Thursday 25 February 2016

Priced out of London - London Young Teachers' Housing Survey

At the end of 2015, a NUT survey of London’s young teachers revealed how many of them were struggling to live and work in a city where the average monthly cost of renting a one-bed flat is now over £1,100 - and rising.

    60% of young teachers surveyed said that they could not see themselves still teaching in London in five years’ time
    London needs to create over 100,000 new school places during the lifetime of this Parliament yet, at the same time, teachers are being forced out of the city. This can only mean that London faces a growing teacher shortage.

    Nearly two-thirds of responses specifically pointed to the cost of living in London as the reason that they would be leaving:  
    “The cost of rent is half of my monthly salary - add bills, food and petrol and I have nothing left”
    “My rent has just increased to £1600 per month”
    “Salaries are little more than they were seven years ago but rent has doubled”
    “Teaching, yes; in London, no. I just can’t afford to live here”

    Many teachers explained that they would be leaving because they would struggle to afford housing with enough room for a family: 

    “I plan to move out because I have a 1 year old and cannot afford to raise my child in London”
    “If I want to have children, I would have to change either my city or my profession”

    Of course, the reason some teachers gave for leaving were linked to the workload faced by teachers everywhere. However, many linked that stress in the workplace to the added stress of inadequate housing once they leave work:
    “Teaching is stressful. You need to be able to come back from work to a home that gives you mental and physical space. I can’t afford to live in such a space”
    “There’s no privacy and nowhere to work. Sitting on my bed to mark books is killing my back”
    “Rent uses up more than half my salary but I can’t move further away to find something cheaper as I need to get into work by 7.30 am”

    Renting or living at home
    59% of the teachers surveyed were having to rent privately
    18% were living at home with their parents - more than those who were buying a property

     Unable to secure a home of their own, a majority of London’s young teachers, like many other young workers, are becoming trapped in the private rental market. 

    Just like the families of too many of the children that they teach, young teachers are being forced into unsuitable housing, facing high rents and sometimes unscrupulous landlords:
    “We are five people sharing a three bedroom flat. This is the only way we can keep the costs down”
    “Landlords frequently increase rent, forcing us to move or they sell property and force eviction”
    “It’s noisy, horrible and with holes in the walls but it’s all that I can afford”.
    “We live in a tiny two-bedroom flat with three children. We can’t even fit a second bed in the second bedroom. The property has damp and my daughter has asthma”
    “I don’t like having to live with strangers. There’s one bathroom between four of us”
    “I work in the same borough that I grew up in. I don’t want to move away from my life, my roots, just because of ridiculous housing prices”

    Nearly one in five of the surveyed teachers said that they are having to stay with their parents: 

    “Living at home with my parents makes me feel like I never have my own life. I’m leaving London"
    “I’m 34 and still having to live at home. What kind of life is that?”
    “Due to escalating rents, I have had to move back with my parents”
    “I have been married for two years and can only now afford to live with my husband. We were having to live separately with our own parents”

    Urgent action needed
    The survey responses didn’t just explain how bad the housing crisis has become, they also called for action to make sure that teachers can afford to stay working in London’s schools:
    “Great cities like Berlin have established rent controls so that prices are affordable. If London wants teachers, something has to change!”

    “We need key worker properties for teachers”
    “We need more pay. Wages just do not meet the cost of housing. I have colleagues outside London who are able to save for first homes as an NQT!”
    “What about making travel free for teachers?”
    “There should be a limit to private rents with standards on room sizes and housing conditions”

    Standing up for London’s education

    The NUT believes every child deserves the best education that our city can offer. However, we know our schools are under threat. We know that teachers and parents are being priced out of London.

    We’ve produced a manifesto for London’s schools and colleges with key proposals that we’re asking the next Mayor and London Assembly to champion - and we’re asking you to demand that they do!

    The NUT’s manifesto for London calls on the next Mayor and London Assembly to:
    • advocate for rent controls and for more affordable housing in London, with investment for councils to build homes, so that parents and children are not priced out of their community
    • take urgent action to provide affordable housing to enable London schools to keep the teachers they need.

    Saturday 13 February 2016

    Assessment: Primary Headteachers say “enough is enough”

    This government’s chaotic changes to assessment policy have already caused growing discontent amongst teachers, especially primary headteachers. In the last few weeks, that anger has grown sharply as primary schools take in the latest changes to assessment regulations that have been announced by government.

    Not only do these changes have serious workload implications, they also threaten more schools, and more children, with being unfairly labelled as ‘failures’ in the next school league tables. Of course, ‘failure’ also carries with it the risk of forced academisation as the government presses ahead with its plans to completely dismantle local authority schooling. 

    Yesterday, two different NUT Headteacher members emailed me to make sure the Union understood the seriousness of the situation. One has now written me the following letter and asked me to share it on my blog: 

    “As a Head, I was already finding the frequent changes and demands to assessment procedures impossible to manage.

    The changing of the deadline for Key Stage 2 assessments from the end of June to the end of May has now further increased pressure and workload on teachers, as well as children. 

    The latest changes that are raising the biggest concerns are the hike in expectations and the move from a ‘best fit’ judgement to a 100% pass rate. Children now have to achieve all of the statements in each standard which is an impossible situation.

    It has also been announced that instead of teacher assessment being moderated for Reading, Writing and Maths at the end of Key stage 1 and writing at the end of key Stage 2, it will now be ‘validated’. This will involve Local Authority validators coming into school between 7th and 21st June and 'validating' work samples. This will come after the deadline for the submission of Key Stage 2 teacher assessment and whilst we are administering the phonic screening test, so when it is already a busy time in schools.

    The workload involved in this will be immense. For example, at the end of Key Stage 1 there are 13 statements that the children have to achieve to be at the national standard in Reading. Teachers have to have evidence that children have achieved every one of these statements consistently in order to be at the national standard. If you teach a class of 30 children then you have to check 390 statements for reading alone. If, as suggested by the government, teachers make sure that the statement has been achieved 6 times to prove consistency, Year 2 teachers would have to check 2,340 statements just for reading. The Government have consistently said they wish to decrease teacher workload, but this new assessment system dramatically increases it. 

    For Headteachers the situation is even worse. I have to check that all statements have been achieved in Reading, Writing and Maths for year 2 and 6 before I submit the data. As I am the Head of a large Primary school, if I were to check every statement for Reading, Writing and Maths in Years 2 and 6, then I would have to check 7,266 statements. If I checked them 6 times (the Government recommendation), I would have to check 43,596 statements! At a rate of one statement per minute that would take me 726 hours and 36 minutes!! I already work 60 hours a week. This is a completely impossible task. 

    Alongside this, the expected standard is far higher than last year's levels. The expected standard at Key Stage 2 in writing last year was a 4b. This year the new national expectation is the equivalent of a 5c! A school near me that recently did really well in an Ofsted inspection, looked at the new exemplification material and had 0% of children at the expected standard. 

    Many Heads and teachers in my area are saying enough is enough. We need to make a stand and protect teachers from excessive workload. In our profession we are very good at taking on board initiative after initiative and making them work. This time, that needs to stop. 

    The pressure on children is also intolerable. With the constant threat of forced academisation, schools are under enormous pressure to perform. This inevitably translates into more pressure on children. Our children are the most tested in Europe. This kind of testing does not raise standards, it just produces children who can pass tests based on a very narrow curriculum. 

    Now is the time to make a stand and refuse to enable a system to happen that is so fundamentally flawed. We cannot enable a system to happen that we do not agree with. We need league tables to be suspended and no floor targets this year to be set. We need a return to best fit judgements as opposed to a 100% pass rate. If the Junior Doctors can make a stand, so can we!"

    Sunday 7 February 2016

    Some thoughts from the NUT London Regional Secretary - February 2016

    After just short of 30 years as a NUT member and science teacher in Kingston, Bromley and then, for over two decades, Lewisham, for the most part as local NUT Secretary, I am now a month into my new role as the London Regional Secretary of the NUT.

    Leading the work of the Union across the London Region is no small responsibility. Around one-fifth of the NUT's membership work in London. Being the capital city, the work of the Union here inevitably has a wider impact and influence than just the London Region alone. The NUT can make that impact thanks to the strength and hard work of our Local NUT Divisions, supported by the NUT staff working out of the London Region Office in Wandsworth. 

    I aim to post regularly on this blog to give you a flavour of the issues and campaigns being taken up by the NUT in London. Here's an update from last month:

    Organising across London  to defend education
    As Regional Secretary, I want to make sure that the Regional Office and Local Divisions are working together as much as possible to build the Union and our campaigns to defend teachers and education. Already, in my first month, I've been able to visit schools and NUT meetings in Southwark, East London, Haringey, Barnet, Lewisham and Richmond. Divisions have also met together to discuss our campaigns and organising plans, not least at the successful 'London Weekend' event held in Brighton last week.

    Delegates at the NUT 'London Weekend' show their support for suspended NUT rep Simon O'Hara

    As we discussed in Brighton, teachers and education in London face threats that are perhaps as serious as any we have had to face before. Here are just a few of the challenges we need to meet:

    Education Cuts
    Under Government funding proposals, school budgets across London are facing cut of 12%. Schools in some boroughs could lose over 20% of their funds. That would mean understaffed schools, bigger class sizes, more children’s needs unmet and a narrower curriculum.

    Wednesday's meeting in Westminster to protect school funding in London

    A meeting at the House of Commons last Wednesday brought together MPs, Headteachers, Governors, Councillors, school staff, parents and students to discuss a joint campaign to protect London schools. I was one of a number of contributors who pointed out how the relative success of London schools was in part down to the higher relative level of funding that London schools have received. The government should be increasing school funding in other regions, not taking funds from London budgets to cover up their failure to fund schools properly nationally.

    Next week, a formal ballot starts across NUT members employed in Sixth Form Colleges to seek their support for a one-day strike to oppose the cuts to their sector. A good response to the ballot will help provide momentum to the London funding campaign too. 

    Teacher Shortages
    Talented, hardworking teachers are being driven out of the profession by excessive workload and the lack of affordable housing. However, the Independent reports that, under new Home Office regulations, some overseas teachers will be forced to leave their jobs and return home this April! 

    London NUT Regional Office is offering to support teachers affected by the new regulations

    With the average cost of renting a one-bed flat in London now over £1,100 a month, an NUT survey of young teachers found that 60% of respondents were looking to leave London in the next five years. One in five were still having to live at home with their parents to be able to make ends meet. The other main pressure, as I discussed when I spoke to young teachers in Richmond, is workload. Teachers are typically working well over 60 hours a week - an impossible burden that Union organisation can - and must - help to combat.

    What Lewisham NUT reps reported last term - a story repeated across London
    Much of the workload is also being driven by excessive demands for detailed marking, lesson observations and pupil progress scores, all part of an 'exam factory' culture which is demoralising both staff and children alike. When I had the chance to speak on BBC Radio London last month about the pressures on schools, feedback on social media showed that many parents shared the NUT's concerns about the excessive pressure on school students.

    Poverty and unaffordable housing
    Of course, unaffordable rents aren't just a burden on teachers. The lack of genuinely affordable housing is forcing many families into unsuitable homes or out of London altogether. 

    It's also part of the reason why almost four in 10 children in the capital grow up in poverty.  These social conditions remain the main factors that impact on the progress children make in school.

    Lack of school places
    London needs 113,000 more school places to meet demand. Yet our Councils have neither the funds nor the legal powers to open new schools. 

    Instead, the Government is trying to push even more schools into becoming academies. However, as the strong support for the campaign to 'Stop Academies in Lewisham' showed, parents and staff alike are increasingly opposed to the academisation of schools.

    NUT London Mayoral Hustings on March 7 

    London’s Mayoral and Assembly elections are a chance for Londoners to influence the capital’s policymakers and highlight the issues that matter most to them. The NUT wants to make sure that education is at the heart of those debates.

    That’s why the NUT are hosting a Mayoral election hustings on Monday 7 March at the NUT’s national headquarters. NUT General Secretary Christine Blower will open the event and point out why London’s educational success is under threat. The hustings will allow candidates to be questioned on where they stand on the issues above - and the policies set out in the NUT's Manifesto for London's schools and colleges - as well as some of the other issues that matter to London’s teachers and parents.

    Make sure of your place by booking in in advance on Eventbrite: