Forest of Dean & Wye Valley

EDUCATION: OUR CHILDREN’S FUTURE

In S. Richardson on September 3, 2014 at 8:21 pm

Why teachers and their unions are so angry.

By SARAH RICHARDSON

There have been many changes in Education in recent months and teachers are angry!
 
The NUT has compiled a growing list of changes on which there’s been no consultation. These include:
 
  • Changed to teachers’ pensions
  • Unqualified teachers in charge of classes
  • Introduction of performance related pay
  • End of pay portability
  • Councils unable to build further schools
  • Introduction of Free Schools
  • Expansion of the academy programme
  • Excessive workload for teachers (60 hours a week for primary teachers).

NO NEGOTIATION:

The Government has refused to negotiate with teaching unions on the policies behind these changes and has only consulted with them (briefly) on how the changes are implemented.
 
The speed and long term impact of the changes is breath-taking. Agreements, some of which have been in place since my grandmother was a teacher in the 1920s, are being torn up.  This means that  teachers will not be on a national pay scale and individual schools  will set their own pay scales. Also, if pay is linked to performance, the altruistic reasons for teaching are eroded and “payment by results” replaces it.

MINIMUM TRAINING:

 
Many universities are closing down their graduate and post-graduate teacher training programmes as more young teachers are trained at the chalkface, in charge of a class with minimum training. Learning, supposedly, happens as they teach with days out of class on programmes such as “SchoolsDirect”. Local councils are no longer allowed by law to build or open new schools in areas of need. The only schools building programme at present is the Free School’s programme. These schools have taken a huge amount from the Education budget, and are able to open wherever they want to.

PROTEST:

 
To protest against these changes, teachers have been involved in different ways.  On 4th June, teachers lobbied 156 Members of Parliament at the House of Commons. Parents have got involved in petitioning and running street stalls with teachers. On 21st June, 50,000 people marched through central London, led by the NUT, on a “No to Austerity” demonstration led by the People’s Assembly. The closing rally was addressed by, amongst others, Christine Blower, General Secretary of the NUT. I also heard the comedian, Russell Brand, speak movingly  about boyhood memories of his father being made redundant and how common this is again. He received a big cheer for putting on a Firefighters’ T-shirt!
 

STRIKE ACTION:

On 10th July, one million people in the public sector held a one-day strike. This was made up of members from the NUT, UNISON, Unite, GMB and the FBU. Members of all these unions have been offered a one per cent pay increase at a time when Members of Parliament have an 11 per cent pay increase and inflation is still high.

On 15th July I was delighted (as was every other teacher I came across!) When the Education Secretary Michael Gove lost his job in a Cabinet re-shuffle.  Although it is wrong to personalise these savage changes, Gove has been particularly disliked and distrusted as Education Secretary. It would be good if Labour came out with some strong messages on Education. So far, the Labour front bench has been very quiet about reversing the changes.

 
If you’re interested in keeping up to date with campaigning against the cuts in public services I would encourage you to look at the People’s Assembly website on www.thepeoplesassembly.org.uk and join in!
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