Socialist Worker

NUT teachers’ conference: ‘At some point you have to make a stand’

by Kelly Hilditch, in Harrogate
Issue No. 2046

The headline vote at the NUT teachers’ union conference was the unanimous support for national action over pay (see United action is needed to face down pay cuts).

But immediately after that motion was passed, conference moved on to a motion on performance-related pay.

It is a sign of the level of anger among delegates that after 20 years without national strike action, delegates came close to committing the union to two national strike ballots in the course of one afternoon.

Jan Nielsen, a teacher from south London, said to cheers, “The experience of every teacher is that performance-related pay has nothing to do with better pay or better education.

“We have seen two decades of target-based education.

“And we are now in a position where Unicef reports that children in Britain are among the most deprived and unhappy in the Western world.

“At some point you have to draw a line in the sand and be prepared to stand by your principles.”

The session on pay also passed a motion on young teachers’ pay, highlighting rising housing costs, debt and the prospect of working until the age of 65 in order to receive the full pension.

Jonathan Maunder, a recently qualified teacher, told the conference, “There is a generation of young teachers who face new challenges.

“We have to ask how we can have a diverse workforce when the government is pricing whole layers of society out of becoming teachers.”

The relentless rise of academies also featured heavily at the conference.

Around 300 people attended the Anti-Academies Alliance fringe meeting at the conference. Steve Sinnott, NUT general secretary, opened the meeting by saying, “This campaign is extremely important. We are fighting people who want to roll out 400 academies when they do not have one example of why they should.

“We are wholly opposed to the rich being given the opportunity to have this influence on education just because they have the money.”

There was an overwhelming anger at the government’s plans for education running through the conference.

Mac Andrassy, a teacher from Oldham, told the academies meeting, “We have been campaigning against the council’s plans for schools in Oldham, holding protests and leafleting.

“I think that the day of protest planned for May Day is a real gift. We should use it to hold lunchtime protests outside the school.

“Even if you are not faced with an academy, then the school next door could be.

“This is something that we all have to fight.”

Mike Gurney from Devon spoke about the plans to turn schools in his area into trusts. He said, “The difference between a trust and an academy is the money – with a trust you don’t get any.

“And there is no democracy. Teachers and parents have not been involved in the council’s decision making.”

Alasdair Smith, one of the coordinators of the acadamies campaign, said, “We want to hold a committee of inquiry into how the academies are being pushed through.

“So on 12 June we want parents, teachers and campaigners to send delegations to London or, if you can’t make it, send written evidence about how academies are used in your area.

“We need to challenge how they are pushed through and why companies and businessmen are being given our schools and our children’s education.”

For the president’s opening address to conference see Iraq is Blair's legacy


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