Sunday, January 27, 2013

London NUT members call for action

It needed to be an important event to pull a trade unionist away from Lewisham this weekend - but I left over 20,000 others to march to defend our hospital!

Young and old march to save the NHS in Lewisham
However, as an NUT Executive member facing a critical moment in our campaign to stop Gove's plans to rip apart our national pay scales, I had to be in Stoke Rochford for the NUT's London weekend, which gathered together around 70 local officers and reps to debate how to build the Union and its campaigns.

The original agenda of the weekend, now an annual event, was focused on how to strengthen our organisation of the 50,000-plus NUT members in the Union's strongest region. Important plans were developed to train and consolidate school reps, to make links to support Local Associations across the capital, to pursue Union recognition in Academies, to publicise the damage being caused by Tory education policies - including the free school plans of Mayor Johnson - and more. However, all of these discussions was understandably overshadowed by the debate around the PRP campaign - and the regrettable failure of the Executive to vote for strike action on March 13.

All six London NUT Executive members had voted for that March 13 action but strong criticism was voiced by many reps at the decision, by a small majority of the National Executive, to continue to delay setting a first date for national strike action. Other reps were less sure as to how their members would respond to the news from the Executive - but were left with a lot of food for thought to discuss back in their Local Associations.

Some reps were critical of the lack of information that was being circulated to members to explain Gove's attacks. Many took copies of the materials that had been produced and circulated by Lewisham NUT ( posted on the Lewisham NUT website: ).  

These Lewisham materials included a model leaflet for parents. Plans were proposed for joint days of action where we circulate materials to the public of London - both at the school-gates and in our local shopping areas.

A few reps were hopeful that the NASUWT would agree to joint action and our campaign could then be put back on track. However, I warned that a joint one-day strike late in the summer term could too easily be seen by teachers as 'too little, too late'. If we were to show teachers that we were seriously seeking to force Gove back, it was vital to take action THIS term. 

I called on London Associations to back the call for the National Executive meeting on February 28th to call a national strike on Budget Day, March 20th, hopefully co-ordinating with the PCS union who may also take national action on the day.

This was backed by several other Local Association officers. For example, Kash Mallick from Redbridge, making clear that he had no affiliation to any party or 'bloc' within the Union, angrily questioned why the National Executive couldn't see that all these plans for Union organisation would be ripped to shreds if teachers were divided and beaten down by performance-pay.

London teachers are obviously not alone in expressing this anger. A report posted on the LANAC website ( ) confirms that NUT reps at the Regional briefing in Leeds on Saturday voted unanimously to ask the National Executive to overturn their decision and call a national strike on March 20.

In discussions with me, some questioned whether I could seriously expect the Executive to vote for action on March 20 when they had just voted down action on March 13 ? However, I explained that pressure from classroom teachers was already having an effect, and we had to keep up that pressure between now and the next Executive. We had no choice but to demand that the Union enacts the campaign that was needed to defend pay, conditions and education - before it was too late.

To help keep up that pressure, Lewisham NUT are calling for support for a Lobby of the NUT Executive, meeting outside NUT HQ in Hamilton House, WC1H 9BD, on Wednesday February 27th at 5pm. 

'Outstanding' teachers speak:

Tim Woodcock, Greenwich NUT Secretary, read out some comments from his colleagues that reveal the low morale of teachers - before Gove's plans make things even worse:

"If your card is marked they will find fault with your lessons. This is not fair but I have seen it happen. We would not treat children with such a lack of respect".

"I love teaching and the pupils are great. I am prepared to work hard but I no longer have a life outside school. I cannot see how I can do this much longer. I have been a teacher for four years".

"I used to walk into every class in my department most days to talk to teachers and the pupils, check how they were doing. I have stopped because it is seriously affecting my relationship with teachers who are constantly worried they are being mentored or judged. Yet all of their lessons are good or outstanding"

"I do not know what outstanding means anymore; it does not mean to innovate, because to innovate you need to take risks. I can no longer take risks because I need to follow the OFSTED criteria".

... and finally,

"I wanted to be a teacher all my life. I am leaving at the end of term. I have no job!"

.. and before any critics wonder if these are teachers that are just 'not up to the job', Tim pointed out, these quotes all come from teachers deemed to be 'outstanding' ...   

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