Promoted by David Beale, 36 Pleasant View, Withnell, Chorley PR6 8SE on behalf of Martin Powell-Davies of TUSC.

Saturday 28 June 2014

Supply Teachers Organise at NUT Conference

The second NUT Supply Teachers' Conference is taking place at the NUT national HQ in London today. Supply teachers have been at the sharp end of privatisation for too long. As direct employment through Local Authority pools has been replaced in most areas by profiteering private agencies, supply teachers have seen their pay slashed. Legislative changes (consistently opposed by the NUT) allowing schools to use non-qualified staff to cover classes have also threatened their job security. Of course, this fragmentation and privatisation also threatens children's education too.
A well-supported survey of NUT supply members has shown a continuing decline in LA-run supply pools.  Less than 5% of teachers now say they mainly obtain work via LA-run pools. Over two thirds now mainly obtain work via agencies or agency-run LA pools and the remaining 25% obtain work directly from schools.

The number of agencies continues to grow, further fragmenting provision. Overall, it is estimated that there around 500 nationally. The biggest operators include Teaching Personnel, Randstad Education, Hays, Protocol and Capita. Contrast the massive salaries and bonuses paid to those running these outfits compared to the pay-rates going to agency staff!

These agencies can of course make an easy profit out of school budgets - typically £50 a day for placing a teacher in a school - because they don't have to pay the STPCD rates of pay that still apply to most permanent colleagues. Almost half of those surveyed reported a regular daily rate of just £100-125 and a further 16% report a regular rate below £100. Of course, these rates are a good way below what the agencies charge schools. Remember, this income also has to sustain supply colleagues through their holidays too -  and, of course, there's no sick pay entitlement either.  That's a scandal that needs to be better publicised.

The survey also suggests that supply rates are being driven downwards - 42% say they are being paid lower or significantly lower pay than they were for supply teaching three years ago. Work is still available - perhaps reflecting the growing turnover in schools - but some colleagues reported teaching work being offered to them under the guise of lower-paid employment as a "cover supervisor".

A colleague reporting from a visit to the USA made clear that these attacks are an international phenomenon too.

Supply agencies cannot offer their employees access to the Teachers' Pension Scheme at present. The NUT survey shows that many agencies have now begun to offer access to a workplace pension scheme, under new requirements on employers. These are, however, markedly inferior to the TPS, with contributions as low as 1% from the employer and schemes available only above a certain earnings threshold.
The NUT has been successful in securing portability of Disclosure and Barring certificates.  It seems, however, that some agencies are not taking steps to apply this portability in their practices.

The NUT has launched a Charter for Supply Teachers setting out demands on LA pools, pay and pensions. The Charter also refers to the importance of workplace support for supply teachers. The most frequently cited problems relate to individual pupil information, teaching resources and planned work for students. 

The Conference discussed plans to strengthen organisation to win gains for supply teacher members. One suggestion is to develop an NUT 'Kite Mark' for agencies, depending on the pay rates that they offer teachers. This could set down basic entitlements for negotiation with agencies and act as a basis for campaigning and pressurising agencies to improve salaries. The Kite Mark could also include other matters like pensions, CPD and  DBS portability. 

While all the supply teachers in my workshop agreed we should certainly 'name-and-shame' the worst agencies, some  wanted further discussion on whether awarding a Kite Mark to an agency that is still paying under the statutory rate was a wise move. Having a 'gold', 'silver' and 'bronze' award might be a way forward. There were also requests for legal advice on a range of issues specific to supply teachers including 'finders fees', unpaid work, national insurance contributions and  support over complaints.

Support was given to proposals for a Lobby of Parliament in the October half-term to publicise these issues and also for building supply teacher organisation within the Union. For example, London teachers proposed holding a regional supply teachers' network meeting in September.

The big turnout at the Conference, and the anger and determination expressed from the supply teachers present, shows how the supply teacher network and campaigns must continue to build and strengthen. The National Union now has a responsibility to make sure we do everything we can to put these plans into practice.

Friday 27 June 2014

GMB join UNISON and NUT in action on July 10

NUT and GMB out on strike together in 2011
The momentum for July 10 is really building with the news that both of the main school support staff unions will be taking strike action alongside their teaching colleagues in the NUT on July 10th*.

Following the earlier confirmation that UNISON members will be striking on the day, the GMB have now announced the positive results of their ballot too - and by a good margin of support:  reports that: 

"Members of the GMB union will join a day of action that could see more than one million workers on strike in total.

The GMB said council and school workers voted by three to one to walk out on 10 July over a pay offer worth 1% to most.

The date is significant because it has been earmarked as a general day of protest over government policy on cutting public sector costs and jobs.

Members of public service union Unison have already voted to strike over pay on the same day.

The National Union of Teachers has also voted to strike on 10 July, raising the prospect of disruption in schools across England and Wales.

The government is now facing a walkout by more than a million public sector workers next month, including council staff, school support workers, teachers and civil servants".

Plans for joint rallies and marches are being confirmed, with the London march finishing with a rally in Trafalgar Square.

Next weekend's eighth Annual Conference of the National Shop Stewards Network is also now well-timed to prepare for united action. As it says on the NSSN flyer, let's "strike together for a pay rise" - and to defend public services and the pay and conditions of those who provide those services.

This will also be a Conference where we can discuss how action can win victories. A representative from the victorious $15Now campaign that has lifted the minimum wage to $15 per hour in Seattle will address the meeting. Other speakers include the General Secretaries of the POA and BFAWU and the RMT and PCS National Presidents.

Now let's build for mass co-ordinated strike action on July 10th  and win victories here in Britain too.

(* It is worth noting that some support staff have been excluded from the ballot in certain schools and Authorities - check locally with GMB and UNISON )

Wednesday 25 June 2014

NUT General Secretary Election Result

As expected, the votes announced today have confirmed the re-election of Christine Blower as NUT General Secretary. However, I am pleased that the strength of support for my candidature represents a real achievement for my campaign.

Turnout 13 %
After the Local Associations National Action Campaign voted to back my stand in February, I only had three months to gather the nominations required to make my challenge. That first target was achieved but, although outnumbered five-to-one in Local Association nominations, the 3:1 vote in the actual election  records a closer margin when it came to members' votes.

My support was generated by a campaign that sought to reflect the anger of classroom teachers at the conditions they face - and a frustration amongst many NUT members that the Union was failing to campaign with sufficient clarity and determination to oppose the ongoing attacks on our pay, pensions and conditions - and on education as a whole. 

Even my opponents acknowledged that my election materials were well-received in schools. Some certainly feared that the final margin of Christine's victory might be tighter still. My demands for clear campaign goals and for a clear calendar of strike action struck a chord with teachers at every meeting that I was able to address.

I always knew that Christine, as a sitting candidate, could rely on support from many teachers out of loyalty to the Union as a whole - and understandably so. She also had the backing of the main caucuses within the NUT and could take advantage of the Union giving her coverage throughout the election period. In contrast, my time and resources were limited.

I was always confident that, where teachers found time to read the election statements and debate the issues, many would decide to give me their votes. The challenge was to make sure that such a debate took place amongst teachers ground down by workload. Unfortunately, as the turnout showed, most did not return their voting papers. 

Regrettably, no hustings took place at Annual Conference or at Local Association meetings. The Teacher magazine neglected to even mention the election was taking place, making it even harder for me to publicise my challenge. 

To secure over 10,000 votes, despite all the disadvantages facing my campaign, is a real achievement. I believe that my campaign has helped make sure that the Union has responded by sharpening its campaign messages. For example , the latest leaflet to members calling for action on July 10 is sharper and more focused than some we have previously issued.

My campaign has also helped keep up the pressure for maintaining strike action on March 26 and now July 10 - action which must now be built for as strongly as possible.

Of course I regret that I will not be now using my skills and energy to drive forward the Union as a newly-elected GS but will, as ever, be working hard to build our campaigns and support and advise colleagues. 

I have to warn that there is a risk, now the GS election is over, that the doubts and uncertainties amongst some on the National Executive will become more prominent. A membership consultation planned for early next term could be used as a pretext to wind down the campaign - rather than, as I hope it will be, to build momentum for the necessary escalation of action. Therefore, the real campaign is still far from over.

Finally, I want to thank everyone who supported my campaign over the last few months. Teachers who have supported the campaign, and especially those Associations determined to build LANAC as a strong force within the Union, must take heart from the vote achieved. We have to continue to strengthen the Union,  maintain our pressure for a calendar of action and work to make sure we build a Union that gives the fighting lead needed to defend teachers and education.

Norwegian teachers reject negotiated deal and prepare to strike

News is breaking that Norwegian teachers have voted by a large majority, and with a high turnout, to reject the proposed deal on pay and conditions that had been proposed at the end of negotiations between their union and their employers.

The results of the ballot were:
73% NO to the deal
27% YES to the deal
Turnout 67%

More details to follow - but be ready to support our colleagues in Norway taking action to defend education and to oppose the kind of attacks that teachers are facing internationally.

(See previous International posts for the background to this dispute)

UPDATE: This article in English gives more information on the dispute:

“They have said a resounding ‘no’ to the deal put forward by the Norwegian Association of Local and Regional Authorities (KS),” union leader Ragnhild Lied said at today’s NRK-televised press conference. Talks between the union and the employers’ organisation had been successful. They had recommended their members accept the new working agreement.27 per cent of the more than two-thirds who voted did.

Included in this was the teacher losing current flexibility to carry out pre and post-lesson work at home, instead of at school. It means they would have to be there for 7.5 hours a day, like many employment agreements at businesses in Norway. A 3.3 per cent pay rise was also part of the agreement. The number of hours teachers put in regarding their work – which includes preparation and meetings – is considered to be higher than those of staff such as office workers' in the course of a school year. Teachers get the same amount of paid annual leave, with additional days/weeks being time in lieu or due to public holidays.

Ms Lied admitted they knew certain parts of the new deal would be contentious, but had underestimated “the mistrust KS has created amongst teachers – one that has built up over time.” “We’ve taken self-criticism on board, and are now ready to lead a strike,” she said, smiling. According to her, a walkout will now be staged at one school in Bergen, with minor strike action occurring during the summer holidays. Parents and pupils will only start to notice the consequences of teachers’ vote at the beginning of the school year. “We’ll be strongly escalating strike action at this time”, Ms Lied informed reporters, “and this can be widespread and long-lasting.” 

Teachers in Oslo municipality have their own agreement and will not be staging industrial action. The Union of Education represents some 93,000 educational staff.

OECD survey confirms teacher demoralisation and overwork

A press release from the National Union of Teachers commenting on the OECD's Teaching and Learning International Survey (TALIS) reports the following findings on the views of Headteachers and Key Stage 3 teachers in England:

“Only one in three teachers feels their profession is valued by society – a statistic that should shock the Government. Conversely, 87 per cent of teachers agreed or strongly agreed that parents were supportive.

“Hours worked by full time teachers on all tasks is on average 52 hours a week. This is in line with the Government’s own Teachers’ Workload Diary Survey. Half of teachers reported working more than 50 hours a week and one in ten said they worked more than 65 hours. Among part time teachers, a quarter work more than 38 hours. In all cases these are high by international standards, especially compared with Finland – a high performing country where teachers’ average hours are 32 per week. Teachers in England also reported spending more hours on non-face-to-face teaching tasks such as planning, marking and general administrative work.

“Around half of teachers believed appraisal and feedback added no value to their teaching pedagogy or self-efficacy and merely served to satisfy administrative requirements.

“Amongst head teachers in England, the survey makes it very clear that they feel the main barriers to their effectiveness are Government regulation and policy (79%), inadequate budgets and resources (78%) and high workload and level of responsibilities (68%).

“This survey backs up what we already know about the existing problems and concerns facing the profession. The message to Government from this survey is clear: teachers’ workloads are unmanageable and unsustainable and teachers feel undervalued for the challenging job they do.

“This is an issue that concerns everyone. Our children deserve enthusiastic, energetic teachers, not overworked and stressed ones. It is high time the Government addressed these pressing matters. Failure to do so will lead, without a doubt, to further teacher shortages, which is clearly bad for education”.

Monday 23 June 2014

Strike together on July 10

"UNISON today confirmed that its local government and school support staff members in England, Wales and Northern Ireland will be taking one day of strike action on 10 July in support of better pay.  The decision was taken following a yes vote in a strike ballot, announced earlier today". (

The news that UNISON's strike is definitely ON must now be the signal for school union reps and their colleagues to go all out to build for the biggest possible joint action on July 10 - in the knowledge that there is a good chance that further unions like GMB and PCS will be announcing that they will be joining us on strike too.  

Now the strike action has been called, we have to make sure it is as well-supported as possible. Teachers can help encourage support staff to take action - and vice versa. Together, we can build a strike of over a million public sector workers. We should rally together on the day in united mass demos to raise confidence and hit the headlines. For example, Trafalgar Square is being booked in London for a strike rally. 

We must also get our message across to the public. The NUT is producing new leaflets for parents. In response to a letter that I sent to Headteachers in Lewisham this morning, asking them to resist pressure that may be put on them to undermine our action, I have already had some Heads agree to order leaflets to explain to parents why the strike is taking place.

As I explained in the letter: "we hope you will be able to help us explain to parents that we are acting to defend not just staff pensions, pay and conditions but also to defend education as a whole. The demoralising effect of Government policies threatens the long-term stability of school staffing. Last week’s Review Body report spoke of “the risk of those in the profession feeling under-valued and recruitment and retention suffering as a consequence”. At the same time, we see Gove’s meddling in the curriculum and decision-making by Ofsted, and the excessive spending on free schools while the school place crisis continues. The NUT will be producing parents’ leaflets explaining these points – please let the NUT Office know if you would like copies sent to you".

The letter can be downloaded from the Lewisham NUT website via

 Get Together to Strike Together:
Come to the 8th Annual NSSN Conference on Saturday July 5th – ‘What recovery? We want our share! Fight Together for a Pay Rise! – Break the pay freeze, fight for a real living wage, oppose zero-hour contracts, fight for PAYE’. 

It will be on from 11am-5pm in Conway Hall – 25 Red Lion Square, Holborn, London WC1R 4RL – delegate/visitor fee £6. Confirmed speakers include Ronnie Draper BFAWU bakers’ union General Secretary, POA General Secretary Steve Gillan, Janice Godrich PCS President and Peter Pinkney RMT President…plus a speaker from the victorious Seattle $15Now campaign!!

Confirmed workshops include:-
  • Fast food rights/zero-hour contracts/living wage/$15Now
  • Fighting NHS cuts
  • Construction: fighting the umbrella scam and blacklisting
  • Political representation for workers after the Collins Review
  • Housing workers fighting back

Saturday 21 June 2014

NUT marches against austerity with the People's Assembly

Up to 50,000 people marched through Central London today to demand 'No More Austerity'. 

The demonstration, organised by the People's Assembly, was well supported by the NUT. The 'Stand Up for Education' block near the front of the march was one of the biggest and liveliest sections.

I have uploaded some footage on youtube to give you a flavour of the march:

Today's march should be a great platform to build from for a massive public-sector strike on July 10th.

Thursday 19 June 2014

July 10 strike is ON – Let’s build for united action

Let there be no doubt, the NUT Executive has confirmed that the Union is going ahead with a national strike on Thursday July 10 alongside other public sector unions. If, as is hoped, other unions win the backing they are seeking in their ongoing ballots, then well over a million public sector workers will be on strike together on the day.

All of the key issues in our dispute remain unresolved – and, if we show weakness, then Gove and Wilshaw have made very clear that worse is yet to come. Workload is already unbearable but Wilshaw is again talking about the need to extend school days. Gove and the STRB  (see earlier blogposts) has announced that 2014 will be the last year when national pay scales will be published by the DfE. So, from 2015, teachers face a complete performance pay free-for-all – with all the division, bullying and discrimination that inevitably goes with it – unless we stand firm and force politicians to retreat.
Ministers continue to refuse to talk with unions about anything apart from 'implementation' of their policies. There may be some additional guidance issued on some details of workload and pay implementation but certainly nothing that challenges the Government's divisive agenda. Gove's acceptance of the STRB's latest recommendations make crystal clear what his real intentions are.
Of course, there may be doubts and uncertainties in some schools. July 10 is near the end of a long, hard school year. The lack of a clear calendar of strike action has raised questions – a mistake that must not be repeated next term. However, we can - and must - go into this strike with confidence and determination. We should be taking action alongside support staff and other colleagues in a day that will really hit the headlines. Significantly, unions like UNISON and UNITE are already talking about announcing further strike dates in the autumn.

Support staff and teachers striking together will have a real impact on schools. Let’s work to make that impact as great as we can – for the sake of education. Can we throw in the towel like some other teaching unions appear to be doing? Of course not. Gove and his cronies are ever-more exposed by their actions. Even the STRB has had to admit that teacher shortages and turnover are becoming a real problem.  Now, in the months leading up to a General Election, is the time when politicians are most susceptible to pressure.

Plans are already being made for picket-lines, rallies and demonstrations on the strike day. For example, Trafalgar Square has been booked for the Central London rally. Now Local Associations, school reps and colleagues need to go all-out to get the biggest turnout possible on July 10.

Talk to your colleagues, call a joint meeting, ask for advice if you need it from your Union. Get our message to parents with leaflets at school gates and letters home where you can. Above all, build the strike and let’s show Gove that the NUT is standing firm in defence of teachers and education.

A hidden message of a coming crisis buried in the STRB Report

Last week, the School Teachers’ Review Body delivered the predictable conclusions sought by their political masters: more performance-pay, more ‘flexibility’, an end to national pay scales. Yet, hidden in the content of the Report, their detailed research exposes the dangerous path being followed by Gove, Wilshaw and Co. in demoralising  teachers and holding down our salaries.

Teachers’ average earnings growth

First of all, the Report confirms the facts about deteriorating teachers’ incomes and the replacement of older staff by cheaper colleagues – colleagues, however, who may not stay long in the profession:

3.7 Over the last decade, teachers’ average earnings have tended to grow at a slower rate than earnings across the economy as a whole. Earnings growth across the profession has been close to zero since 2010/11. This reflects the impact of the pay freeze and the replacement of older, higher paid teachers with new recruits as part of the labour market cycle”.

3.8 In common with others across the public sector, teachers in England and Wales have experienced two years of the pay scales being frozen, followed by a 1% increase in values in 2013/14. Whilst many teachers have continued to receive progression-based increments, others (approximately 44%), at the top of their respective scales, will have seen little change in their annual salary during this period unless they have taken on new responsibilities. We have also noted that teachers, alongside the wider public sector workforce, are paying increased contributions to their pensions.

Graduate pay progression

The Report goes on to point out how poorly teaching compares to other graduate professions when it comes to pay progression:

3.16 For many graduates, an important consideration in occupational choice relates to their expectation of salary progression in subsequent years … IDS found that in 2012, average salaries of graduates with three-year tenure was 37% higher than the corresponding average starting rate; graduates with five-year tenure had an average salary some 71% higher than the starting rate

3.17 [However] teachers in England and Wales have typically seen their salaries increase through annual pay progression by 26% after three years (M1 to M4) and by 46% after five years (M1 to M6).

Regrettably, some of the authors of the Report appear to think that performance-pay is the solution to this problem, with the new legislation allowing schools to award more rapid pay-progression to favoured staff. Putting aside the difficulty of measuring individual contributions to ‘progress’ and the damage that it could do to teamwork and staff relations, schools simply haven’t got the budget to award such accelerated pay progression. For example, the employers’ contributions to the Teachers’ Pension Scheme will be increasing by 2.3% to 16.4% in 2015. Far from accelerating progress, the legislation will largely be used to block pay progression, meaning most teachers will make even slower progress up the pay-scale than the STRB has found so far.

Even the STRB has had to note:

3.18 Following implementation of our 21st Report recommendations, schools now have greater flexibility to set the starting pay of teachers, taking account of local pressures, and to determine their rate of progression based on performance, but the impact of this change on average earnings has yet to be seen in the data.

Future data will not be showing an increase in average earnings! After all, as the STRB Report later acknowledges:

3.53 The overall schools’ budget has remained flat in cash terms … We also note that forthcoming changes requiring employers to increase their contribution to meet the costs of pensions will accentuate the affordability challenge for schools.

Profession-wide earnings compared to other occupations

The unfavourable position of teachers is confirmed when the STRB looks at overall earning levels too:

3.19 Classroom teachers’ median earnings (excluding leaders) trailed those of other professionals in 6 (of 10) regions (Inner/Outer London, South East, East of England, East Midlands and West Midlands), compared with 5 (of 10) regions in 2011/12. Across the majority of regions the relative position of classroom teachers’ earnings had worsened since 2011/12. This reflects largely unchanged teachers’ median earnings in both years. While some caution is needed because of small sample sizes with the comparator data, this points to a continuing deterioration in the earnings position of teachers relative to other graduate professionals.

Recruitment and Retention

So, if teachers pay is decreasing, pensions worsening and workload increasing, what will this mean for the future supply of teachers to meet growing pupil numbers?

3.21 The latest pupil projections data for England show that ... between 2013 and 2017, pupil numbers in maintained nursery and state-funded primary schools are projected to increase by 8% (and by 15% between 2013 and 2022) … [after 2015] the increases in primary pupil numbers will start to flow through into secondary schools.

3.24 In Wales, primary pupil numbers are expected to increase by around 13% from 2013 to 2021.

3.30 Recruitment against target to primary ITT has fallen from 103% in 2011 to 96% in 2013. Recruitment for a number of secondary subjects was below target in 2013, including maths (-10%), physics (-28%), modern languages (-17%), computer science (-43%) and design and technology (-52%).

3.43 Our visits have suggested to us that some schools have advertised unsuccessfully for more experienced staff. The official [vacancy] rates also mask problems with the availability of sufficient suitably qualified specialist subject teachers. We note with concern that the average percentage of hours taught by teachers holding a relevant post A-level qualification varies considerably and can be low; examples are English (85%), maths (82%), chemistry (80%), physics (74%).

The conclusions reached need to be publicised – as they expose the real threat to the future of education if the attacks on the pay and conditions of the teaching profession continue:

3.54 We have identified some worrying signs in the recent data on initial training such as the below-target numbers of recruits to both primary and a number of secondary subject areas and have noted consultees’ concerns about the ability of the School Direct model to meet the demands of primary schools. … The increase in reported vacancies and the apparent shortage of suitably qualified subject teachers in secondary schools, evidenced by the proportion of hours taught by teachers with the relevant subject qualification, are a concern. …

3.55 We have also noted the significant impending increase in demand for teachers as increased numbers of pupils flow through the school system … These developments, coinciding with clear indications of a recovering graduate labour market, mean there is a real challenge for the sector in preserving the attractiveness of teaching as a preferred profession for good graduates.

3.56 There is clear and consistent evidence that both the starting and profession-wide pay of teachers is less competitive relative to other professional occupations in several areas of the country, and that this gap is widening. Our evidence also suggests able graduates in other professions progress more quickly in the first three to five years and have more opportunity to reach higher levels of earnings as their careers progress subsequently. This heightens the risk of those in the profession feeling under-valued and recruitment and retention suffering as a consequence.

3.57 The reforms to the pay framework in our recent reports have aimed to provide individual schools with greater freedoms within the national pay framework … We hope, and expect, that this additional flexibility will go some way to helping schools address the particular localised labour market challenges they face. School leaders will need to consider how best to use their limited budgets, and available specialist staff, to gain the right balance between quality and numbers of staff, in order to deliver the highest quality provision … However, these changes may not be sufficient to meet the wider supply and demand challenges in the medium term.

3.58 … Our analysis of the teacher labour market has highlighted areas of risk; this is despite the recent relatively benign climate for teacher recruitment and retention given the wider economic landscape. It is our view that these risks will be heightened as the economy strengthens and both graduates and existing teachers see wider employment opportunities.

So, hidden in this coded language is the truth. Government policies are putting the future supply of teachers to support a growing school-aged population at significant risk.  However, labour shortages can also help add to union strength – both in terms of reaching out to parents to expose the dangers to education and in strengthening our negotiating position. Let’s make sure that we take advantage of the STRB’s hidden warnings to bolster our campaign to defend teachers and education.

Monday 16 June 2014

A criminal destruction of teacher morale

This photograph tells a sad but shocking story - yet it is a photograph that could be taken in so many schools at present.

18 envelopes - to collect 18 leaving presents - for staff that felt they had no option but to resign rather than carry on working in intolerable conditions. That's 18 staff in just a two-form entry school !

As the teacher who took the photograph posted on Facebook: "Forced academy. Many of these people have served over decade, others more. All brilliant. Forced academies for you. A disintegration of a talented, loyal and dedicated workforce".

The short-sighted, Gove-inspired managements too often put in place by many of the sponsors of academy chains may be driving this demoralisation, but they are not alone. I have spoken tonight to a teacher in a Local Authority primary school of a similar size who is one of 12 teachers leaving this summer.

This scandalously high turnover and overall drop-out rate from teaching has become an established fact. Sir Michael Wilshaw has confirmed that 40% of teachers leave the profession within their first five years. Workload and bullying management is destroying teachers' lives - but it is also destroying stability and support for students and schools as well.

Yet the bullying culture of Ofsted/Estyn and 'Graded Observations' continue apace, despite the growing evidence of the complete lack of any reliability in the harsh judgements reached. Some teachers are being bullied out of their jobs as a result through 'capability' procedures, while the support and resources that teachers need are simply not being provided.

This is not only an issue for teachers in England and Wales. The lecturers' Union, the UCU, has just published a report condemning the use of graded observations in colleges. ( The UCU website quotes the researcher Dr Matt O'Leary as saying: 'Attempts to measure the professional capabilities of practitioners through the lens of graded lesson observations are a pointless exercise based on a pseudo-scientific approach to teacher assessment ... The sooner we put an end to this pernicious practice, the better the sector will be for it. Although removing the graded element would certainly be a step in the right direction, it cannot be considered a panacea in itself. A root and branch reform of the way in which observation is conceptualised and engaged with as a form of educational intervention is what is required'.

In California*, the same anti-teacher mentality has led to a court judgement outlawing the existing contract on the basis that it needs to be easier to 'fire bad teachers'. Jack Schneider, writing for the LA Times website ( counters that "Engaged in difficult and demanding work, even gifted teachers need relevant, robust and continuous professional development opportunities. But very few get it, particularly in schools serving high-needs students. As a result, most teachers realize only a fraction of their full potential .. Making it easier to fire teachers — even if we imagine that such powers will be deployed judiciously by school administrators — will do little to ensure an effective teacher in every classroom. Instead, it will further erode trust between teachers and school administrators".

Of course, even the most supported, best trained teacher can only have so much effect. It's worth remembering that, as this US research points out ( "most estimates in the literature attribute between 1% and 14% of the total variability [in test scores] to teachers. This is not saying that teachers have little effect on students, but that variation among teachers accounts for a small part of the variation in scores. The majority of the variation in test scores is attributable to factors outside of the teacher’s control such as student and family background, poverty, curriculum, and unmeasured influences".

Discussions at the campaign stall in Lewisham on Saturday

In explaining the action that we are taking to defend teachers and education, then we have to make sure parents understand the damage that Government policies are causing. We also shouldn't be shy in explaining the reality of teacher workload, the prospect of teaching at 68 and the effects of divisive performance pay and management bullying on teacher morale.

Our teaching conditions are our students' learning conditions. Let's have a serious struggle to defend them.

 * Messages of support can be sent to the California Teachers via

Thursday 12 June 2014

A Powerpoint to build for July 10 action

I have produced a short PowerPoint for General Meetings that I am speaking at in Bexley and Lewisham over the next few days - to help build for strike action on July 10. Please feel free to download and use / adapt for your local meetings

To download a copy, click on  (and go to 'file' and 'download')

Arweinydd Athrawon ar Gyflog Athro - A Teachers’ Leader on a Teacher’s Salary

I have produced this dual language version of my material for colleagues in Wales:

Downloadable from

Wednesday 11 June 2014

A Victory over Maternity Cuts in Lewisham

No need for a full Lobby in the end - but some couldn't resist a small celebration!

At the conclusion of negotiations this afternoon, I was very pleased to be able to post the following report on the Lewisham NUT website:

 Lewisham NUT are pleased to confirm that, following discussions between Unions and Council Officers at the Corporate Joint Committee this afternoon, the proposal to cut the number of weeks of contractual pay from 20 half-weeks to 12 half-weeks has been withdrawn.

I am pleased to say that, having checked the comparative data compiled by the NUT, Officers have recognised that their proposal would have made Lewisham’s provisions considerably inferior to those applying in most other Inner London boroughs. Today’s decision means that the existing contractual provisions will remain in place, namely, for those with sufficient qualifying service, 6 weeks at 90% of pay and 20 weeks at 50% (plus SMP). 

While teachers will now be aware as a result of the NUT’s analysis that some other boroughs have greater contractual pay totals, the NUT is pleased that Lewisham’s continuing provisions will now remain better than the national ‘Burgundy Book’ provisions applying in some Outer London boroughs.

The only change that will be made is that the maximum 52 weeks of maternity leave that can be taken overall will now commence at the start of maternity leave, rather than on the date of childbirth. This brings Lewisham in line with practice in most other boroughs. However, notice will be given before this change is applied, and will not be introduced until September at the earliest, possibly January.

The outcome of these negotiations will be a relief to the many teachers who had worried about the financial impact of the original proposals. It is only a pity that Officers had not recognised at an earlier stage what the NUT had been stating: firstly, how Lewisham would have looked in comparison with other boroughs and, secondly, how strongly teachers and other staff were opposed to the proposed change.

Council Officers have alerted unions that they believe that other London Councils may be looking to change their provisions in future, and that national changes to legislation may require provisions to be looked at again in future. If so, then, firstly, those other councils will also quickly come to recognise that cuts to maternity pay will not be accepted by the NUT and other trade unions. If national legislation requires changes then, again, that will be an issue that the NUT will consider at the time. However, we will remain clear that cuts to maternity provisions are cuts that the NUT will not be prepared to accept.

Martin Powell-Davies, Secretary, Lewisham NUT  
June 11th 2014.

Tuesday 10 June 2014

STRB Report: Another Serious Attack on Teachers' Pay

Far from the Review Body 'listening' to teachers, today's STRB pay recommendations show that they - and Michael Gove - are determined to impose yet more pay robbery on teachers. Even more dangerously, the STRB proposes the complete replacement of national pay scales by divisive school-by-school performance-pay. 

All of the recommendations have been given Gove's blessing. Here are some of the key points (For added clarity, these proposals are in addition to the existing threat that teachers might not be awarded pay progression, from one point to the next, this September if they are judged to have failed to meet performance-pay targets) :

a) 1% at best - another below-inflation pay cut:
This Government's pension and pay cuts have already cut teachers' real living standards by around 15%. Now Gove is recommending just a 1% annual pay award - and that only for the top and bottom of the pay scales: "The STRB has recommended a 1% uplift of the national framework for teachers’ pay from September 2014. The uplift will be applied to the minima and maxima of all the pay ranges and allowances in the national pay framework".

b) Schools could decide on 0% for many teachers:

Schools will be given the power to decide on even lower increases for staff paid on other spine points: "For all teachers who are paid other than on the minima and maxima the STRB has recommended that schools should determine locally how to take account of the uplift"

c) In 2015, there will be no guarantee of an increase at all
By 2015, even the annual award will depend on 'performance': "In revising their pay policies for 2014 to 2015, schools should consider, and set out, how any pay decisions for those on the maxima of pay ranges in September 2015 will take account of performance in applying any uplift to the national framework"


d) By 2015, even advisory pay scales will be abolished
I also joined NUT members at today's Lobby
"Reference points should be removed from DfE advice following the September 2014 pay decisions ... all schools should revise their pay policies for 2014 to 2015, and set locally determined arrangements for performance-related progression as a basis for decisions on pay in September 2015"

Quotes taken from:

We have to respond with firm action

In response, a press release from the National Union says that “the NUT will be calling on Michael Gove to reconsider this derisory pay settlement and to take action to ensure that every teacher gets an adequate pay increase in September and to ensure all schools follow a national pay scale.”

Of course we must make those demands, but we also know that they will fall on deaf ears - unless Gove is forced back by teachers taking firm strike action in response to this provocation.

This latest threat makes building for our strike action on July 10 even more vital. The complete removal of national pay scales would leave every teacher vulnerable to unscrupulous bullying and pressure as schools set even more unreasonable performance-pay targets for teachers to meet. It would create a complete performance-pay free-for-all.

No teacher wants to lose pay to strike action without good reason. Some may need hardship collections to help them join their colleagues on strike. However, today's STRB Report provides yet more good reasons to act. The salary we would lose on strike will be far outweighed by the losses - financially and physically - that teachers will face unless these attacks on pay - alongside those on pensions and workload - are defeated.

United action on November 30 2011
Build for joint action on July 10 - and beyond.
Teachers are not alone in seeing their living standards attacked. Importantly, this means we will also not be alone in  taking action on pay.

At the meeting of the SERTUC Public Services Committee that I chaired this morning at Congress House, Local Authority unions reported on their ongoing ballots for strike action over pay. If all the results are positive, UNISON, GMB and UNITE will all be starting action with a one-day national strike on July 10th. The PCS are also consulting their members over co-ordinating action on the same day. The FBU, preparing for 24-hour strike action on June 12th as part of their dispute over pensions, might also be taking action in July too.  If these unions are all able to co-ordinate action with the NUT, then July 10 will become a substantial display of trade union strength.

The Local Authority union ballots have yet to be won, but plans are being made for joint rallies on the day. Local Authority unions are keen to also make sure there is time for local picketing of workplaces first  - and that's an activity that can also involve NUT members too. However, it's also important that mass demonstrations are built so that trade unionists feel the strength, unity and solidarity of marching together with their colleagues.

Significantly, there was also a discussion about provisional plans that Local Authority unions are making for further action in the autumn. Reflecting the debates within the NUT, it was rightly pointed out that members didn't just want to make a 'gesture' on July 10, they needed to know that it was part of ongoing action intended to win their dispute. Of course, the demand for a calendar of action, rather than isolated strike days, is central to my GS campaign. 

Gove's blunders have made him even more unpopular this week. With decisive action, he can be forced back.