Education workers in the NEU union debated pay and workload at their annual conference in Bournemouth this week. There are 1,600 delegates and observers at the union’s first physical conference since 2019.
The conference voted overwhelmingly to commit to a national indicative ballot on pay—fighting for at least an 8 percent rise. This is likely to take place in October.
Young teacher Jessica Todd from Waltham Forest in east London told the conference, “The rise in inflation, energy bills and cost of living makes it impossible to make ends meet. The sad reality is it’s not affordable to live and work in areas like mine. We need a pay campaign to build a big result and it needs to start now. We deserve an above inflation pay rise.”
An NEU survey released on the eve of conference showed that almost half of state school teachers in England plan to quit by 2027. The Tories have imposed years of below-inflation pay deals on teachers and other staff while racking up workload.
And schools have been at the centre of the government’s reckless policies over Covid. It took official and unofficial action to blunt some of the worst of the lethal pandemic plans. The NEU has grown to 450,000 members.
Teacher Jodie Mallier-Ridley from Coventry told Socialist Worker, “Workload increased massively because of the changes during the pandemic. We were thrown out of our comfort zone and expected to change at the flick of a switch.”
Jodie added that many of her colleagues are suffering with poor mental health. “Students are acutely aware of teachers being off work with stress and it’s having an impact on them,” she added.
Teaching assistants covering classes is becoming increasingly common. This is hitting students who are recovering from lessons missed during the pandemic. And class sizes are at a 40-year high.
An emergency motion on Child Q—a black student who was strip-searched in east London—was passed after a debate. Some argued that the motion didn’t go far enough as it didn’t call for cops to be completely removed from school Another emergency motion, if discussed, would oppose the Russian invasion and Nato expansion and escalation.
Around 200 people attended an NEU Left conference fringe meeting to discuss how to fight back. Jodie, a rep on the group’s steering committee, told the meeting, “We are a democratic group determined to put reps at the heart of the union.” She added, “Change starts with us, politics isn’t confined to Westminster.”
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