‘Tory education proposals wrong’ – TEACHERS SLAM GOVERNMENT

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Nut members  fighting against government cuts to Sixth Form Colleges
Nut members fighting against government cuts to Sixth Form Colleges

‘THE government’s priorities are simply wrong. They are wrong for education, wrong for teachers and wrong for children and young people,’ teachers union NUT said on Thursday.

The NUT was responding to a Tory White Paper just published entitled: ‘Educational Excellence Everywhere’.

Christine Blower, General Secretary of the National Union of Teachers, said: ‘The White Paper does nothing to address the pressing issues that are distorting education provision in England. Most fundamentally, the government shows no sign of recognising that there is a huge gap between its rhetoric of “raising the quality and status” of the teaching profession, and the daily experience of schools.

‘Teachers are struggling to cope with huge workloads and badly designed assessment systems. In devising its policies, the government cares nothing for their knowledge or expertise. To change teaching for the better, these issues must be addressed. Getting rid of Qualified Teacher Status is a clear indication of how little this government respects teachers or parents, who believe their children should be taught by a qualified teacher.

‘Leaving schools and heads to decide whether a teacher has reached suitable standards lacks coherence. The shift towards school-based teacher education has contributed to current shortages, yet it is a policy that the White Paper wants to take even further. Finland, for example, which tops international education league tables, educates teachers to master level.

‘This policy is going in the wrong direction and should be of concern to everyone. Many schools, including the overwhelming majority of primaries, have made a positive choice to remain maintained by their local authority. This White Paper’s proposals to turn all schools into academies will abolish that choice and instead impose an authoritarian central government diktat on schools.

‘So much for “localism,” so much for “choice,” so much for “autonomy,” so much for “democracy”. Small schools in particular will lose their identity, and rural schools face an uncertain future as multi-academy trusts will pick and choose which schools they consider viable. It will cost the taxpayer a fortune to convert all school into academies, and all based on no evidence that academies improve the education of children.

‘The government says it wants fairer funding but is imposing real terms cuts on schools which also face significant additional costs relating to higher employer pension and National Insurance costs. There’s nothing fair about cutting school funding overall, or about allocating additional resources to some individual schools by cutting funding for others.  This redistribution of an inadequate and dwindling education budget needs to be replaced with a proper assessment of the funding needs of our schools.

‘Nicky Morgan is gambling on an irrational approach which supposes that the problems of teacher shortages and the quality and availability of teacher education can be dealt with simply by ratcheting up the policies that have created those problems in the first place.’

Also commenting on the Education White Paper, Dr Mary Bousted, general secretary of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL), said: ‘The government’s plans to promote education excellence everywhere are based on pursuing policies which have signally failed to achieve that aim. It is hard to see how they will benefit children’s education.

‘The education white paper advocates doing more of the same – more multi-academy trusts, more school-led initial teacher training, and more piecemeal initiatives to improve teacher supply. But the government’s problem is that none of these current policies is achieving their intended outcomes.

‘Nothing in this white paper addresses the fundamental fault lines in English education.

‘Ministers seem to believe that, magically, there will be enough high quality multi-academy trusts (MATs) to support the thousands of schools which they will force to become academies. But the evidence shows MATs are highly variable in quality and Sir Michael Wilshaw has said that the worst MATs are performing as badly as the worst local authorities.

‘The proposals to lengthen the period before trainee teachers are awarded qualified teacher status, and to give school leaders the authority to make the decision about awarding this is highly problematic. At a time when school budgets are being cut in real terms, there will be pressures on school leaders to delay accreditation as a way of saving wage costs. ATL will be demanding a full negotiation on this proposal so that safeguards can be put in place to stop the exploitation of trainee teachers.’

Meanwhile supply teachers have reported serious concerns about illegal working practices by supply agencies at the largest gathering of supply teachers, teachers union NASUWT said. Teachers attending the NASUWT’s national Supply Teachers’ Seminar, held last week in Birmingham, said that the government must do more to ensure that supply agencies operate in accordance with the law governing agency workers.

Supply teachers raised concerns that whilst schools are paying agencies hundreds of pounds a time to cover individual classes, teachers receive only a small fraction of the fees being paid to supply agencies.

Patrick Roach, Deputy General Secretary of the NASUWT, who addressed the Conference, said: ‘Many teachers have told us that they become supply teachers because of a lack of opportunities in schools for flexible working; yet, many supply teachers face exploitation and unfair treatment by some supply agencies, umbrella companies and by schools.

‘Many supply teachers continue to report to the NASUWT that they are being asked to sign illegal contracts or to waive their statutory rights to equal treatment under the Agency Workers Regulations. The trade bodies that claim to represent employment agencies must address these unacceptable practices which are bringing the sector into disrepute.

‘At a time of a crisis of teacher recruitment and retention, the government must now take seriously the issues raised by supply teachers, who are the backbone of the schools system. It simply is scandalous that many supply teachers are regarded as second-class professionals and are being denied equal treatment at work.’

• Teachers at St Peter’s Collegiate School in Wolverhampton are began the first of six days of strike action on Thursday March 17. The teachers are members of the NASUWT and the action has been called as a result of the failure of the Employer to engage genuinely to resolve the concerns of teachers over pay progression and payment of the 1% pay award.

Chris Keates, General Secretary of the NASUWT, said: ‘It is unacceptable that teachers who have already faced a 15% cut in their pay are now being denied even the 1% for public sector workers and having barriers placed in the way of any pay progression, depressing their pay even further.

‘Teachers at the school are dedicated and committed and are being treated unfairly.

‘We have made every effort to secure an agreed way forward, but there has been no serious attempt by the employer to address the concerns of teachers.

‘The teachers deeply regret any disruption to pupils and parents as a result of the strike action and hope that the employer will work with them to fully address their concerns so that further strike action can be avoided.’