Friday 10 January 2014

Hunt joins Gove in the teacher-blame game - NUT must oppose 'licensing' plans

Tomorrow's Times will carry the headline "Labour will tell teachers to improve or face sack"

In an announcement that will be a further blow to teacher morale, Tristram Hunt has made clear that he will revive the idea floated under the last Labour Government of regular 're-licensing' of teachers, or as the Times puts it "teachers will have to be licensed and will face the sack if they fail tough new checks on their abilities under plans drawn up by Labour".

Shamefully, Tristram Hunt and New Labour are lining-up behind Gove's agenda of blaming teachers for the problems of education - and wider society. It is these same politicians that should accept responsibility for the root causes - for cuts, for underfunding and for poverty. 

If Tristram Hunt took the time to talk to teachers, he might realise that the real problem that needs addressing is not the myth of 'under-performance' but the fact that huge numbers of excellent teachers are leaving the profession because of the impossible demands we face.

Instead, Hunt is joining in with a blame-game designed to keep up the pressure on teachers so that they will put up with impossible hours for fear of being 'failed'. Under Gove, the threat is that we won't be awarded a pay-rise under his performance-pay legislation. Under Hunt, the threat will be that we won't even keep our jobs!

Quite rightly, when Ed Balls floated this idea in 2009, it was firmly rejected by the NUT. Disappointingly, tonight the immediate response from the NUT was far too ambivalent, suggesting that the Union's attitude will depend on the 'detail' of the proposals.

By now, we should know enough about New Labour's politics to know that the details will not be ones that will make the plan acceptable. Yes, it will be presented in a more polished manner than Gove, using the excuse that the plans will help teachers maintain their 'professional development'.  But New Labour will maintain a very similar programme of  spending cuts as the present Government. Schools and teachers will not be provided with time and resources for genuine training and development, let alone the time to plan, prepare and develop initiatives. It will mean more observations, more imposed targets, more Ofsted-inspired gradings of lessons.

This 'licensing' plan will be another way to impose both excessive workload and whatever particular teaching models are favoured by Government onto a beleaguered teaching profession. Just like Gove's PRP, it will be a scheme wide open to unfair, discriminatory and arbitrary decisions by hard-nosed school management.

Hun't proposal is also reflected in policies adopted in the USA and in other countries infected by the GERM, the Global Education Reform Movement, where teachers are graded and bullied with the threat of losing their jobs if they aren't deemed to make the grade.

If unions adopt a policy of trying to appease New Labour into being slightly less harsh on teachers than the Tories, then such a  policy will fail teachers  - and fail education. Instead, we have to firmly reject both Gove and Hunt's plans and urgently put in place the national action that teachers have been promised will take place before February 13 - and follow that up with an ongoing campaign of strike and non-strike action. 

Our action campaign needs to be combined with a nationwide campaign to explain to parents what's really at stake - and to build a movement which can defend education from the attacks of all the main parties.

An electoral footnote:
The New Year YouGov poll showed that 25% of teachers already didn't know which party they could bring themselves to vote for. That figure can only have increased after Hunt's announcement tonight.

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