Friday, 30 January 2015

NUT NEC REPORT: Teachers will need to take national action


The January meeting of the Executive was the first to be held since the re-election of Kevin Courtney as Deputy General Secretary. The meeting congratulated Kevin and thanked the other candidates Patrick Murphy and Ian Grayson too.

The GS and DGS elections may now be over but the debates that took place during those campaigns continue. In short, how much worse can our working lives become, and what can we do about it! Regrettably, many teachers were too overwhelmed with workload to even open their voting papers.

Nicky Morgan may have been forced to acknowledge that teacher workload is a real issue but is yet to announce any concrete measures to tackle it. Instead of heeding the Parliamentary Select Committee Report confirming that there is no evidence that academies ‘raise standards’, Morgan says that Government must “inject further choice and competition to the school system”. Instead of abolishing divisive league tables and Ofsted, she has been making speeches about how Government must “improve our use of the National Pupil Database and bring it into the accountability framework”.

That ‘accountability’ regime is being used to threaten and penalise teachers and schools. The NUT’s survey into Pay Progression suggests that it hasn’t taken long for some Heads to use the new performance-pay legislation to hold back pay. A shocking 28% of respondents said they had been denied progression. Those figures were higher still for part-time teachers and Black and Asian colleagues. The equalities implications are clear – as the NUT is already pointing out to Government.

No surprises then that the latest TES headline reads “number of teachers quitting the classroom reaches 10-year high”. They report on DfE figures showing that “almost 50,000 teachers left the profession in the 12 months to November 2013 – the latest year for which figures are available – an increase of 25 per cent over four years”.

The pressures on classroom teachers are intolerable. The attacks on our pay, pensions and conditions continue. Teachers are being isolated through performance-pay and threats of capability. Those looking for work after being bullied out can be told schools will no longer pay them at their previous salary point. Now, more than ever, teachers need to build their Union groups to pull colleagues together to overcome the attempts to isolate and divide.

Where schools have stood firm, victories have been won on workload and performance-pay. Local strike action is taking place, such as at Merrill Academy in Derby against performance-pay attacks. However, as I pointed out when speaking at the Executive, more teachers will have confidence to take national action than local strikes. National action is also what is needed to tackle the national attacks on pay, pensions and conditions. Yes, we can and must lobby MPs, distribute manifestoes and organise local action, but surely national strike action must remain a key part of our strategy.

The National Executive meeting last October had agreed unanimously that, following the support shown in the national consultative ballot, the Union should “develop plans for up to two days of strike action in the spring term [to] be considered in the January executive meeting”. Unfortunately, no such plans were put before us.

Now, I fully understand that we can’t agree firm proposals while we are still awaiting the outcome of the talks with Nicky Morgan over workload – and her response to our demands such as “Take action on marking, planning, data, meetings and observations”, “Announce a moratorium on performance related pay on the main scale” and “Begin the phased introduction of binding limits on teacher working time”. However, with Morgan due to announce her findings imminently, I felt it was at least time to start making plans to respond with action if Morgan’s announcements fall short of what we would want – and what teachers need. Unfortunately, I was in a minority when it came to a vote on my proposal to instruct the officers to develop the plans that we had previously agreed in October.

The debate suggested to me that some Executive colleagues had already dismissed the prospect of further national action before the General Election. If so, then last term’s consultative ballot will have proved to be a way to wind down the campaign rather than to build for more action. I am glad, however, that the debate reminded everyone that we had promised our members that we would consider plans for national action and that in replying to the debate, the President assured the Executive that plans could still be considered at the next National Executive meeting in February.

Childcare Disqualification legislation: The NUT’s threatened challenge to the DfE's advice has successfully drawn concessions from the Government who are now proposing changes to the guidance. Our aim in the long run is to seek to change the legislation altogether but the Union is working with others to make sure this guidance at least minimises the threats to staff and schools.

College of Teaching: A discussion took place on the proposals to set up a new “College of Teaching” and agreed to continue discussions on it. I believe there are real dangers in supporting a CoT that is intended to “certify the professional capacity of its members through a process of mentoring, portfolio assessment, teaching observation and certification against a three-point scale of professional development”. Teachers know through experience that such a system is open to arbitrary decision-making and discrimination. Far from being a collective voice of the profession, such a body would reproduce the divisive grading of ‘successes’ and ‘failures’ that is already blighting schools. 


Supporting Women Teachers Working Through the Menopause: The Union has issued guidance based on the findings of a 2014 Survey of union members looking at their experiences and suggesting concrete ways in which practical difficulties that might arise could be overcome.

Thursday, 29 January 2015

Lewisham NUT members prepare for action to oppose academy transfer

I have sent the following letter to NUT members in five Lewisham schools today:

Our formal action ballots against the threat that your employment could transfer to a new Academy Trust employer have given the NUT the mandate required to call strike action in your school. Overall, on a 42% turnout across the five schools, there was a 97% YES vote for action.

The Union has written seeking reassurances that there are no discussions taking place about conversion of school status. As things stand, we have not received any such confirmation. The NUT is therefore making plans to give notice to employers that we will be calling on NUT members in your school – and the four others where we have balloted – to take an initial one-day strike on Thursday February 12th. Please support those plans – and support the action!


Remember the ballot was for ‘sustained’ action so that any loss of pay for taking part in the strike will be reimbursed by the Union.

WHAT IS NEEDED FOR THE UNION TO WITHDRAW ACTION?

The Union will write once again to the employers to see if we can be given the reassurances that we are seeking – that they will confirm that there will be no change to take on Academy status. If that is the case, then parents and students can be told the news and we can withdraw our action. If not, then we need to show our opposition in the firmest way we can - through taking strike action.

We understand the Working Party set up by the Governors of the Leathersellers' Federation will be reporting back soon. We will take what they report into account – but, until and unless there is a firm rejection, we think NUT members in the three Prendergast Schools should strike on the 12th.

At Sedgehill, the Interim Executive Board is now in place. Thanks to the campaign, Bethnal Green Academy may no longer be involved but the DfE make clear, “we expect the IEB to actively consider a sponsored academy solution”. Until we are told that is not the ‘solution’, then action is needed!

Bonus Pastor's Principal has written back to the NUT confirming that she has "submitted our interest to convert to an academy within the Catholic Diocese of Southwark". Staff and unions are planning to contact the Diocese to ask them to reject that plan. For now, we have no reassurances and so, as in the other schools, we call on NUT members to show their opposition through action.

WHY WE CAN’T WAIT

We understand that some teachers are being told that the NUT is being hasty – that we should wait until a confirmed proposal is out for consultation before we take action. We disagree. The Union unfortunately has plenty of experience nationally of those kinds of ‘consultations’. There is no legal requirement on the Governors to consult fully and openly or for them to call a ballot of staff and/or parents. Even when a majority of staff do vote against – as has happened at Bonus Pastor – Governors can ignore those views. Calling strike action at that stage can help register a protest but is rarely able to stop the transfer to Academy status. Typically, the Governors’ minds have already been made up. We need to register our opposition before it is too late. We need to warn parents about what this change could mean for pupils. That is why we are acting now.

DOES IT REALLY MATTER IF WE BECOME AN ACADEMY?

We know that some teachers are being told that there will be no change to their terms and conditions if their school becomes an Academy. Again, the Union has too much experience that such a guarantee cannot be kept – and is unlikely to be. Talk to colleagues in most academies!

First, let’s be clear about what lies behind Government policy to turn most schools into academies. They want to put an end to elected Local Authorities having responsibility for providing services such as schools. That’s bad for education as a whole and it’s certainly bad for teachers and unions.

Whoever wins the next General Election, public services will continue to face cuts. That means more pressure, more workload, more performance pay cuts in schools. United together, we can oppose those attacks. Divided into Academies, it becomes a lot harder to defend each other.

You rely on your Union to be there to support you when needed. Local Authorities release elected NUT employees from teaching so that they can support and represent teachers. If your school becomes an Academy, it no longer has to be part of those arrangements. So support your Union!


If parents don’t like how a Local Authority is operating, they can vote for a new Council. Academies have no such democratic accountability. Perhaps that’s why questions are now being asked by the National Audit Office about why Academies are paying Heads on average over £6,000 more than in maintained schools. Durand Academy’s Head earns almost £400,000 a year according to the TES!

(See: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/education/educationnews/9694251/Academy-heads-earning-bigger-salaries-NAO-warns.html)

A maintained school – whether it be a community, VA or foundation school – has by law to follow a range of education legislation, such as the School Teachers’ Pay and Conditions Document (STPCD) covering pay scales, 1265 hour/195 day limits etc. An Academy, even if the individuals acting as Governors do not significantly change, is quite a different legal entity. The STPCD would no longer be a statutory requirement that has to apply in your school. Your guaranteed protections are lost.

It’s true that, at least under existing TUPE legislation, employers aren’t allowed to change your contractual conditions if you transfer - although they can be renegotiated after a year. However, TUPE certainly doesn’t apply to new staff. They can be employed under different terms and conditions, leaving transferred staff isolated and under pressure to match the new terms. For example, we know some academies are refusing to honour spine points when they hire new staff.

These aren’t Union ‘scare-stories’. This is, unfortunately, the bitter experience of the Union and many thousands of teachers who have been employed in academies. Neither have academies stood the tests of time and public scrutiny. The experience of staff, parents and students mean that the tide of opinion is starting to turning against them. The House of Commons’ education committee has just concluded that there is no evidence that academies raise standards.

(See: http://www.theguardian.com/education/2015/jan/27/no-proof-academies-raise-standards-education-inquiry )

Up to now, Lewisham Authority has largely resisted the spread of this divisive unproven scheme. Now is not the time to let them take hold. That’s why now is the time that we have to take action.

BUILDING THE CAMPAIGN – plans to build the action

In discussion with school reps and the National Union Action Committee, we are proposing:

  • School groups meet as soon as possible to discuss and confirm support for the strike
  • Unless we have news that means we don’t have to, official notice issued by Wednesday 4th
  • A pre-strike NUT social at the Constitutional Club, Catford, SE6 4SP, 4.30 pm on Friday 6th
  • Hear more at the SERTUC Anti-Academies Conference, Saturday 7th at TUC HQ from 9.30 am.
  • Public meeting with Stop Academies in Lewisham at 7.30 pm on Wednesday February 11th
  • Strike on Thursday 12th – picket, brunch union meeting, public leafleting, delegation to London
  • ... then? Let’s see – we may be joined in further action by the NASUWT who are now balloting (UPDATE: The GMB may also be balloting too. However, we don't yet have confirmation of the other unions ballot timetables. We cannot legally wait beyond the half-term break before the NUT takes action)

Sunday, 25 January 2015

CELEBRATE: Greek vote is a massive rejection of austerity

Join with TUSC and celebrate outside the Greek embassy on Monday, 26/1/15 at 6pm (1A Holland Park, London W11 3TP)

Discuss what the election results mean in Greece - and in Britain - at a Lewisham TUSC meeting this Thursday, 29/1/15 at 7.30 pm (All Saints Community Centre, SE14 5DJ)

Watch Paul Murphy, Anti Austerity Alliance TD for Dublin South West, reporting from Athens: https://t.co/zvteMlaY6D

 
The massive vote for SYRIZA in Greece has been a huge rejection of 'austerity'. Their victory - although they have to secure a majority of seats - opens a new chapter in the battle to build a political alternative to cuts and the rule of the super-rich, one that inevitably leaves many questions still to answer (as this interview with a Greek socialist and friend, makes clear: http://www.socialistworld.net/doc/7047)

However, first of all, anyone who has watched their lives get worse as big business political parties have inflicted their cuts upon us, should celebrate SYRIZA's success! 

Those pro-cuts parties, not least PASOK, Greece's equivalent of the Labour Party, have been dealt a shattering blow by the Greek electorate, people who have suffered atrociously at the hands of the European bankers and their political representatives. ( For example, use your browser to translate this article about the effect of cuts on the Health Service in Greece: http://www.xekinima.org/arthra/view/article/nikos-malinogloy-kybernisi-tis-aristeras-ola-tha-krith/ )

As a Press Release just issued by the Socialist Party states: “Since the onset of the economic crisis, we have argued that austerity is not necessary. This election result in Greece will give hope to millions of people across Europe and the world that there is an alternative to the promise of endless cuts and privatisation.

The Socialist Party is part of the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition which aims to stand 1,000 candidates in May’s local council elections and to challenge for 100 Westminster seats.

The line in the sand is austerity. What makes TUSC candidates and councillors different is that they will not collaborate with Tory cuts. That is the type of representation working people and all those hit by austerity need and deserve. That is why we celebrate the Greek result and why we will fight tooth and nail to offer a no-cuts choice in Britain.”


TUSC is standing to offer the only consistent voice against cuts and austerity in the UK General Election in 2015. Come and join us on:
  • Monday, outside the Greek Embasy in London
  • Thursday, at Lewisham TUSC's meeting discussing the results of the Greek elections and what it means for this May's elections 

Saturday, 24 January 2015

TUSC announces it will mount the sixth biggest of the national electoral challenges this May

Standing room only at the TUSC Conference
Today was an uplifting day for all the trade unionists, community campaigners  and socialists who gathered in Central London for the TUSC Election Conference, launching the 2015 electoral challenge of the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition. It was also a significant step forward for anyone who wants to see the building of a genuine political voice for working people in Britain.

The TUSC stand - with the Conference confirming that there will be over 100 candidates standing for Westminster General Election seats alongside up to 1000 candidates challenging for local council seats - means TUSC will have the sixth largest stand this May. Of course, as the only consistent anti-cuts voice, we aren't expecting TUSC's stand to be easily publicised in the pro-cuts media or for us to be given a seat in the national televised debates. That's why TUSC is relying on you, your neighbours and your workmates to publicise our stand instead!

The Mayor of Walsall says don't be fooled by divide-and-rule budget 'consultations'. Say NO CUTS!
The 100-plus General Election candidates are made up of trade union representatives with a significant base of support and a long and genuine record of campaigning activity. Only TUSC can offer candidates with such a record in the movement. The 50-plus prospective General Election candidates confirmed so far include eight leading RMT officers, 2 members of the NUT National Executive (including myself in Lewisham West and Penge), 2 members of the UNISON NEC and 5 other UNISON branch secretaries, and 4 former Labour councillors, including the ex-Mayor of Harrow in Outer London.

The Conference also heard from former Labour councillors who had taken the significant step of breaking from New Labour and refusing to vote for the cuts demanded by their national and local leaderships. Rebel councillors from Southampton, Warrington, Hull's 'Red Labour' Group, Leicester Independent Councillors Against Cuts, and Walsall's sitting Mayor all spoke about how they had found themselves left with no choice but to stand with local people and to start working with TUSC to oppose cuts. 

Who realised how much worse things could get?
In different ways, they all spoke with passion about how, just as I decided myself some years ago, the Labour Party was no longer the Party they had once joined. As Kevin Bennett, suspended Labour Councillor in Warrington, explained, he knew that he had to be "a trade unionist first and a Labour member second". That's why he was announcing that he would be standing for TUSC in May.

The afternoon session concentrated on a principled and comradely debate on TUSC's election programme, debating how, for example, to best take up how some of our opponents were using racism to deflect workers from the real causes of the problems they face. Several amendments were agreed adding useful points to the TUSC General Election platform including "No to TTIP and all secret austerity treaties", "No to profit-driven GM technology", "Reverse attacks on trade union facility time" and to "Abolish the increases imposed on state retirement age, creating jobs for younger people".

With my candidature in the Lewisham West and Penge constituency now officially endorsed by TUSC, I will be wasting no time in pulling together my campaign committee in Lewisham West and Penge and building our campaign to challenge the pro-austerity agenda of all the main parties.

Together with everyone else at the Conference today, we will be going out to build the TUSC challenge - the only challenge committed to refusing to implement cuts and to build a political voice for working people - a voice that will be so vital whichever of the pro-cuts parties forms the next Government.

Friday, 23 January 2015

Don't vote for more of the same in Lewisham West and Penge

■ Fed up with inequality, long hours, unaffordable housing and low pay?
■ Sick of the same old parties cutting our services and living standards?
■ Worried about the future of our schools, NHS and public services?
 

Vote against cuts and privatisation

Most ordinary Londoners will be pleased to see the back of this Tory-LibDem Government. They have spent five years helping the super-rich get richer at our expense. But all the main parties promise to carry on with the same cuts! 

Tory Chancellor George Osborne promises years more savage spending cuts. But Labour’s Shadow Chancellor Ed Balls promises exactly the same too.

Voters deserve better than a choice between parties that offer essentially the same diet of cuts, austerity and privatisation. That's why, in this May's General Election , TUSC, the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition, will be standing candidates in over a hundred constituencies across England and Wales. 

TUSC was set up in 2010, co-founded by the late RMT union leader Bob Crow. TUSC calls on trade unions to stop relying on New Labour and to launch genuine independent political representation for working people. 

Selected to stand in Lewisham West and Penge

Last night, TUSC's local selection meeting agreed to back me as the TUSC candidate for the Lewisham West and Penge constituency, covering Forest Hill, Sydenham, Perry Vale and Bellingham wards in Lewisham and Clock House, Penge and Crystal Palace wards in Bromley. If my candidature is agreed by the TUSC national steering committee, then I will be agreed as one of those hoped for hundred-plus TUSC General Election candidates.

TUSC's Election Conference, being held tomorrow in London, will see prospective candidates and campaigners gather to plan the election campaign and to agree the TUSC election platform. Like all TUSC candidates, I will be supporting that agreed platform and campaigning for demands like:

● No cuts - for high quality public services and a free National Health Service
● No to academies. Good schools for all, under democratic local control
● Raise the minimum wage to £10 an hr. Invest to create and protect jobs
● For high-standard, eco-friendly, affordable council housing.
 

These demands are vital in Lewisham West and Penge. Tory Bromley Council is cutting services, trying to privatise libraries and turn schools into academies. Lewisham’s Labour Council is doing just the same!

For a Workers' MP on a Worker's Wage


I have been living - and campaigning - in Lewisham West and Penge for over 25 years. In the early 1990s, I was the main organiser of the Penge Anti-Poll Tax Union, part of the victorious campaign that defeated Margaret Thatcher. 

I moved to Sydenham and was elected Secretary of the Lewisham branch of NUT, the teacher’s union. I have since played a key role in many local campaigns against cuts, opposing racist attacks, and supporting and leading trade union action to defend schools, jobs and services. I have taught locally - in both Bromley and Lewisham schools - and my children have also all attended local schools. We have been helping to build the campaign to Save Sedgehill from being turned into an academy.

To make clear that I am different from the distrusted and despised career politicians, I have also pledged that, if elected as MP, I would continue to take only my existing classroom teacher's take-home pay, donating the extra salary towards building trade union, socialist and community campaigns.


Monday, 12 January 2015

A statement from Sedgehill students

This statement was released by the Save Sedgehill campaign team tonight:


"The Secretary of State for Education has approved the establishment of an Interim Executive Board for Sedgehill School."

This is the news we've all been anxious for. We've all fought hard and campaigned for our school and our community values. We've done a great job. We've gained over 2,000 likes on this Facebook page and even more combined signatures on our various petitions. We've shown the misinformed heads at the top of the council what democracy in action looks like and just how mighty our lion's roar can be if we all roar together.

On Friday, Lewisham Council announced in a statement on their website that the Secretary of State for Education, Nicky Morgan, has approved the establishment of an Interim Executive Board for Sedgehill School. This is the board of appointees of the council's choosing which will very soon forcibly replace the governing body of our community school, with many of the replaced governors being democratically elected into their positions.

While this is hardly the outcome we were fighting for, the goal of keeping Sedgehill the inclusive, welcoming, nurturing and constantly improving community school that it is has not changed. Nevertheless, we hope that we can continue our studies as students and our parents and the local community can continue to interact in the same uniquely great way as ever and we hope that our as exceptional staff as possible will continue teaching and taking care of Sedgehill to stay true to this goal.

Our goal is now to ensure that the IEB will work towards the common goals and aspirations of this genuine community school, its students, parents, staff and community and carry on the great work they've all done so far. We will vehemently oppose any attempts to impose plans which will damage the education of students or the unique sense of community at Sedgehill School.

We, as students of the school we love and enjoy can't thank all those who have supported us in the past month enough for their fantastic support throughout our campaign: THE LION WILL ROAR FOR EVER MORE!!. ‪#‎SaveSedgehill‬

Signed, the Save Sedgehill campaign team:
Adam Powell-Davies - Year 11 Deputy Head Boy
Audrius Sukaitis - Year 13 student
Courtney McMahon - Year 13 Ambassador for Photography, Drama & Music
Diana Banks - Year 12 Ambassador for Psychology
Edis Goldner - Year 11 Prefect
Ellie Clayton - Year 12 Ambassador for Economics
Lucille Jousselin - Year 13 Ambassador for English
Oleta Haffner - Year 13 student
Omodara Olatunji - Year 11 Head Girl
Patrick Garcha - Year 12 Ambassador for Music
Selina Stephanie Jones - Year 12 Ambassador for Biology & English Literature
Sophie Mauritz - Year 12 Student
Zoe Powell-Davies - Year 11 Prefect

Sunday, 11 January 2015

TUSC opposes Bromley Council's attack on council trade unions

Just as unions warn that Bromley Council is set to unveil plans for some of the biggest cuts in its history, the Tory Council has announced plans to immediately cease trade union 'facility time'. 

Facility time arrangements, commonly supported by employers right across the country, allow workforce representatives to be released from their jobs to carry out trade union representation and other duties.

This disgraceful plan could leave thousands of local authority trade union members in Bromley UNITE and Bromley UNISON without access to a local lay representative to help organise and defend them, just as they see their jobs threatened with cuts and privatisation.

As an online petition which has already gathered over 200 signatures makes clear, "Bromley council is embarking on over £70m of cuts in the next four years despite siting on over £100m in reserves and £500m of assets, they are also looking to privatise over 2000 workers. These cuts will devastate the lives of the young, the old, disabled and vulnerable in Bromley and it will mean many more workers will face the misery of pay cuts and redundancy. Never has it been more important for them to have the protection of their unions". 

Please sign the petition via: https://you.38degrees.org.uk/petitions/stop-attacking-union-members-rights
A Facebook group 'Boycott Bromley' has also been set up, calling on workers to let Bromley know that they won't apply for jobs in a Council that attacks workers' rights to be represented by their union.

TUSC, the Trade Union and Socialist Coalition, opposes these attacks on the democratic right to trade union organisation. We offer our support and solidarity to the local authority unions seeking to oppose this attack - as well as the threat of cuts and privatisation too.

Following a TUSC selection meeting to take place on January 22nd, I hope to be officially able to announce that I will be standing as the TUSC candidate in the Lewisham West and Penge constituency. It covers three wards in the London Borough of Bromley - Penge, Crystal Palace and Clock House - as well as four wards in Lewisham borough.

I welcome the support that my proposed stand has already received from several members of Bromley Trades Council, including trade unionists threatened by these proposals. 

Glenn Kelly, Unison branch secretary, gave his personal backing, saying "it's about time we had a politician in Bromley that was willing to stand up for the people of the borough and its workforce instead of simply carrying on cutting jobs and services".

TUSC's campaign in Lewisham West and Penge will challenge Bromley Tory Council's cuts, privatisation and attacks on trade unions. At the same time, we will also challenge Lewisham Labour Council's own planned cuts and its use of pro-academy Tory legislation at Sedgehill School. 

Lewisham West and Penge voters face two parties, Labour and Conservative, both carrying out Tory policies. TUSC wants to stand to give local people a real alternative - a choice to vote for a local MP that supports trade union rights and opposes cuts, whichever party is choosing to impose them.