Socialist Worker

NUT conference: class sizes and workload

by Sadie Robinson, at NUT conference
Issue No. 2094

Workload was raised regularly at conference. A recent School Teachers Review Body (STRB) report found that primary school teachers were now working on average 52 hours a week. Teachers were clear that workload cannot be separated from other issues such as class size and pay.

Pat Markey is the joint NUT rep at Northampton Association. He told Socialist Worker, “We have a local ballot over workload at the moment which finishes on Tuesday. If we get a yes vote we hope to take action in early April. The fact that we’ve balloted at the same time as the ballot over pay has made it easier because it’s put striking back on the agenda.”

The conference passed a motion on workload with an amendment calling for a ballot for industrial action over workload. Tom Woodcock from Cambridge, speaking for the motion, said, “Teachers face an endless battle over workload – with never ending initiatives, jargon and monitoring of the monitoring. We need a bottom up response and national action.”

Class size was another major concern for teachers, who were infuriated by Jim Knight’s comments at the ATL union conference that class sizes of 70 would be acceptable in some circumstances.

A motion put to conference noted OECD research – which found that Britain was 23rd out of 30 developed countries in terms of large class size. The motion pointed to other countries such as Finland which has a maximum class size of 20 and which is widely seen as providing an extremely high quality of education. Teachers voted to call on the government to set a maximum class size of 20 by 2020 in both primary and secondary schools.

The motion also called for a “moratorium on school closures”. Tony Tonks from the NUT executive sparked controversy after proposing an amendment which sought to remove this line. In words that echoed the government, he argued that in some cases, keeping schools open was not financially viable because of “surplus places”. But teachers came back on this demanding that every child should have a good, local school and that “surplus places” actually mean lower class sizes. The executive amendment was strongly defeated.

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