Tuesday 24 September 2013

No to even greater workload - building strike action in Brighton

After Stephen Twigg’s confirmation of his pro-Academy stance during Labour Party Conference week, it was good to be in a meeting in Brighton tonight where everyone understood why school privatisation should be firmly opposed!

The meeting was an impressively packed meeting of 40 Brighton & Hove NUT members gathered for their General Meeting and strike action briefing. In his presentation to reps, local officer Ron Gordon focused on Michael Gove’s threatened attack on teachers’ working conditions. As Ron rightly pointed out, poorer pensions and divisive performance-related pay were bad enough, but the prospect of even greater workload would be a threat that would really fire-up teachers to take strike action.

The presentation took members through the damaging proposals in the DfE evidence to the Review Body, threats which could be implemented as early as next year. (For more detail, see my summary of the DfE report on http://goo.gl/zvZvn ).

These proposals include: 

  • cutting holidays, 
  • lengthening the school-day, 
  • reducing PPA to meaningless snippets of time, 
  • forcing teachers to carry out exam invigilation, cover, admin tasks and lunchtime supervision.
Ron pointed out how the DfE report was blatant in its justification that these attacks on working conditions were needed to ‘cut costs’. Making teachers even more exhausted certainly won’t improve education!

Earlier in the day, I had listened to a young primary teacher, in good faith, explain to a meeting of newly-qualified Lewisham teachers to “look after yourself, make sure you go home at 5pm on at least one day a week” If that’s advice for a ‘healthy work-life balance’, then clearly teachers are already working ridiculously long hours!

If Gove gets away with his plans, things will get even worse. Even more teachers will quit the profession, leaving schools without the stability they need.

When, as the teachers’ joint trade union representative, I spoke to those NQTs myself I put up a display that concluded by saying that “teaching should be a great job – help teacher unions keep it that way”. I hope that those young teachers will join their colleagues in defending education from the attacks of all the privatising politicians.

On a final note, I was pleased that the meeting also voted for me to be one of Brighton NUT’s nominations for the upcoming National NUT Vice-President election. This support, together with news of additional nominations from Bolton, Brent and Medway, gives me, at the latest count, a promised 35 nominations from across England and Wales so far. I would like to thank all those Associations for their backing and those colleagues who have spoken in support of my nomination.

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