Sunday, 19 October 2014

Morgan and Ofsted try to placate teachers - but what effect will it have in schools?

The NUT block marching on yesterday's TUC demo in London
In another pre-election attempt to distance herself from her detested predecessor, Education Secretary Nicky Morgan has written a letter drawing attention to a new 'myth-busting' document issued by Ofsted.

Morgan's letter states that "this document has emerged from the current programme of talks between the department for education and trade unions, and I welcome its publication as a positive step towards tackling unnecessary workload in schools". 

The Ofsted document (which can be read in full on http://www.teachers.org.uk/files/ofsted-inspections-clarification-for-schools.pdf) certainly provides useful ammunition to school union groups seeking to limit the present levels of unmanageable workload.

In particular, the document makes clear that Ofsted:
  • are interested in the effectiveness of planning rather than the form it takes.
  • does not expect schools to use the Ofsted evaluation schedule to grade teaching or individual lessons.
  • does not require schools to undertake a specified amount of lesson observation.
  • does not expect to see a particular frequency or quantity of work in pupils’ books or folders.
  • does not expect to see unnecessary or extensive written dialogue between teachers and pupils in exercise books and folders
  • does not require schools to provide evidence for each teacher for each of the bulleted sub-headings in the Teachers’ Standards
These 'clarifications' back-up many of the points that the NUT has been making when opposing some of the more draconian school pay policies that link pay progression to Ofsted grading of lessons and/or Teacher Standards check-lists. The points making clear that extensive dialogue in books is not required, nor specific planning formats, can also help school groups battling against bureaucratic and excessively time-consuming marking and planning policies.

However, Ofsted and Nicky Morgan have chosen their words carefully. Morgan's commitments still fall far short of what is really required to really reduce teacher workload. That would be the introduction of a National Contract that legislates for an overall limit on teachers' working hours, and for a minimum 20% PPA time so that we have adequate time to mark and prepare lessons within the working day.

Of course, the NUT is absolutely right to point out that it is our campaign on excessive workload that has helped push Nicky Morgan into acknowledging that something has to be done to address it. The growing evidence of a crisis in teacher morale is also something that any Government has got to start paying some attention to. But the overriding aim to privatise and drive down the cost of public services remains sacrosanct. That's why it will still take a determined campaign of national and local action to achieve real concessions.

Ofsted's letter is still only a limited gain. The divisive performance-pay system introduced by Michael Gove remains in place. The pressure from Ofsted on schools to  make the grade - or be forced into becoming academies - is certainly still there as well.

Unfortunately, in her letter Nicky Morgan simply says that, rather than have to follow an Ofsted directive, "it is up to schools to decide how they monitor, evaluate and plan teaching and learning". In the same vein, the Ofsted document  says that "Ofsted will usually expect to see evidence of the monitoring of teaching and learning and its link to teachers’ performance management and the Teachers’ Standards, but this should be the information that the school uses routinely and not additional evidence generated for inspection". 

In reality, these letters are still saying that schools can pressurise teachers with the threat of having their pay progression withheld - but that they should make up their own rules rather than pointing to Ofsted directives!

So, on their own, these letters will change little in schools. However, used as arguments to support local and national action over workload, they could certainly prove useful.

Next week, the NUT Executive meets to review the outcome of the Union's consultative ballot. I hope that we will be able to announce that we will be taking further national strike action up to the General Election to press for the changes that would really guarantee change - like a National Contract limiting workload and the removal of performance-pay, certainly on the main pay spine. Of course, that action will also be required under the next Government too.

Alongside national action, the Union needs to give confidence and encouragement to union groups to demand schools adopt planning, marking and pay policies that protect teachers from excessive workload - turning Morgan's vague promises into meaningful reality.

If Nicky Morgan wants to issue helpful advice, perhaps she should remind Headteachers that they have a Professional Responsibility under the School Teachers' Pay and Conditions Document (para 48.13) to "lead and manage the staff with a proper regard for their well-being and legitimate expectations, including the expectation of a healthy balance between work and other commitments"

If of course, Heads do not show such regard, then what better grounds for a Union group to organise action under the NUT's ongoing ballot to make sure that such a work-life balance is achieved!

Sunday, 12 October 2014

Tristram's Oath - Time to discuss standing our own election candidates


The failure of Tristram Hunt, Labour's Shadow Education Secretary, to significantly challenge Government policy has already disappointed many teachers. His statement today calling for teachers to make an 'oath' declaring their commitment to the profession has generated real anger.

However it's dressed up, the proposal insultingly suggests that problems in education can be blamed on the lack of commitment from teachers. To make such an insulting statement just a week after the NUT revealed the damning results of its workload survey is quite incredible. In response, even Nicky Morgan was forced to acknowledge that workload needed to be addressed. But not Tristram!

Apparently, this suggestion was the product of Hunt's recent visit to Singapore (see BBC News via http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/education-29482160), a schooling system which has been criticised for the enormous pressures it places on school students. 

Social media has been full of angry responses, such as:





The BBC News article blurted out what may well be the uncomfortable truth about Tristram: "from Labour's perspective, it also moves the education debate away from government changes that are unlikely to be unpicked".

Yes, the NUT's Education Manifesto explains correctly how "the academies and free schools programme has resulted in unnecessary fragmentation of the education system" and demands "Give local authorities back the legal powers they need to plan and provide enough school places in their local areas" and "Restore the role of the local authority as the democratic local organisation responsible for education".

However, a future New Labour Government apparently has no intention of doing any such thing. Tristram Hunt is quoted in the BBC article as saying "We're very much in favour, and I'm very passionate about, parents and charities setting up schools, providing choice for people in areas where we need new school places .. We want to see a multiplicity of provision - academy chains, single academies, community schools, parent-led academies."

So, this is the tweet that I posted today:


Some excellent work is being done by NUT Associations distributing our Education Manifesto and lobbying politicians. However, the likelihood is our words will fall on deaf ears, particularly at the tops of the main political parties.

How long do we continue to put up with politicians that are wedded to cuts and privatisation at the expense of teachers, children and their parents and communities? Isn't it high time that the NUT, alongside other trade unions, started to talk seriously about providing alternative political representation that is prepared to stand up for trade union policies?

The NUT would not be alone in having this debate. Indeed, it's instructive that, following their high-profile dispute, the leader of the Chicago Teachers' Union, Karen Lewis, has been preparing to stand in the election for Mayor of Chicago. (Karen has been seriously ill this week and I wish her well in her recovery - you can too via the AFT website - search for 'Get Well Soon Karen Lewis')

That's why, as discussed at the LANAC Steering Committee yesterday, I have drafted a motion for the 2015 Annual Conference that I hope NUT Local Associations will put forward in their General Meetings before the deadline later this term. It can be downloaded via http://goo.gl/X22qzY but here's the text I am proposing:
 
The NUT Manifesto and the Union’s Political Fund


Conference congratulates members across the Union who have worked hard to distribute the “manifesto for our children’s education” to parents, politicians and in our local communities.

We welcome the support that the Manifesto has received, including from educationalists such as Professor Robin Alexander who correctly described it as “not some ideological wish-list but a sensible and principled statement with a firm basis in evidence”.

Conference agrees that we must continue to lobby the main political parties in order to try and persuade them to adopt our Manifesto recommendations. We encourage Associations to write to General Election candidates in their local Parliamentary Constituencies asking if they support the recommendations, and to draw candidates’ responses to the attention of their membership.

However, Conference notes with regret that, despite our efforts, whatever party or parties form the next Government after May’s General Election, it is highly unlikely that its education policies will adopt many of the recommendations set down in the Manifesto.

Conference recognises that an urgent debate is now required within the Union as to how we can best address the democratic deficit created when the main parties jointly support policies promoting austerity and privatisation.

Conference notes that, in the face of similar attacks on public services and their trade union members, similar debates have taken place in other trade unions, such as the PCS, RMT and the Chicago Teachers Union. The NUT now also needs to consider whether we should give backing to alternative political representation, including through the use of our Political Fund to support candidates in local and national elections who are in support of Union policies.

Conference instructs the Executive to:

1) Consult with members and Local Associations and Divisions about the Union giving support to NUT members, and/or other trade union or community candidates, standing for election on a platform which is in line with Union policies;

2) Approach other non-Labour-affiliated unions, and in particular PCS and RMT, for exploratory talks with a view to working together on addressing the lack of adequate political representation for trade unionists;

3) Report back to Conference 2016 on the results of these discussions, including proposals for any recommended Rule Changes that have arisen from them which would require the agreement of Annual Conference. 


... and congratulations to everyone for another well-supported 'Twitter storm' tonight. Here's two more of mine that seemed to go down well with colleagues:


Wednesday, 8 October 2014

Solidarity with Kobane


I was pleased to be able to speak at a Press Conference held in the Stop the War Coalition Office last night, at the invitation of Day-Mer, the Turkish and Kurdish Community organisation. 

The event was called to explain what is happening in Kobane and allowed me to offer my support and solidarity to those struggling bravely to defend the town and, more broadly, to the workers and poor of the whole region in their fight for self-determination, workers' unity  and to defeat poverty, corruption and IS brutality.

In doing so, I made clear my view that trade unionists and socialists must oppose the intervention of the US, UK and other Western powers. As the Turkish Government's actions were confirming, they will only act when it suits their own agenda and to further their own interests.

Whatever happens in the imemdiate battle in Kobane, the heroic resistance being put up by Kurdish fighters shows the determination that people will show when they have a goal worth fighting for.

I spoke alongside other Socialist Party members on the platform and endorse the comments in the article below: 

The plight of ordinary Kurds and others living in Kobane in the Kurdish area of Syria, surrounded and besieged by ISIS, fills everyone who sees the brutal methods of ISIS, including mass executions, beheadings, torture and rape, with horror. 150,000 refugees have fled. The resistance put up by Kurdish fighting forces in Syria, a third of whom are women, is extremely courageous.

Kurds are a stateless nation, divided, since the 1921 post-war agreement between imperialist powers to carve up the Middle East, across Iraq, Iran, Syria and Turkey. As instability has swept the Middle East as a result of western imperialism’s wars, Kurds have been able to develop autonomous areas in both Iraq and Syria. 

The three Kurdish enclaves in Northern Syria are known as Rojava (West Kurdistan). In a region dominated by repressive regimes including suppression of women, Rojava is something of a beacon to Kurds, with its attempts to involve people of all faiths and nationalities in secular cantons. Its standing has grown further in comparison with the corrupt capitalist regime of Barzani in the Kurdish area of Northern Iraq.

The dominant organisation in Rojava is the PYD (Democratic Union Party), linked to the PKK (Kurdistan Workers Party), a guerrilla organisation with mass support based in the Kurdish areas of Turkey. It was the PKK that entered Iraqi Kurdish areas when the Yazidi (Christian) community were under attack and played a large part in repelling ISIS from Sinjar.

The population of Kobane faces the possibility of a massacre. Many Kurdish organisations have, in desperation, called for action by western powers, in particular for heavy armoury to back up the bombings.

But any involvement of the US, UK and other western capitalist powers will only ever be in pursuit of their own interests. Western imperialism has a long record of standing by while populations are slaughtered - including of Kurds themselves - and intervening to inflict their own carnage when it has served their interests.

Western powers want the involvement of Turkey, and the Turkish government has now agreed to join the campaign against ISIS. However it does this for its own reasons. It is suspected of having colluded with ISIS against the Kurds in Syria. They have allowed jihadists to cross their border in big numbers. They now fear they have created a monster – or in fact two: ISIS itself, which now threatens their own borders, but also an armed and roused Kurdish population. 

A ‘peace process’ is meant to be in place between the PKK and Turkish state but depending on how events develop, they will fear the Kurdish population in Turkey could sweep that aside. Appallingly, the Turkish state has mobilised troops and teargas against Kurds and Turks gathering on the border wanting to get through to join the resistance. Turkish aims in Syria include setting up a buffer zone in Rojava and replacing Kurdish fighters with their own forces. 

The Socialist Party has offered our support to a statement by Turkish and Kurdish community organisation Day-Mer, which stands clearly against western imperialist intervention and correctly says: 

“The crocodile tears of Western imperialist countries, led by the USA, in an attempt to appear to be bombing ISIS, should not deceive anybody. The blood bath in the region is their creation. For this reason, the way forward to get rid of ISIS barbarism is not a new imperialist intervention that provokes conflicts between different beliefs and peoples to plunder the region’s natural resources; on the contrary, it is only possible through termination of these countries’ interventions in the region and the realization of regional people’s right to self-determination of their future.” 

The Socialist Party supports the right to armed resistance by people who face the possibility of slaughter. This should be under the control of democratically-elected, non-sectarian defence committees, which would enable the mass of ordinary people to take an active role, including in deciding the course of action. We support the right of Kurdish people to self-determination.

Both ISIS and imperialism can be repelled in the Middle East. Because of the ethnic and national divides in the Middle East this would have to take the form of a non-sectarian workers defence force with democratic controls. It would require an appeal to workers and poor people across the region, including in Turkey, across Iraq and Syria and beyond, with a programme to defend the democratic rights and national aspirations of all peoples. It would mean campaigning for the vast wealth of the region to be owned and controlled democratically in order to provide a secure standard of living for all working and poor people. A voluntary socialist confederation of the Middle East would enable all peoples to freely and democratically decide their own fates.

Monday, 6 October 2014

Defend Education in Lewisham - NUT to host Public Meeting

Download via http://goo.gl/mqcCdYd
Lewisham NUT have called a Public Meeting on Wednesday 12 November, 7 pm - 9 pm in ‘The Barn’ at the Green Man, 355 Bromley Road, London SE6 2RP. Here's why:

LEWISHAM SCHOOLS AT RISK
Lewisham has largely resisted the spread of academies and free schools that has divided education in some boroughs - until now. 


In the last few months, governors at Bonus Pastor school have started to consult over converting to an academy. Plans for two new ‘free schools’ have been announced in the local press. The NUT understands that other schools might be under threat of take-over  from Government-backed academy sponsors. 


EDUCATION, NOT PRIVATISATION
Some parents may once have believed that academies were the way forward. But the facts now confirm that breaking-up Local Authority schooling does not improve education. It creates a fragmented system where schools are run by unaccountable businesses and individuals, making it even harder for parents.


The National Union of Teachers thinks that the expansion of academies and free schools is part of a wider political agenda to privatise our public services - just like the Health Service. Lewisham residents have successfully rallied to defend our NHS. Now we must organise to defend education in Lewisham too.


LET COUNCILS OPEN NEW SCHOOLS
London Councils are being held to to ransom. Growing pupil numbers mean that there is an urgent need to open new schools. But, to force through its privatising plans, the Government says that new schools have to be academies or free schools, not Local Authority schools.


The NUT says that Councils should be given the power to open new community schools - and the funds to make sure that every child has a high quality education in a good local school.


ORGANISE TO DEFEND EDUCATION
In a few months time, there will be a General Election. The NUT has launched a manifesto for education calling on the next Government - whoever it might be - to think again on academies and free schools. Now is certainly not the time to be accepting new academies in Lewisham - now is the time to be stepping up our campaign to reverse this privatisation!


Together, parents, teachers and trade unions can persuade Governors to think again. The campaign at Hove Park in Brighton has just stopped plans to turn their school into an academy. Please come to the meeting and discuss how we can defend education too.

Thursday, 2 October 2014

Report from the NUT Executive – October 2014

Vote YES YES 

Today’s National Executive took place in the middle of the NUT’s national consultation ballot, so it was not a meeting where specific decisions on future action plans were going to be made. Those discussions will take place at the Special National Executive that will take place to consider the ballot results on October 23rd.

However, if anyone needed reminding, then the results of the Union’s workload survey are surely enough to impress on everyone why we have to press ahead with our campaign to defend teachers and education.To make sure that the whole Executive has the confidence to press ahead with that action when we meet again, please return those YES YES votes!

Teacher Workload Exposed


An A4 summary of some of the responses given by teachers can be downloaded from the NUT website via http://www.teachers.org.uk/files/workload-4pp-a4--9710-.pdf
Here's just a few quotes that will give you a flavour of the heart-felt responses:

  • I have three young boys who I barely spend time with any more. Just writing that sentence upset me deeply
  • I am proud of being considered an outstanding practitioner by ALL who have observed me even OFSTED ... Then why do I dream of stacking shelves in a supermarket?
  • The amount of planning and paperwork required. And then thorough marking – trying to mark 120 books a day is daft.
  • We are told all the time that children progress at different rates and yet if it’s on our watch, it now affects our progression on the pay scale.
  • It is the constant nagging feeling that I should be working regardless of what I am doing. If I’m seeing friends, I’m only half there.
The responses have helped force Nicky Morgan to acknowledge that excessive teacher workload is a real issue. However, we don’t just want sympathy, we need real action from politicians and schools – and, to win that will require maintaining and escalating our strike action, nationally and locally. (See my previous post on http://electmartin1.blogspot.co.uk/2014/09/teacher-workload-shocking-stories.html for a further discussion about the action we could take).

Co-ordinated strike action?

As the NUT Executive was meeting, Local Authority unions were still discussing their plans for strike action on October 14 – although the Healthworkers' strike for October 13 seems certainly confirmed. There are certainly good reasons to reject the proposed pay deal, as argued via the NSSN in their latest bulletin on http://shopstewards.net/2014/10/nssn-212-reject-local-government-pay-proposal-keep-the-strike-on/

In answer to my question, it was confirmed that:

  • The Union will be issuing ‘robust’ advice on how NUT members can support striking support staff colleagues (although, of course, we will not be on strike ourselves)
  • Discussions between unions are taking place at national level so that the Executive should know when we meet again on October 23rd whether other unions are in a position to co-ordinate further strike action with the NUT. 

NASUWT 'sweetheart' deal in Jersey ? 

Regrettably, it seems highly unlikely that the NASUWT will be prepared to take strike action alongside us. As reported on http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-jersey-29392510, the NASUWT have signed a deal, apparently behind the backs of other teacher unions, that signs away the previous collective bargaining arrangements in Jersey.

The partnership reportedly commits the NASUWT "to avoiding industrial action". It is a significant and worrying step for a teacher union to take - and one that I hope NASUWT members will be asking serious questions about.

Who will stand up for teachers at the General Election ?

The Union's election manifesto will be being distributed on street stalls and school gates. It sets out the arguments for a properly-funded accountable education system that none of the main political parties are putting forward. Both Labour and Conservative conferences made clear that they stand for more spending cuts and 'austerity'. Clearly, trade unionists will need to rely on their own strength - and, as I believe, rebuild their own political representation.

In the London Working Group, the six Executive members from across the capital looked at the London Assembly's Education Panel Report. It points out the growing pupil place crisis and does at least state that 'free schools will not solve the school places crisis'. The Report correctly states that "Local authorities are increasingly in an unenviable position where they have the statutory responsibility for ensuring that every child who wants a school place should have one, but are unable to control the supply of school places through expansion or new build". However, the logical conclusion - that we do away with privatisation and make sure that schools are organised and planned through elected Local Authorities - is, of course, not stated.

A few final points:

There's a lot more to say but, in brief:
  • The campaign to defend Julie Davies, Haringey NUT Secretary, continues with some NUT groups considering strike action to oppose the attacks on Julie and union facility arrangements.
  • The NUT will be defending members facing the threat of denial of pay progression under the new performance-pay arrangements. New advice on pay appeals has been issued - see http://www.teachers.org.uk/paytoolkit/appeals .
  • A ballot of members in Sixth Form Colleges will take place on a new pay structure proposed by the employers. While negotiators have achieved some gains, it would leave all pay progression tied to appraisal decisions. While I want to speak to members in the Sixth Form Network, I think this means the offer  should be rejected.
  • The NUT Supply Teachers' Lobby of Parliament is going ahead on Tuesday 28 October. Associations should encourage their supply teacher members to attend.
  • A number of international issues were discussed including Afghanistan - where a teacher addressed the meeting - Palestine, Iraq and Hong Kong. A letter to show solidarity with the Hong Kong democracy protests was circulated - see my post below http://electmartin1.blogspot.co.uk/2014/09/solidarity-with-umbrella-revolution.html
 
Download a pdf copy of this report via http://goo.gl/HaO87K


Tuesday, 30 September 2014

Solidarity with the "Umbrella Revolution" !

"This was the weekend that changed everything in Hong Kong. Mass popular resistance on the streets, by night and day, with mass gatherings of 100,000 and up to 180,000, spearheaded by the youth and a weeklong student strike, has forced the unelected Hong Kong government and thousands of heavily armed riot police to beat a retreat."

The inspiring struggle on the streets of Hong Kong, led by youth but with the support of other workers, especially teachers, is being supported by trade unionists across the world.

Thanks to chinaworker.info we have been able to download posters to send messages of support to Hong Kong - and here's ours from Lewisham NUT.

For a socialist analysis of the struggle from those in the midst of the battle, read further on: 
http://chinaworker.info/en/2014/09/30/8245/

社會主義行動 Socialist Action (CWI-Hong Kong) members leading a public forum at the Mong Kok occupation
At today's meeting of the NUT National Executive, members signed the following petition, which can also be found on ipetitions:
We, the undersigned, support the right of Hong Kong citizens to decide who they want to vote for as Chief Executive rather than just to have a choice of candidates who are vetted and approved by Beijing.
We strongly condemn the Hong Kong police’s use of tear gas, pepper spray, batons against the protesting students and the public who only had towels, cling film and umbrellas to protect them.
We support Hong Kong teachers and other workers, who are taking strike action against police brutality and for the right for Hong Kong citizens to choose their own candidates.
们签名支持香港市民自决权:选举特首需要人民自我决定,而不是在北京钦定的人选里做出选择!
们强烈谴责直接听命于特区政府的香港警察使用催泪瓦斯,喷雾胡椒, 警棍暴力驱散只有毛巾,保鲜膜,雨伞保护自己的学生和示威民众!

们声援香港教师和工人因反对警察暴力而采取的罢工行动!香港人民,命运自主!

Monday, 29 September 2014

Teacher Workload - shocking stories require union action

The size of the response to the NUT's workload survey - with over 16,000 online forms completed in just four days - is itself a clear indication of just how strongly teachers feel about the appalling working conditions they are facing. 

"I am fed up of seeing my colleagues near to breaking point, and there isn’t a week goes by where I don’t see someone crying. This has to stop. (Primary teacher, Trafford, NUT survey)"

Full details of the survey have been released this morning by the NUT. The results should be enough to stir a Government that genuinely cared about education into acting immediately to genuinely reduce teacher workload. However, this is not such a Government. Therefore, it's the NUT that will have to act on the results.

Sad and shocking
 
The detailed content of the responses are both sad and shocking, starkly revealing the reality of the low morale and excessive workload facing teachers:
  • 90% report that they have considered leaving teaching in the last two years
  • 87% know at least one teacher who has left because of workload in the last two years
  • 96.5% say that workload has negative consequences for family or personal life
https://twitter.com/Who_d_teach

This latest cartoon by teacher Marcus Owen sums up many of the comments made in the NUT Workload Survey by teachers who find it impossible to spend time outside school hours with their families and friends:

"I hate the fact that I am sometimes willing my children to go to sleep just so that I can work. It's not right.
(Early years teacher, Cornwall, NUT survey)"
 

Bad for teachers, bad for education

These levels of workload aren't just bad for teachers, they are bad for education as a whole. Stressed and exhausted staff can't properly meet youngsters' needs. Schools staffed only by teachers without family responsibilities aren't going to provide the range of experience needed for a rounded education. 

Of course, if this excessive workload continues, some schools will struggle to be fully staffed at all - or certainly only by a constantly changing staff which will provide no stability for schools, nor for the children they serve:

"I know so many people of all ages and stages of their teaching career who've quit, and I think about it at least 3 times a week … and I've only been teaching 2 years.
(Secondary teacher, Shropshire, NUT Survey)".

What is to be done?

Unfortunately, these facts and figures alone won't be enough to change things for the better. What's needed is collective trade union action.

Excessive workload isn't happening by accident. Today's mainstream politicians are more interested in slashing public spending for the benefit of the wealthy rather than providing comprehensive education that meets the needs of all. 

The new Education Secretary, Nicky Morgan, may decide to take a less provocative approach than Michael Gove did before her *, but George Osborne has made quite clear that public spending will only be getting tighter under his charge. After all, those who can afford to pay for small class sizes - and for teachers with at least a little more time to prepare and teach a properly rounded curriculum - can make sure their children are educated in the independent sector!

Some politicians - and, regrettably, some short-sighted Heads - will be quite happy to continue with a rapid turnover of young staff, lowering pay bills and increasing 'productivity' as teachers are worked into the ground before being replaced by a new set of recruits looking for an income. 

That's why, over years, I and other Conference delegates from Socialist Party Teachers and LANAC have argued for national action on workload, to stop the growing demands on teachers. In 2012, the NUT and NASUWT did successfully ballot members to allow both strike action and action short of strike action to defend working conditions - as well as pay.

As part of that campaign, national strike action has helped persuade the Government to pull back from Gove's plans to make teachers' conditions even worse by removing the 1265 hours/195 day directed working time limits. However, our
open-ended contract, that sets no limit on our overall working time, remains in place. 

Under constant pressure from Ofsted, league tables and threats of academisation, Heads pile the pressure on staff to do even more work outside the classroom. Staff are put under even more pressure and scrutiny. In this latest NUT survey,
  • 80% say that marking policy now causes excessive workload
  • 70% cite excessive data entry and analysis requirements
  • 62% point to Ofsted preparations and “mocksteds” 
  • 68% want more achievable appraisal targets
  • 67% want more PPA time
  • 65% want smaller classes

National action needed

If we are serious about winning the changes we need, then we need a serious campaign of national action to win a binding national contract that protects teachers from the excessive demands being made on them.

The results of this workload survey should be just the encouragement teachers need to return the consultative ballot papers arriving this week - and to return a YES, YES vote for further campaigning and strike action. But they should also provide the encouragement for colleagues on the National Executive to then put that action in place, setting out a clear calendar of action that teachers can see is intended to win clear improvements for teachers and education, not just to protest at how bad things have become.

The latest NUT manifesto makes some good points about broader education policy, such as the need to return oversight of schools to local authorities. However, we need to also clearly set out our key demands on workload, pay and pensions to teachers, parents and politicians. In the ongoing LANAC reps' survey (open for responses until October 22nd via https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/LANACrepssurvey) two proposed demands on workload are getting clear support so far:
  • End our open-ended contracts: a fixed limit on overall working hours 
  • 20% minimum PPA for all teachers in all sectors
Of course, winning these demands means defeating 'austerity' as well. Then the teachers needed to properly meet all children's needs could be recruited - and employed under acceptable working conditions.

Local action needed as well

While building the national action that can continue to put pressure on this - and the next - Government to legislate for changes that would apply to all teachers, then local action by the best-organised school union groups can help protect colleagues from excessive demands. Co-ordinated action across schools can help overcome isolation. Victories need to be publicised to encourage other teachers and school groups to take the same approach.

Different school groups may have different priorities, depending on circumstances. However, the existing instructions under the ongoing ballot for 'action short of strike action' has sufficient flexibility to cover  a range of issues and forms of action, including escalation to local strike action too.

Discussing with school reps, and looking at the national NUT workload survey results, some of the key issues that could be used as focuses for local action might be:
  • Enforcing legal limits such as 'rarely cover' and directed hours
  • Demanding a marking policy that meets work/life balance requirements
  • Enforcing the '21 admin tasks' particularly in relation to data input / data analysis
  • Winning observation protocols and appraisal policies that do not depend on graded observations of lessons
  • Collective action to oppose denial of mainscale pay progression and the imposition of unreasonable targets
LANAC's Steering Committee in Leeds on Saturday October 11th will be discussing exactly these kinds of actions - both local and national - and how we can build the confidence needed to build them in our schools and Local Associations.

Local action is never straightforward as it can soon become a sharp struggle between a school staff and its management - but, if we are going to rewrite the shocking stories in the NUT workload survey, then that action needs to be taken.

Details of the Survey via the NUT website: http://www.teachers.org.uk/node/22376

 * UPDATE 30.9.14 - Nicky Morgan's Speech to Tory Conference:

Today, Nicky Morgan did, indeed, adopt a more conciliatory tone - while still making very clear that she stands fully behind free schools and academisation. 

Significantly, she acknowledged that teacher workload was a problem, saying "I don’t want my child to be taught by someone too tired, too stressed and too anxious to do the job well". However, no concrete changes in policy were announced.

Morgan went on to say that "I have set two priorities: Firstly… to do everything I can to reduce the overall burden on teachers… and second… to ensure that teachers spend more time in the classroom teaching". An interesting sound-bite but what exactly does that second priority mean in practice? If, in fact, it means reducing staffing costs by reducing PPA even further, then this is dangerous double-speak.

The NUT can rightly be pleased that Nicky Morgan has been forced to acknowledge that there is a workload problem but we mustn't be fooled by Tory platitudes. Morgan would be very happy to engage in a long series of talks that then produce some vague agreement that actually has little effect in schools. Now we have to press home our advantage and make sure that we win some meaningful concessions that can really reduce teacher workload.