Socialist Worker

Key issues for NUT conference

by Nick Grant, Secretary Ealing NUT
Issue No. 2093

The annual conference of the NUT teachers’ union over this Easter weekend will be dominated by a discussion about how to take forward the union’s pay campaign.

Our confidence going into the national strike planned for 24 April should be boosted by a commitment to ballot for further strike days.

There is also a plan for other action on the related issues of workload, performance management, inspections, class sizes and testing, which will be debated during the conference.

Teachers are angry about a full spectrum of issues.

Teachers and students are fed up with the bootcamp features of their daily routine.

Mechanical factory-derived systems of productivity are being forced on to the complex process of child development and maturation.

A robotic ethos of fear and competition is being transplanted into education, which can only thrive on hope and co-operation.

Whitehall apparatchiks hassle headteachers if their SATs target scores are below a previous year – unable to understand that different students may have differing abilities.

They threaten local authorities to withhold money for new building schemes if privately managed City academies or trust schools are not introduced.

All these matters are reflected throughout the agenda for this year’s conference.

A debate about young teachers recognises the economic hardship of debt-burdened starters.

A motion on better union support for school NUT reps reflects their increased victimisation in the workplace.

The need to support agency and overseas trained staff reflects their heightened exploitation as cheap labour.

The debate on primary education welcomes the findings of Cambridge University’s primary review that, “Children are under intense and perhaps excessive pressures from the policy driven demands of their schools” and that “the primary school curriculum is too narrow and rigid”.

Motions on gender and race equality, as well as poverty and class, will confront the increasing divisiveness of life under neoliberal capitalism for teachers and learners alike.

Building on the union’s affiliation to the Stop the War Coalition, this conference will discuss opposition to military recruitment in schools and the dissemination of propaganda as teaching materials by the Ministry of Defence.

There must be no concession to the arguments espoused by chancellor Alistair Darling, when announcing his recent budget – that we are all going to have to accept a “rough ride” from the global credit crunch and banking crises.

The NUT has done well to resist the spin that public sector workers are somehow responsible for inflation.

The NUT’s political independence should mean a strengthening of our conviction that another world is possible.

Here people could come before profit and welfare before warfare, and education will be about freedom and delight rather than deference and despair.

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Article information

Tue 18 Mar 2008, 19:07 GMT
Issue No. 2093
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