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Fight the pay freeze, defend education
Time For A Change
TEACHERS ARE facing a series of vicious attacks from this government over pay, pensions, workload and the threats to teachers' jobs. The main challenge of the National Union of Teachers (NUT) conference, must be to agree the necessary action to defeat the government's proposals and to win proper resources and support for education in England and Wales.
Jane Nellist, conference delegate, Coventry, personal capacity
We cannot afford to come away with a series of motions that decry what the government is doing but that don't provide a strategy to fight back.
Our top rate of pay has been effectively hacked off by agreement with the other teacher trade unions. A pay freeze comes into effect this month. Just as we warned, performance-related pay will become the only way to get a pay rise, regardless of where teachers are on the pay scale. Unless we go on the offensive, we can look forward to some bleak years ahead.
If the government gets its way on pensions, we will be expected to work an extra five years to get the same pension entitlement. The reality will be that some teachers may never reach retirement and will die prematurely; such are the stresses in our job.
All over Europe, public-sector workers, including teachers, have taken to the streets in massive strikes opposing any deterioration of their pensions. As a start, we have the opportunity on 19 June, with the TUC demonstration against the pension changes, but it will need to be built for and built on!
The NUT has been absolutely right to oppose the Workforce Reform Agreement. It hasn't delivered on teacher workload, or delivered a better deal for support staff. However, it is not enough just to say 'no!'.
We are going to have to battle to get the resources to provide a first-class comprehensive education as well as the proper support and rewards for all education staff. We are going to have to stand firm against the government's intention to increasingly use support staff to cover classes.
The reality of the government's mantra - Education, Education, Education - has been more testing, more stress and more selection. SATs tests are still firmly in place in England, although Wales has seen some changes. The campaign against SATs and league tables must be stepped up.
What the NUT needs is a leadership that will fight on these issues and the future direction of the union. That's why a key debate at this year's conference will be the hustings for the NUT general secretary position. Socialist Party member, Martin Powell-Davies is the one candidate who represents a real break with the past and if elected will be a teachers' leader who will fight for the interests of classroom teachers.
In The Socialist 10 April 2004:
War and occupation
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