No forced academies – demand teachers unions

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A group of Lambeth teachers on the emergency march against forced academies in central London on March 23rd
A group of Lambeth teachers on the emergency march against forced academies in central London on March 23rd

THE National Union of teachers (NUT) is utterly opposed to the government’s plan to convert all schools to academies, ending democratic accountability in England’s education system and threatening every teacher’s pay and conditions.

The NUT Conference at Easter overwhelmingly endorsed proposals to campaign, wherever possible jointly with other education unions and other partners, to oppose the government’s White Paper ‘Educational Excellence Everywhere’ proposals and also to ballot members for strike action in defence of national pay and conditions for teachers.

The NUT says: ‘The White Paper will do nothing to address the pressing issues that are distorting education. It is a complete distraction from the real problems facing schools, a huge danger to our education system and an open door to complete privatisation of schools and teaching.

Every school an academy

‘All schools will be forced to become academies over the next six years. Most will be expected to join multi academy trusts (MATs). This proposal wasn’t in the Conservative manifesto. Over 80% of local authority schools are rated “good” or “outstanding” and have chosen not to become academies – so why force them to change?

No democracy in governance

‘MATs won’t be required to have parent governors or even governing bodies for individual schools. Once a school joins a MAT, there is no way for it to decide to leave. Far from giving more “autonomy” to head teachers, MATs can remove self-management altogether. A programme originally claimed to be about “choice” will now deny parents, teachers and schools any real choice and deny parents a voice in their children’s education.

An end to national pay and conditions

‘When all schools are academies, existing national pay and conditions will not apply automatically to anyone and might be ended altogether. This will affect every teacher. Most academies follow the STPCD (School Teachers Pay and Conditions Document) but won’t do that if it disappears. Schools will be able to drive down pay and conditions. Working hours and workload will rise. Disputes will proliferate at school and MAT level. This won’t help persuade students to choose a career in teaching.

An end to Qualified Teacher Status (QTS)

‘A “new stronger accreditation” will replace QTS – with trainees accredited by head teachers and requiring several years to reach full accreditation. The “new stronger accreditation” will be nothing of the sort. Removing universities from the accreditation process will end the availability of research and evidence to inform better teacher education and teaching. Teachers’ futures will depend on their relationship with the head teacher.

A threat to the most vulnerable children

‘Local authorities will lose most of their responsibilities for supporting schools. Academies or their MATs will become their own admission authorities. This will inevitably disadvantage children from poorer backgrounds, with special educational needs or with English as an additional language the most.

Other proposals

‘The White Paper also covers issues like school leadership; recruitment to teaching; accountability, inspection and intervention; assessment and the curriculum; standards for CPD; the new College of Teaching and a new National Teaching Service; and the new funding system. All of these also have huge implications for teachers. The NUT will be analysing and responding to these proposals as well as those outlined above.

The real issues

‘Schools and parents are facing a chronic teacher shortage, a lack of school places, chaos around curriculum changes and primary tests and a funding crisis. But instead of dealing with these very real issues the government is pursuing a top down re-organisation of education that has no basis in evidence to support it. The NUT will work with all possible allies, in particular with parents and governors, to seek to defeat this White Paper.’

• Delegates at the NUT’s annual conference at Easter voted for motion 59: Fair Pay for Individual Teachers and for the Whole Profession, moved by Dennis White (Bradford) and seconded by Ipswich. It instructs the Executive to seek from the government:

‘i. An end to the pay freeze and a plan to restore, over a fixed period of time, the real value of all teachers’ salaries;

‘ii. The restoration of mandatory pay scales and responsibility payments for all teachers whose employment is publicly funded, including those in academies, free schools and sixth form colleges;

‘iii. The restoration of national pay bargaining;

‘iv. An end to the current system of so-called “performance related pay” that has been so arbitrary and so destructive of teacher morale; and

‘v. A combination of a living wage and affordable housing that will allow teachers to live in London and the fringe areas, this proposal arising from Union consultation with members in these areas.

‘Conference further instructs the Executive that in addition to putting these proposals to the government and the School Teachers Review Body it should:

‘a. Seek support for them from all other parties representing England and Wales in Parliament and report to our members on their responses;

‘b. Involve our members in a campaign to convince the general public that our pay demand is reasonable;

‘c. If no progress is made in talks with the government on agreeing and implementing these proposals, campaign for and, when there is the necessary support, ballot for a national campaign of strike and non-strike action, seeking the involvement of other teaching unions and non-teaching unions as appropriate;

‘d. Target employers, whether they be local authorities, academy chains or individual schools, who produce unreasonable or unfair pay policies or use their policies in unreasonable and unfair ways, including naming and shaming them where necessary;

‘e. Give full backing, up to and including strike action, to members where individual employers or schools operate unacceptable pay policies that do not meet the requirements of the NUT checklist; and

‘f. Continue through our Stand Up For Education and other campaigns to emphasise the negative consequences for the education of children of restrictive and divisive pay policies.’

Commenting after the debate on Motion 59, NUT general secretary Christine Blower said: ‘The crisis in teacher morale and teacher supply requires a new start for teachers’ pay. We need to see the pay cuts imposed under David Cameron and the attempts to dismantle the national pay structure reversed.

‘The introduction of performance related pay is an entirely unsuitable system for a profession where results depend upon the work of the whole school, not just individuals.

‘Paying one teacher more than another can be very divisive and lead to unnecessary disputes. Equally, schools do not want or need the additional cost and bureaucracy of working out individual pay for teachers, and for this reason many have kept to the national pay scales.

‘The Coalition government cut almost 15% in the real value of teachers’ pay. The Conservative government’s continued pay limits are making a bad situation even worse. The NUT is calling for the restoration of pay levels and a national pay structure. Teachers’ pay has already fallen behind other graduate professions and, without a clear line of pay progression, many graduates will simply not choose to enter teaching.

‘Schools are already finding it impossible to attract staff, vacancies remain unfilled, and teachers are having to take classes for which they do not have the subject specialisation. When faced with a very serious teacher shortage crisis, this is not the time for the government to have its head in the sand.’