Tag Archives: NUT

Longer school days? Board says no …

One of the many features of our Education Cannibal Michael Gove’s plans were to cut school holidays and make the school days longer, describing the current hours as ‘a relic of an era when children were expected to also work in fields.’

Well, the School Teachers Review Body (STRB) which was set up to advise the government on teacher pay and conditions, has published a report which rejected these proposals as unnecessary as teachers already work well beyond their hours.

Chair of the STRB Patricia Hodgson states, ‘We endorse the current provisions of 195 working days and 1265 hours. We note that teachers currently work additional hours beyond directed classroom sessions and there is already flexibility for heads to deploy teachers according to the needs of their pupils.’

The report highlighted concerns that attempts to extend school hours could kill off the culture of after-school clubs. It found that “Teachers who currently run after-school activities on a voluntary basis might not do so if working hours were extended. This would mean that in future, schools would have to pay for work that is currently undertaken by teachers on a goodwill basis without extra payment and a likely consequence would be that many schools would have to stop providing these activities due to lack of funding.’

Another problem I can see with increasing the working hours comes the time for planning. Teachers are heavily prescribed as it is, which has resulted in the need for Planning, Preparation and Assessment (PPA) time. In order for these extra hours to be accommodated, more PPA time will be needed to cover it.

The report’s findings perhaps unsurprisingly have been welcomed by the unions. General Secretary of the NUT Christine Blower said, ‘The STRB has delivered Michael Gove a huge blow by rebuffing his recommendations for further attacks on teachers’ conditions and pay. Michael Gove sought to persuade the STRB that the teachers’ contract undermined professionalism and that the provisions were over-prescriptive. He failed on all counts.’

Mary Bousted of the ATL adds, ‘We are relieved the STRB has sensibly resisted pressure from Michael Gove to increase teachers’ formal working hours and has also decided to protect the existing limits on what teachers are expected to do in their own time.’

All this isn’t to say the STRB completely rejected everything that Gove proposed. The STRB agreed with proposals from Gove to remove regulations restricting teachers from conducting tasks such as bulk photocopying and filing. They also agreed that schools should be given greater flexibility to give headteachers large salaries. Make of these what you will …

The Department for Education claim to accept the conclusions and key recommendations from the report, subject to public consultation. Anyone else reckon this is their way of saying ‘we want to tell the public the STRB are wrong and we want to do this and that and make things better’?

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College of Teaching plan

I’m sure a lot of people have heard of professional, non-political bodies such as the Royal College of Nursing etc, but a notable absence among the lists which, in my opinion, needs to be addressed is that of a College of Teachers.

Well the BBC have hinted that this may actually be happening, and plans are under way. The idea is that this College of Teaching is to set out responsibilities such as setting the standards (a political buzzword) and sharing research. Membership of the group would be voluntary and thus play no role in disciplinary hearings or the setting of pay. The only condition is that members need to have Qualified Teacher Status (QTS), which means that those unqualified teachers who are employed by free schools and academies can’t join it in the conventional sense, but they could join as an ‘associate’ member, which acts a bit like a stepping stone to becoming a member, but not actually becoming a full member. The proposal is that you cannot be an ‘associate’ member for more than 3 years (interestingly enough time to get a degree and become a fully qualified teacher, not at all dropping hints).

The blueprint for an independent, professional body for teaching has been produced by a commission set up by the Prince’s Teaching Institute. The commission included head teachers, teachers, academy providers, academics and teachers’ unions. The teaching institute, which has the Prince of Wales as president, has been acting as broker for talks about setting up a professional body since September 2012.

The college would be designed to be funded by membership subscriptions, which the college says could range between £30 to £130 per year. This would cover anticipated running costs of £11m to £14m per year.

Chris Pope, chairman of the commission and co-director of the Prince’s Teaching Institute, says: “The breadth of technical, intellectual and personal capabilities that we expect from teachers is extraordinary. Yet teaching remains a major profession with no independent body to set standards for the profession.”

Russell Hobby, leader of the National Association of Head Teachers, backed the plan for a college. “If teachers want professional respect and freedom from interference, they need a body like this to strengthen their voice,” he said.

Christine Blower, leader of the National Union of Teachers, warned that membership costs could concern teachers. And she argued that it will “need to show that it can contribute positively to the professional discourse, in particular at a time when the government’s attacks on teachers and education are causing teachers to leave the profession”.

Mary Bousted, head of the ATL teachers’ union, welcomed the idea of a college but said it needed to support teachers rather than government policy. “For the college to achieve its aims, it must get buy-in from the profession and prove itself to reflect teachers’ professional aims and concerns.”

Chris Keates, leader of the NASUWT teachers’ union, warned of “diverse and often contradictory ambitions for the college”. She questioned “the credibility of a college created in an environment where teaching has become an effectively deregulated profession as a result of the policies of the secretary of state”.

So we’re back to this old chestnut again, should our education be governed by politics? Well if the last century or so has proved anything with it’s succession of Education Acts, The Great Education Debate and more recently the Academies Act among others, it’s that our current education is for the government, not for our children. Successive governments constantly tinker with the education system like supercharging an old banger of a car in the vague hope that they find something that improves it, which is potentially risking the future prospects of our children, and thus potentially damaging the economy, which is broken enough as it is.

I would love to see an age where education is governed by the people who dedicate their lives to it, whether it be teachers or headteachers or even possibly unions. Politics may have become intertwined with education in recent times, but there is no reason for it to continue that way if it is not working. We can see our education system slipping down the PISA ranking system whilst countries perhaps even less economically developed as we are are creeping ahead of us like the tortoise in the hare and tortoise story.

They’re at it again :( Three strikes, you’re out right?

The NUT and NASUWT have accused Michael Gove of ‘provocation’ and reiterated plans for a national strike in the next two months.

Teachers raised the prospect of a major national strike today amid claims the Government is refusing to take part in genuine talks designed to resolve a long-running dispute.

The two biggest teaching unions said plans for a countrywide walkout within the next two months remained in place because of “provocation” from Michael Gove, the Education Secretary.

The National Union of Teachers and the NASUWT – collectively represented nine-in-10 teachers in England – had suspended industrial action pending negotiations…

Mr Gove agreed to talks but wrote to both unions last week, insisting that the reforms are “fixed” and any discussion would merely centre around the implementation of reforms.

In a controversial move, he also insisted that all other teaching associations would be involved in the negotiations to ensure that “striking unions do not have any unfair advantage”.

Today, the NUT and NASUWT criticised the response, saying Mr Gove had “resorted to provocation” instead of “seeking genuinely to engage in talks to seek to resolve our disputes”.

In a letter to the Education Secretary, they reiterated the importance of talks exclusively with the two unions. The unions also confirmed that “plans remain in place for a national strike in England and Wales no later than 13 February 2014 in the event of insufficient progress through negotiation”…

Speaking today, a Department for Education spokeswoman said: “We do not understand how the NUT and NASUWT have interpreted an invitation to engage in talks as ‘provocation’. They are refusing to take part in the programme of talks, which they had called for, simply because they are too inclusive. We do not understand how they can reject dialogue just because other organisations which represent teachers will be involved. It is only right and fair that everyone should be represented in talks which could affect the whole of the profession.”

Isn’t this the third national strike planned in as many years? Who thinks the ‘three strikes, you’re out’ rule should apply here. I’m not going to rush to support Michael Gove, because I detest him as much as many others do, but these strikes are beyond ridiculous. Just do the job your paid to do or go find another job. Oh wait … they’ll probably go on strike there as well …

The costs of striking

I’ve been talking a lot when we see these strikes keep making the news about the costs of childcare to parents when teachers go on strike, along with all the over inconveniences caused. Well today I’m going to look at figures from last week’s 1 day strike, and it is certainly not very easy on the eye.

Parents have had to fork out around £1.2 billion in extra childcare costs to deal with the hundreds of thousands of children affected by today’s teachers’ strike, according to research.

The Government claims the strike by members of the National Union of Teachers and National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers, has closed more than one in four (27%) of the estimated 10,000 schools affected, with the total number either closed or partially closed standing at 3,492. But Chris Keates, general secretary of the NASUWT teaching union said their figures suggested that around 82% of schools had been affected in some way.

Members of the NASUWT, along with the National Union of Teachers (NUT), were staging walkouts in the North East and Cumbria, the South West, South East and London.

Speaking at a rally in Durham, Ms Keates said: “No teacher comes out with a spring in their step taking strike action. What we are seeing is a real air of determination to demonstrate that they are sick and tired of Education Secretary Michael Gove’s denigration of the profession and the relentless attacks he has made on them, which they believe are attacks on children and young people.”

Ms Keates estimated that around 2,000 people had taken part in the Durham rally alone, and said the strikes had “served their purpose”.

According to Findababysitter. com – the online charity search site, the number of adverts seeking emergency childcare rose by 77% last week as a result of the strike. It estimated the average cost of care to be around £100 – meaning an overall total cost of £1.2 billion.

Tom Harrow, chief executive officer of Findababysitter.com, said: “These parents are paying their taxes and therefore should expect to be able to go to work while their children go to school.”

Officials at the Department for Education said support for the strike was lower than at the time of national strike action two years ago – when 60% of schools in the affected areas closed.

The two unions have been holding a series of regional strikes – last week’s affected schools in the north-east, south-east, south-west and London – and have threatened a national stoppage in protest against changes to their pay, conditions and pensions next month.

A Department for Education spokeswoman said: “The NUT and NASUWT have tried to create as much disruption for pupils and parents as possible. In spite of this, thanks to many hard-working teachers and heads, only around a quarter of schools in the targeted regions were closed today. It is disappointing that the NUT and NASUWT are striking over the Government’s measures to allow heads to pay good teachers more. In a recent poll, 61% of respondents supported linking teachers’ pay to performance and 70% either opposed the strikes or believed that teachers should not be allowed to strike at all. All strikes do is disrupt parents’ lives, hold back children’s education and damage the reputation of the profession.”

She insisted the government had met with the unions “frequently” to discuss their concerns, and that they would continue to do so.

Prime Minister David Cameron said responsibility for the walkouts lay with the unions and that he was “disappointed” they had decided to strike. “It is very inconvenient for parents, it is not good for pupils’ education,” he told BBC Sussex radio. And when we look at the things they are striking over, pensions and pay, they are things that have been decided independently by well-led reviews.”

The unions have said that the dispute focuses on three key issues – pay, pensions and conditions. They are opposed to Government plans to allow schools to set teachers’ salaries, linked to performance in the classroom, and argue that pensions changes will leave their members working longer, paying in more and receiving less when they retire. They also accuse the Government of attacking their working conditions, including introducing reforms that will allow schools to have longer school days and longer terms.

The first regional walkout took place in the North West on 27th June, and further strikes took place in the East of England, the East Midlands, West Midlands and Yorkshire and Humberside on 1st October. Plans for a national one-day walkout before Christmas have also been announced by the two unions. If this happens, I’m not going to lie, but I will cut my affiliation with the NUT and find a union that has the same values as me. I’m almost ashamed to be a part of it because I am nothing like them. And we all wonder why Thatcher took on the unions back in the day. Well now they’ve become too powerful and we are seeing the damage it’s causing our profession. I hope the teachers who went on strike are happy, because those who care about fostering a love of learning are facing the consequences of their actions.

Striking teachers condemned (glad it’s not just me)

Today marks the day of yet another round of striking by teachers who care more about their pensions than they do about the children of which they are responsible for during the day.

Now, a Labour shadow minister has condemned striking teachers as “irresponsible”, warning they are leaving “vulnerable” children “roaming the streets, getting into drugs”.

Lord Adonis, a former schools minister, who now shadows the treasury, also publicly urged other left wing politicians to condemn the current teacher strikes. “We will never have a decent deal for teachers unless they behave professionally,” he said. “There is nothing more irresponsible in a profession than withdrawing your services and leaving vulnerable young people who depend on you to turn up and to teach day by day. People like me, and I am on the left in politics, need to be very, very clear that there should be some no go areas. And teachers striking on issues, which are of secondary concern – it maybe that there is some fundamental issue which once in a generation comes up – but issues of secondary concern, that is basically unprofessional conduct.”

Stephen Twigg, Labour shadow education secretary until Monday’s reshuffle, has been criticised by ministers for not condemning strikes organised by the NUT and NASUWT unions. His replacement Tristram Hunt has yet to speak on the issue.

Lord Adonis was at an event launching new research on teacher status commissioned by the Varkey Gems Foundation. He made his comments after being asked about the next round of industrial action scheduled to take place next week.

He added: “You will not get society’s esteem for a profession which does not turn up at nine o’clock on a Monday morning – leaving children at home, in front of the sofa, roaming the streets, getting into drugs, all of those other things that happen – simply in pursuit of what is a course that should be negotiated.”

No one from the NASUWT or NUT leadership was available for comment. Why am I not surprised? I got a text message from the NUT the other day inviting me to go and join a rally in Exeter, and quite frankly I was half tempted to text back saying ‘I will not join a group of pathetic individuals who are in the profession for the wrong reasons.’ I didn’t so don’t worry.

I still maintain my view that teachers who strike should be sacked, and that there is no room in this profession for people who only care about their pensions. I came into teaching because I love the idea that I can inspire children to have opportunities that I didn’t have as a kid and allow children to achieve their full potential. Assuming I get a job straight after I graduate at the end of this academic year, I can be responsible for hundreds, even thousands of children’s potential. How amazing would that feel to help all those children in potentially 3 or 4 generations to achieve success in their lives? I would want to retire with enough money to be able to live out the rest of my days knowing that I have had a long, successful, and enjoyable career and have amazing memories doing something I love. If people on pensions think they’re hard up for money, why don’t we look at what they spend their pensions on? I don’t intend to stereotype, but I walk into Sainsburys often to get my weekly shopping, and I see pensioners in the alcohol isle, filling baskets or trolleys with bottles of alcohol, some not exactly cheap either. Of course this isn’t true for all of them. I’m so glad I’m t-total though, noone can accuse me of blowing the budget on unnecessary expenses.

When will they learn? More strikes on the way …

The two biggest teachers’ unions are threatening a national one-day strike in England before Christmas in a row over pay, pensions and workloads. But the NUT and NASUWT have held back from announcing a date and are calling for talks rather than “megaphone diplomacy” with the government.

The teachers’ unions have given dates in October for their continuing campaign of rolling regional strikes. There will be regional strikes on 1 October in the east of England, the Midlands, Yorkshire and Humberside and on 17 October in London, North East, South East and South West. There will not now be any regional strikes in Wales.

Education Secretary Michael Gove says there is “no excuse” for the strikes.

Teachers have accused the government of “reckless and irresponsible behaviour” and say that Education Secretary Michael Gove has refused to engage in meaningful negotiations.

The government says such strikes will disrupt pupils’ learning, inconvenience parents and damage the reputation of teachers.

In a speech in London on Thursday, Mr Gove rejected claims that reforms had damaged teachers’ morale, saying that teaching “has never been more attractive, more popular or more rewarding”.

He said he would meet teachers’ unions, but accused their leaders of pursuing strike action for “ideological reasons”. Mr Gove also claims “teachers have better pensions than the majority in the public and private sectors”.

Labour’s Stephen Twigg said the coalition was “undermining teacher professionalism by allowing unqualified teachers to be employed in schools on a permanent basis”.

The teachers’ union leaders, announcing strike dates, say they want to negotiate on changes to pay and pensions. Under reforms, set to come into effect from this autumn, pay will be linked to performance in the classroom and head teachers will have greater flexibility over salaries. Teachers have protested against reductions to their pensions.

The regional strikes announced today are a continuation of a rolling series of strikes launched in the summer term. The teachers’ unions say they will decide on a national strike after the next regional strikes in October.

Christine Blower, general secretary of the NUT, said: “At the start of the new academic year, the last thing teachers wish to be doing is preparing for further industrial action. With pay, pensions and working conditions being systematically attacked and an education secretary who refuses to listen or negotiate teachers now have no other choice.”

Chris Keates, general secretary of the NASUWT, said the teachers’ unions would meet the government “any time, any place” and that parents would understand that teachers needed to protect their pay and conditions.

A Department for Education spokesperson said: “It is disappointing that the NUT and NASUWT are striking over the government’s measures to allow heads to pay good teachers more. In a recent poll, 61% of respondents supported linking teachers’ pay to performance and 70% either opposed the strikes or believed that teachers should not be allowed to strike at all.”

Do these unions realise that these strikes are not getting them anywhere? All they are achieving is inconveniencing working families, affecting their children’s learning, and making their own job harder. I have no respect for teachers who put themselves first, teaching should be about the children and giving them opportunities. If we look at other industries who have had their pensions cut, you don’t seem them complaining profusely about it, so why should we be exempt from it all? Unions need to face facts here and call off the pathetic action and actually offer up an alternative instead of acting like a bunch of babies, we’re not nursery children, we’re teachers. I still believe that any teacher who strikes shouldn’t be in the profession. We want people who care about children’s learning in our profession, not people who only care about themselves.

The row over term dates …

In the news yesterday, the government announced plans to give Head teachers and schools the power to decide the term dates for the school year in 2015, as opposed to the councils that decide it at the moment. This power is already held by schools with academy status. It could mean that more state schools switch from the long, six-week summer holidays. Schools can already vary the shape of the school day, but they will also be able to change the length of their terms. Head teachers warned that parents with children in different schools would still expect local schools to agree common dates so that families could plan holidays together.

Labour’s education spokesman Stephen Twigg announced last month that a future Labour government would extend these academy flexibilities to all state schools. This means that both the coalition government and opposition are pushing for greater powers to be devolved to individual schools.

Well today, in their infinite attempts to be disruptive, the NUT has spoken out once again. Christine Blower, head of the NUT, said it would not mean saving money for families.

“Holiday companies will almost certainly just expand the period over which they charge premium rates so there will be no benefit to families, or indeed the general public who will have fewer weeks of less expensive holidays,” she said.

I’m sorry Mrs Blower, but quite frankly if all you’re worried about is whether families can plan holidays out of school time as a reason to complain about this, you are nitpicking. Not every family in the UK can even afford to go on holiday once per year (my family are one of these), so that is not the first thought on every families’ minds. The other thing to think about here, which the NUT has completely missed, is that it could mean that if you have 2 children, 1 child may be going to school whilst the other is not, potentially causing issues for the parents who may work. That, Mrs Blower, is a reason to question the justification of these proposals, not whether families can plan a holiday or not.

The Head Teachers also make an interesting point here. Just because these schools may have that new power, schools that work in partnership with other schools in their local area, which does seem to be becoming rather popular at the moment, may decide to set the term dates to be exactly the same as each other, which means that there could be no change whatsoever to the situation we have now.

The final thing the NUT need to get into their heads is that this is another proposal for after the General Election in 2015, so it is not being rushed in by Mr Gove and the DfE like the new curriculum for Primary Schools which is due to come in 2014, with some parts coming in this autumn. If Labour win the election, these proposals may indeed be scrapped, as might the new GCSE proposals that are due to come in September 2015.

One day strike in the North-West

Today is the day where the North-West teachers go on strike over pay and conditions. The NUT and NASUWT claim that this strike is affecting 2765 schools in 22 council areas. By reckoning, let’s say the average number of children in the school is around 200, that means that there are approximately 600,000 children not in school today, and thus causing trouble to several thousand families in terms of income and work.

This strike follows reports yesterday a union survey suggests that teachers are becoming increasingly dissatisfied, particularly with pay and pensions, heavy workload and school inspections making the headlines.

The NASUWT survey found more than half of respondents (53%) felt their satisfaction with their job had fallen in the past year – up 6% compared with those questioned in 2011.

Almost two thirds (65%) had considered leaving their job in the past year, while more than half (54%) had considered leaving teaching entirely, the survey claims.

The government’s changes, due to come in this autumn in England and Wales, mean that teachers’ pay will be linked to classroom performance with schools setting salaries as opposed to a national framework, which the government suggests will give more freedom to schools and allow the best teachers to be rewarded.

The action is in protest at the introduction of more performance-related pay, changes to teachers’ pensions with higher contributions, and later retirement and increased workload.

The thing that disappoints me the most about this is the unions are striking without showing any real offering of an alternative strategy for improving the way the education system is at the moment. The other thing is that the teachers who do strike do not get paid today seen as they didn’t work. I also have been talking to a couple of teachers in schools I’ve worked in previously and they have said that the strike could be construed as a ‘break in service’ which could have an impact on their pension, which basically suggests that the strikers could actually be damaging significantly the exact thing they are complaining about.

The Government unsurprisingly has condemned the strike as ‘disappointing’ and ‘giving the profession a bad name’. At a time when more graduates are coming into teaching than ever before, it strikes me as disappointing that some teachers would consider leaving the profession. If I’m honest good riddance to those who do leave, the reason I joined the profession was because I care about the next generation of children and want to provide the best opportunities for them. I’m not saying that I would work for little money, obviously you need money in life, but we all have to accept that these cuts will happen, we are not exempt as much as we’d like to be. Yesterday’s Spending Review showed a lot of huge cuts, with some Departments taking a 10% cut in a couple of years time. We don’t see every other profession whining and almost a ‘why always me’ attitude.

What do you think about the strike? Are you with the strikers or do you agree with the government about it being ‘disappointing’? Comment your thoughts, share it with friends, colleagues, whoever might be interested.

Should teachers be allowed to strike?

Ok so yesterday it was announced that the NUT and NASUWT are going to be striking in the North West at the end of this month over pay and conditions, meaning that some pupils will have lessons disrupted. This is one of a series of walkouts scheduled to take place. So today I’m going to answer the question: should teachers be allowed to strike?

Now I’m all for pushing for more money in the profession as I believe teaching is an underpaid profession when you consider how important it is as without it, we won’t have any doctors, lawyers, engineers or anything else. We would just be a population of people on benefits, which will not be an economy, it’ll just be one huge bank in one huge debt, a bit like an Icelandic bank.

But does this mean that teachers have to strike? I have no respect for any teacher who thinks striking is the way forward, for a number of reasons. One is because they don’t realise who the most important people are in the profession, and that is the children they teach. I find it absolutely selfish that these teachers would rather walk out on their children just because of their own issues. Other issues include parents, especially those who work. What happens to those? Well they either have to arrange for a relative to look after the children or take time off work themselves, both of which cost money and cause issues relating to household income. Another factor to consider is the reputation of the profession. We don’t want to be known as a profession of troublemakers, we would rather be a respected profession. I bet a lot of these teachers buy expensive things such as branded food or expensive clothes. If they budgeted better they wouldn’t need to complain about so much.

Personally if it were down to me, any teacher who goes on strike should be sacked, and replaced with people who are in the profession for the right reasons, ie they care about the future generations and want to make a real difference to society as a whole. That’s what I signed up for, and what I intend to do.

What do you think? Should teachers be allowed to strike or should they care more about the children they teach?