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Conference Catch-Up – NASUWT

Workload concerns, talk of strikes, resistance to academisation and Ministerial heckling play out before conference delegates in Birmingham...

  • Conference Catch-Up – NASUWT
  • Conference Catch-Up – NASUWT
  • Conference Catch-Up – NASUWT

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Last weekend saw the NASUWT’s Annual Conference take place in Birmingham’s International Conference Centre – here’s our look at the most notable announcements and developments…

A frosty reception
When Nicky Morgan addressed NASUWT conference attendees, she become the first Conservative Education Secretary to do so since 1997. Her speech raised hackles from the audience, however – particularly when calling out the NASUWT and other unions for what she perceived as their negativity, saying, “Wouldn’t it be helpful if more of your press releases were actually positive about the teaching profession? Because if I were a young person making decisions about my future career, and I saw some of the language coming out of NASUWT as well as some of the other unions, would I want to become a teacher? If I read about a profession standing on the precipice of crisis would I consider a life in teaching?”

As can be seen in this BBC clip, her remarks met with vocal opposition. There was also pushback from NASUWT general secretary Chris Keates in her response to Morgan’s speech, where to loud applause she said, “We now have the worst teacher supply crisis since 1945, and that isn’t to talk down the profession, Nicky – that’s because we care about the profession.”

NASUWT formalises opposition academisation plans
Union members unanimously backed ‘Motion 2b’, the opening text of which reads, “Conference condemns the war on public education that has been waged by Government and administrations throughout the UK since 2010”.

The motion endorses possible moves towards local, regional and national strike action by the National Executive if teachers are denied an annual cost of living pay award; if teachers’ pay becomes linked to exam results, pupil progress or inspection results; and if schools exercise freedoms that would enable them to ‘Reduce the pay of classroom teachers or unreasonably withhold pay progression’.

The motion further commits the NASUWT’s National Executive to “Oppose the privatisation of schools, including through the Westminster Government’s academisation programme.”

Resistance to migrant workers earnings cap
It was announced that the NASUWT has called on the Home Secretary to exempt teachers from proposals to raise the minimum salary for Tier 2 migrants hired from outside the EU from £20,800 to £30,000.

Under the proposals, overseas teachers moving to or already in the UK, whose salaries fail to reach the earnings cap within five years, would be required to leave the country.

As noted by Chris Keates, ““While it is estimated that the £30,000 cap would affect 14% of all applications across Tier 2, this cap would affect 48% of secondary and 55% of primary education teaching professionals.”

Pupil Premium funding missing the mark?
Attendees heard that 53% teachers were unaware of how their schools’ Pupil Premium (PP) funding is spent. The figure came from a survey of 2,600 teachers across England, which also found that 87% hadn’t received training on teaching and learning strategies for PP-eligible pupils, and that 70% were not involved in any discussions or reviews regarding whole school PP strategies.

Energy drink warnings
According to early analysis of the NASUWT’s annual Big Question survey of teachers (which this year saw 5,098 online responses) 13% cited caffeine and energy drinks a contributor to poor pupil behaviour.

The union has therefore partnered with the alcohol and drug charity Swanswell to call for national guidelines on recommended caffeine consumption levels for children, and to co-produce information and guidance for parents, pupils and teachers, highlighting the levels of stimulants contained in widely marketed energy drinks and their effects on children’s health and behaviour.

Assessment behind workload woes
Other Big Question survey statistics under discussion included the 90% of respondents that cited ‘excessive workload’ as their greatest concern about the job they do, and the 76% who blamed ‘marking and assessment’ policies as the biggest generator of excessive workload.

Solidarity with supply teachers
The conference also saw the release of findings from an NASUWT survey of supply teachers that received 942 responses. 65% stated that they were not paid at a level commensurate with their experience, while 68% said that they were not familiar with the 12-week ‘equal treatment’ rule under the Agency Workers’ directive.

The latter would entitle supply teachers to the same pay and conditions as colleagues on permanent contracts after 12 weeks at the same workplace – yet the survey also found that 11% of supply teachers had specifically been asked by employers to waive their rights to said provision. As a result, the NASUWT has called for the regulation all supply agencies and the introduction of national supply teacher employment standards.

Senior brain drain
Conference representatives debated a motion calling for strategies to tackle age discrimination against older teachers. Concerns were raised regarding a perceived pressure on older, more experienced staff to leave the profession early, through threats of capability procedures and job losses.

According to Chris Keates, “Older teachers are disproportionately facing being placed on capability procedures, report being denied access to professional development and are often put under intense pressure to leave their job. The losers, of course, are not just the teachers themselves, who often are forced out of a career they love, but the pupils, who are losing experienced, specialist teachers. The lack of action by the Government to promote respect and dignity for working people has led to a culture of disrespect and discrimination in schools.”

For more information, visit www.nasuwt.org.uk or follow @NASUWT

Images courtesy of Ian Littlewood

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