Education

Defend NUS democracy!

Author

Maisie Sanders

This year’s National Union of Students (NUS) Conference in Glasgow (9-11 April), will be very different to previous years′. Elections will take place on the first day before motions debates begin, no official fringe meetings will take place due to "lack of funds for staff", and delegates will vote on a reform motion coming from the right-wing led by President Shakira Martin, which proposes scrapping all remaining structures which enable rank and file control of NUS.

Teachers' pay fight: why only in Scotland?

Submitted by Class Struggle on Sun, 04/11/2018 - 17:17

Scottish teachers marched in Glasgow on 27 October demanding an austerity-busting 10% pay rise. 30,000 attended the march organised by The Educational Institute of Scotland, excellent numbers considering there are around 50,000 teachers in Scotland.

The campaign Scottish teachers are waging is inspirational, but school workers might wonder how inspired our leadership have been here in England and Wales, given that National Education Union Joint General Secretary Kevin Courtney recently rose from a posture of begging that the 3.5% pay rise offered in England and Wales should be fully funded and apply to all teachers, to praise the fight over pay in Scotland. We voted to campaign for a 5% pay rise, but as soon as the pay review body recommend a 3.5% pay rise Joint General Secretary Mary Bousted welcomed it.

The 5% demand was junked and we were treated to Dave Harvey, exec member for outer London, pouring cold water on any potential fight and telling us that ‘if there is a mood for action in schools then we would proceed to an indicative ballot to test the water for industrial action’. The lead-from-the-back bureaucrat-speak here needs unpicking a bit. Seeing the union exec’s role as organising a ballot to test the waters is a way of placing the blame on school workers when, seeing the exec aren’t willing to fight, they aren’t inspired to turn out in great enough numbers to vote for action. The executive is elected to carry out the will of conference, not to find ways to weasel out of a promise for action over a 5% pay rise by organising a consultation process for an indicative ballot to show feeling for a ballot on action which can do nothing but demobilise and disorient workplace activists and members.

Courtney’s left-posturing on the Scottish pay campaign belies an attitude to union organising which is willing to appear radical when it comes to other people’s pay claims, but unwilling to do anything to organise a similar fight for his own members. National Education Union conference, in April 2019, will be an opportunity for activists to show the executive officers what we think a fighting union is. Why not pass a Workers’ Liberty motion through your division and challenge the executive on anything from testing and teachers’ pay, through to union democracy and the representation of support staff.

https://www.workersliberty.org/blogs/2018-10-26/neu-conference-motions-…

By an NEU member

Trade Unions
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NEU Conference Motions - 2019

Submitted by Class Struggle on Fri, 26/10/2018 - 09:56
NEU COLA strike

Workers' Liberty schoolworkers have written a raft of motions for NEU conference, covering a range of issues from testing and teachers' pay through to union democracy and the representation of support staff, fighting the anti-union laws, defending free movement and more!

See if you can get one or more of our motions passed through your NEU division. Motions need to be submitted by 3rd December 2018, so keep an eye out for division meetings in November!

Help us to priorities our motions at division meetings before 18th February 2019.

Trade Unions
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NEU Executive makes a difficult pay campaign even harder

Submitted by Class Struggle on Wed, 12/09/2018 - 15:16

In what has become a pattern, the government announced their decision on the 2018-19 teachers’ pay award at the end of July when most schools had closed for the summer break.

Teachers do not have negotiating rights over national pay and, instead, annual awards are decided by the Secretary of State for Education following a review body recommendation. The teacher unions had submitted a claim for a 5% rise to the School Teachers’ Review Body (STRB). In fact 5% is a long way short of what is required to undo 10 years of below-inflation pay awards. The figure was chosen on the basis that it matched the claims of most other public sector unions and made the prospects of a joint pay campaign more likely.

The Review Body presented their Report to Damian Hinds in May but neither its contents nor his decision were made public until the end of July. We now know that the STRB recommended a 3.5% increase on all teacher pay ranges. This breach of the pay cap was based on evidence about the teacher recruitment and retention crisis and the STRB made it clear that, as a cost of living rise, they thought that it should go to all teachers. This last point matters considerably as teachers no longer have guaranteed pay scales but only pay ranges with maximum and minimum values. Hence it is perfectly legal for an employer to apply a national pay award only to the top and bottom of a scale and pay no increase to anyone in between.

In the event the Secretary of State decided not to accept the STRB recommendations in full. He announced a 3.5% increase for teachers on the main pay range, 2% on the upper pay range (more experienced) and 1.5% on the leadership range (heads, deputies, assistant heads). In response to significant pressure to fund this pay award in the light of cuts to school budgets he said schools would only have to fund the first 1% from existing budgets, the government would fund the rest.

It must be said that the initial response from the largest education union, the NEU, was poor. In a press statement they welcomed the 3.5% award and described it as ‘the penny finally dropping’. Things didn’t improve much over the summer with union communications focusing on the government’s refusal to accept the STRB recommendation rather than the failure of both Review Body and Secretary of State to accept the Union’s claim. The NUT section’s Conference policy is to fight for a 5% pay rise for all teachers and to ballot members for action in pursuit of that claim. By the end of August this had been rapidly reduced to campaigning for the 3.5% increase recommended by the STRB.

This shift was confirmed at the first National Executive of the year on September 7th. Officers of the Union proposed a campaign strategy which dropped the 5% claim and replaced it with the demand for the 3.5% recommended by the STRB. An amendment to this proposal tried to leave the question of our pay demand open pending a consultation with members but this was narrowly defeated. Had two SWP members voted differently it would have passed. A further amendment which insisted that the demand in any action campaign should be 5% was more heavily defeated.

The case for shifting to a demand that the STRB recommendation is applied is mainly presentational. This is the first time a government has ignored the Review Body’s recommendation and it will be much harder for them to defend their position publicly. When it comes to winning a ballot of members for national strike action, however, this shift is very dangerous. The majority of NEU teachers are paid on the main pay range and will be getting 3.5% in any case (unless their employer tries to pay it only to the top and bottom of the range, in which case there is a potential dispute with that employer). That majority will have nothing immediate or tangible to gain from a campaign for 3.5% for all. In effect the NEU will be asking the majority of its members to vote for significant strike action in pursuit of an increase for their senior leaders and more experienced colleagues. At best this creates an unnecessary additional barrier to reaching the onerous ballot thresholds imposed by the Trade Union Act. At worst it is a calculated decision to settle for yet another political campaign to expose the government rather than an industrial dispute which seeks to win.

At the September 7th Executive it was argued that a recent dispute in East Sussex proved that members would take action even where they had nothing to gain. In that case a large number of schools met the ballot thresholds in a campaign to ensure that all main range teachers got last year’s 2% rise This was a fairly cynical argument which ignored the fact that the strikes in east Sussex were sustained with strike pay, it is a very well-organised and led division and considerable national resources were (quite rightly) thrown into winning. None of these factors would apply across the country in a national ballot and this was pointed out by the Executive member for East Sussex who moved and voted for the amendment to leave the question of our claim open for now rather than reduce it to 3.5%.

The task for NEU members now is to build the pay campaign as it is and work as hard as we can to win support for action to increase the award and ensure that it is fully funded. If a serious fight can be generated around those issues it could make a real difference.

The decision of the NEU Executive has made that possibility a lot harder, but it hasn’t made it any less necessary.

By Patrick Murphy, National Education Union executive (personal capacity)

Trade Unions
Issues and Campaigns

The Schoolworkers' Manifesto

Submitted by Class Struggle on Wed, 12/09/2018 - 15:12

As in so many areas the Corbyn leadership and the 2017 manifesto marked a, welcome and significant, sea change in the party’s direction and vocabulary on education.

Gone was the talk of driving up standards by competition, increased observation and greater punishment of teachers who didn’t make the grade. Instead there were welcome commitments to establish a National Education Service (NES), ensure democratic control of schools, and restore funding cuts and genuine commitments to fund FE and Early Years provision better. But, again like elsewhere, the manifesto only appeared radical because of the context of the defeats of the last 40 years. It was far from as progressive as many previous Labour manifestos, before the 90s, were on education and it was far from what is required to undo the damage to our schools and colleges and set about creating a truly progressive and emancipatory education system.

What should Labour do in Power?

1. Abolish academies and free schools
The majority of secondary schools in England are now academies, although the take up is far less in primaries. Academies, along with free schools, represent the privatisation of our schools. They are private organisations, are not under any local democratic control, being only answerable to themselves, Ofsted and the DFE. Public opinion has shifted on academies, since the backlash against the government White Paper ‘Education Excellence Everywhere’ in 2016. An incoming Labour Government must take all schools and nursery schools back under Local Authority jurisdiction.

2. End private education
The manifesto committed to abolish VAT relief on private schools. Private schools are the source of and reinforce the huge inequality in our society. An in-coming Labour Government must end private education and take these schools into public control.

3. End the divisive grammar-school system
Theresa May is keen to champion grammar schools. Grammar schools again are an engine of inequality. They take the higher achieving children out of other schools. You cannot have grammar schools without out taking higher achieving children out of other schools. They are by their nature divisive and prejudicial. Labour must commit to ensure all schools are comprehensive.

4. A secular education system
Religious schools are also divisive. They attempt to, to a greater or lesser degree, indoctrinate children in their religious doctrines. Labour must end religious schools. They must also ensure that religious education in schools does not preference any religion or system of belief. The RE curriculum must give equal weight to atheism and agnosticism as to religious belief. All schools must be comprehensive and secular.

5. Cooperation and support, not competition – dismantle Ofsted
Our school system must be based on cooperation and collectivism not on competition. The pseudo-market system that has proliferated in the last 30 years has had a detrimental effect on many children’s education and has driven thousands of professionals out of education. A Corbyn led Labour government must dismantle this system. It must abolish Ofsted and end school league tables. It needs to replace this system with an accountability culture founded on recognition of education workers' responsibility and professional autonomy, with a voice for all of those involved in education, including the students, young people and pupils who are receiving it.

6. Nationalise the exam boards
As well as ending competition between schools Labour must nationalise the exams boards so that all assessment is at an agreed level and that there is not a market in qualifications. The nationalised exam board must be organised on the basis of expert knowledge and agreed curriculum targets not on targets for passing and failing students.

7. For ongoing, varied assessment – scrap SATs and GCSEs
Alongside the culture of competition between schools there has grown an equally, if not more, damaging culture within schools. Much of this is based on the need to get ‘results’ which are measured through high-stakes testing. This testing is used to measure and label children and education workers alike. On assuming office Labour must immediately scrap SATs tests and GCSEs and replace them with on-going, continuous assessment and a variety of assessment and reward systems not simply summative high stakes testing.

The current testing culture has had a disastrous effect on the mental health of our young people with a spike of under-11s being referred for mental health help. It has also had awful consequences for professionalism and the relationship between education professionals and the children and young people they work with. It is not just parents’ groups and the unions who have recognised the failure of the ‘exam factory’ culture. The bosses’ organisation the CBI has condemned it and called for the scrapping of GCSEs. Their concerns are that we are producing young people who can get through exam ‘hoops’ but can’t critically think, problem solve or evaluate.

8. Develop and nurture children – abolish streaming and setting
Labour should then move on to remove streaming and setting from schools. Young people are not simple labels, all of them have different combinations of skills and aptitudes. The current system is more concerned with labelling and differentiating than developing and nurturing. Alongside this there must be legislation to end the spiralling and draconian practice of detention, which is used now in schools as almost an indiscriminate punishment.

9. An expanded curriculum – restore creative subjects and social sciences
Beyond the immediate ending of exam factories and punitive internal regimes, Labour must address the terrible narrowing of the curriculum. It must ensure that a wide-range of subjects are available and taught well throughout secondary, restoring arts, creative and social science courses where they have been cut. The primary curriculum needs an entire over-haul restoring creativity to the central concerns of schools. Labour should pick up the direction of the Rose Review (commissioned by the Brown government and due to be implemented by it, but scrapped by the coalition and Gove) and the concurrent Cambridge Review (led by Professor Robin Alexander). Since these reviews, tragically primary education has moved in the opposite direction to the re-birth of creativity suggested by them.

10. Fully-funded education free to all
Currently, schools face a huge funding crisis. 91% of schools face real terms budget cuts compared to 2015-6. £2.8bn has been cut from school budgets since 2016. Labour must commit to restore funding to their high point in 2010. It must also ensure that education at all levels is free to access to everyone.

On being elected Labour should restore the Educational Maintenance Allowance and make it a living grant for all post-16 students. It should ensure all pre-16 students receive free school meals. Neither of these steps should be means tested.

11. Tackle the staffing crisis – reduce teachers’ hours and restore national pay bargaining
Many schools cannot now attract the teachers they need. This is often referred to as a recruitment crisis. In fact there are plenty of qualified teachers just many of them do not want to teach in the current system. Radical action is required by any Labour Government to address teacher workload (the average teachers hours are about 60 hours a week) and pay for all education workers (teaching assistant are amongst the worst paid workers in the country). Immediately, Labour will need to restore national pay bargaining for all education workers and institute a maximum 45-hour week.

12. Expand local democratic control of schools
Finally, to ensure that the education agenda is driven by and not against those who work in the profession and the young people they educate, school governors should have representation by trade unions (not staff reps whose duty is to the school not their colleagues) and elected student or pupil representatives. This representation should also occur in the Local Education Authorities.
If an incoming Labour Government carried this out, the promise of the NES would indeed be as radical as the implementation of the NHS was 70 years ago.

By David Pendletone

Trade Unions
The AWL, Labour and the Left
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No More Detentions!

Submitted by Class Struggle on Wed, 12/09/2018 - 14:53

Our school, a medium-sized secondary, must now be running at about 40,000 detentions a year. The assistant principal in charge of the system tells me that the flagship school in our MAT, slightly smaller than ours, has even more.

In our school, certainly, the escalation of detentions to the tens of thousands has made the place less orderly rather than more so. Yet mass-detention systems are common. When I discussed our system with the vice-principal previously responsible for running it (she's quit now), her basic objection to an alternative was that it would be risky and would at best take time to bed in. Then what if Ofsted arrived during the transition. No-one got fired for buying IBM, they used to say. There must be many school managers thinking: no-one gets Ofsted-censured for dishing out a few thousand more detentions.

Schools surely need to work to make themselves orderly and calm, and to help students to learn how to work cooperatively and respectfully with others. Detentions don't do that. Detentions do nothing to help students learn greater capacity to get along with others cooperatively and respectfully. Even if the "offence" is a really disruptive one, there is no direct and intelligible link between it and the consequence. Even when students do their detention promptly, and more so when (as often happens) they miss it and get it escalated, they are likely to have forgotten what the detention was a consequence of.

Many students see no justice in a detention as a consequence of a minor transgression which harmed no-one. They also see no way that sitting in detention makes them calmer or better behaved or more able to deal with whatever difficulty tips them into being disruptive in class (or doing the thing, in fact not disruptive, that got them the detention). A large number of students – on the whole, the students likely to cause frequent difficulties – have detentions almost all the time, as a way of life. Detentions become a consequence of going to school, not a consequence of specific actions. What most school students learn from most school discipline systems is (a) distrust and cynicism about established authorities; (b) some low cunning in circumventing established authorities. That is even more true of mass-detention systems. Distrust of established authority is a virtue, but there are better ways of teaching it and giving it a thoughtful and constructive character.

Some students find it hard to sit still and focus for an hour. Some are baffled by the school work they are assigned. Some come to school with issues which they want to vent, and have difficulty finding other ways of venting than disruptive behaviour. Some seek attention, and don’t see how to get it other than in disruptive and self-harming ways. In a mass-detentions system, there is no inbuilt call for real discussion between teacher and student to help the student increase their capacities and the teacher learn better how to deal with the student. An enormous amount of effort by teachers, and sometimes especially by those who might be our best resources for really helping students expand their capacities, is expended on monitoring detentions, chasing up non-attenders, etc.

It is almost impossible to make detention systems consistent, especially in systems where such a variety of student actions, often trivial, can attract detentions. In practice the student knows that her or his risk of getting a detention depends on many things other than what the student does. The best alternative I know (and have worked with, outside England) is a system originating in the USA (responsiblethinking.com: see also bit.ly/bill-r), which teaches students that the consequence of disrupting lessons is that they go to a special classroom to continue their work, and must talk with the teacher to find a way forward in order to return to regular classes with that particular teacher. It is explicitly non-punitive, and includes no detentions other than mini-detentions of 30 seconds or one minute to talk issues through.

There are surely others. To design them we must break our schools from the reign of mass detentions.

-A South London Teacher

Trade Unions
Issues and Campaigns

NEU Executive makes a difficult pay campaign even harder

Author

By Patrick Murphy, National Education Union executive (personal capacity)

In what has become a pattern, the government announced their decision on the 2018-19 teachers’ pay award at the end of July when most schools had closed for the summer break.

What should Labour do about schools?

Author

David Pendletone

As in so many areas Labour's 2017 manifesto marked a welcome and significant sea change in the party’s direction and vocabulary on education.

Gone was the talk of driving up standards by competition, increased observation and punishment of teachers who didn’t make the grade. Instead there were welcome commitments to establish a National Education Service (NES), ensure democratic control of schools, and restore funding cuts and genuine commitments to fund further education and Early Years provision better.

How teacher walkouts can revive the US labour movement

Author

Lois Weiner

Lois Weiner is a socialist and teacher trade unionist based in New York. She is the author of The Future of our Schools: Teacher Unions and Social Justice (2012, Haymarket Books) and a member of the editorial board of the socialist journal New Politics. She answered questions from Cathy Nugent of Solidarity and Daniel Randall of the Labour Days podcast about the recent wave of teacher walkouts in the US, and the struggle to revive and transform the labour movement in the age of Trump.

East Sussex pay strikes spread

Author

By Patrick Murphy, NEU Executive (p.c.)

Ballots in eight schools began this week, adding to the five schools already in dispute as the campaign for fair pay in East Sussex grows.

The dispute is over the failure of the local authority to recommend the agreed union rates for teachers, (2%) across the main scale from September 2017, instead recommending 1% in the grades between the min and maximum. The sums involved are relatively small (between zero and about £10K per school).

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