a responsibility to its members but also to the next generation. If the general council names the date, the youth would come behind the action.
A number of campaigners and trade unionists had travelled to the lobby from outside London. Steve Glennon committed Stevenage trades council to build for action.
Steve Score spoke on the campaign against the bedroom tax in Leicester, which was revealing a determination to struggle against the cold cruelty of the Con-Dems among the most vulnerable.
In winding up the rally and the lobby Rob pointed out that the CWU post and telecoms union had passed a motion in support of a general strike earlier this week. Clearly this action would be popular, but more than that, it is urgently needed.

Sunday 21 April 2013

Gove’s attack on teachers is an attack on everyone’s working conditions

Teachers – and many parents – have been shocked by Michael Gove’s announcement at last week’s ‘Spectator’ Conference that he wants to lengthen the school day and shorten school holidays.

Whatever Gove might pretend, these proposals have nothing to do with improving education. There is no real evidence to show that making students work for longer will improve their learning. Forcing teachers to work even longer hours certainly won’t help to produce high-quality education either.

It’s not just teachers who are exhausted by the intensity of an education system distorted by an obsession with targets and test scores. Many young people are also tired at the end of the school day but now Gove wants to make those days longer. Like all of us, young people need proper breaks to work efficiently. They also need their own free time and holidays to develop their interests and personality outside of school and to spend time with family and friends.

Gove tried to portray our school terms as some outdated ‘nineteenth century’ relic, arguing that we need to learn from Hong Kong and Singapore where school holidays are supposedly shorter (although even that 'fact' is being disputed by some researchers). As a supposed advocate of ‘facts’, Gove should study the evidence which shows that, in comparison to most countries, Britain already has some of the shortest holidays. For example, schools in Finland, consistently at or near the top of international educational rankings, have a 10-11 week summer break from early June to mid-August !

Gove should think twice before basing his education plans on countries like Hong Kong or he may end up with more than he bargained for. Last year, 90,000 marched against the HK Government’s new national curriculum in a protest against ‘Government brainwashing’! (

The xenophobic comment from ‘a Whitehall source’ quoted in the Daily Mail report on Gove’s speech reveals what these plans are really about: 'We can either start working as hard as the Chinese, or we'll all soon be working for the Chinese.' (

These plans aren’t about helping students learn, they are about helping British bosses to compete for profits. Instead of investing in a future workforce through genuine education expansion, instead of investing in new technique that could help to reduce the working-day, this Government just wants to compete on the basis of cheap labour, where all workers – not just teachers – are forced to work for longer hours with shorter holidays and reduced pay. 

Gove clearly wants that ‘work-until-you-drop’ culture to be drummed into children too. With Tory Childcare Minster Elizabeth Truss incredibly now complaining that toddlers 'are running around with no sense of purpose' in nurseries, it shows just what kind of regimented and stultifying education system they have in mind. Performance-related pay, with teachers having to 'teach-to-the-test' to protect their livelihoods, will further narrow the curriculum.

Teachers are in the immediate firing-line. With existing contracts failing to properly limit the hours required for planning and marking, even official figures show that the average teachers’ working week is already over 50 hours. The TUC estimates that this equates to £7 billion of unpaid overtime every year. The NUT is fighting for a legally-binding 35-hour working week – but Gove wants to rip up even the existing open-ended teachers’ contracts.

At the same time, Gove is also forcing through his plans to cut teachers’ salaries by introducing performance-related pay (which really IS resurrecting the failed nineteenth-century policy of ‘payment-by-results’!). Both attacks are also driven by the Con-Dem agenda to break trade union opposition through deregulating conditions as well as to drive down costs so that big businesses can make money out of privatising schools and other public services.

Teachers have every reason to be angry but parents must also support teaching unions to oppose these attacks. Gove just wants to turn schools into a joyless child-minding service to assist employers to force all of us - teachers and parents alike - to work even longer hours.

Far from being ‘family-friendly’ as Gove claims, this Government is breaking up relationships and damaging children’s lives by its attacks on benefits, jobs and conditions. If the Tories were serious about supporting working parents, why won’t they reverse the cuts that have already axed so many youth services and holiday play-schemes? Why not introduce a 35-hour working week without loss of pay to help create jobs to reduce unemployment? What about investing in breakfast and after-school clubs instead of forcing existing staff to work for longer?  What about forcing holiday companies to keep their prices down instead of fleecing parents in the peak-holiday season – which could now be even shorter of course?

Education shouldn’t just be about child-minding. However, the fact that the so many employers rely on schools looking after their workers’ children gives teachers enormous potential power. It means that when teachers go on strike, it isn’t just schools that have to close; many other workplaces are affected as well. Now teachers have to use that power not just to defend their own pay and conditions but to defend education as a whole from this Government’s attacks.

Gove is playing a dangerous game. Emboldened by the delay in teaching unions calling strike action to oppose his attacks on pay, he is racing ahead with attacks on conditions too. But even the National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT), who have been going along with some of Gove’s plans up to now, can see the anger that this latest attack will provoke.  The NAHT responded by saying that “we have no wish to participate in such a polarised and destructive debate. We will not support such moves ... we cannot see how such comments will help attract and retain teachers”.  

The main teaching unions, the NUT and NASUWT, need to be confident that, with a clear call to action, combined with a bold public campaign to expose Gove’s real agenda, a solid campaign of escalating regional and national strikes can be built which can defeat these vicious attacks on teachers’ pay and conditions.

A joint plan of strike action was, at long last, agreed between the two unions, starting with a regional strike across the North-West of England on June 27th. Further regional strikes are planned for September and October with a national strike due in November. As a minimum, that strike plan has to be confirmed, with further dates set for 2014 to force Gove to retreat.

Every area, not just the North-West, needs to be calling urgent reps’ meetings to build for action. Local campaigning, rallies and demonstrations must be built, supported by teachers, parents and the wider trade union movement.

However, it’s strike action, the withdrawal of labour by Gove’s would-be ‘child-minders’, that can really put the pressure on this Government. And teachers aren’t alone in facing attacks on their pay and conditions, jobs, services and pensions from this Government of the rich. Strike action shouldn’t just be co-ordinated between teaching unions but as widely as possible across the private and public sector. November’s national teachers’ strike could be built into a 24-hour strike co-ordinated right across both the public and private sectors.

If Gove’s announcement proves anything, it’s that the more that trade unions hold back from action, the more this Government will attack our pay and conditions, our public services and our communities. It’s time we stood firm and took action together. Our children and families deserve no less from us.