Link to this page: https://secure.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/481/2246
The Socialist 4 April 2007 |
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Teachers face heavy workloads, stress, performance pay
Take national action to defend education
AT THE National Union of Teachers (NUT) conference this year, teachers are discussing how to resist government attacks on our pay and conditions and on comprehensive education. We are being ground down by the pressures of intolerable workload, underfunding and performance pay. Academies and trusts are designed to further undermine collective opposition to the government's divisive policies.
Martin Powell-Davies, Lewisham NUT
Our stressful lives are bad for our health, our families and the children we teach. Too many teachers are already voting with their feet. Some resign, some are driven out by ill-health or bullying managers.
Local NUT Associations are struggling valiantly to defend members through individual casework and local disputes. But the strategy of relying on school reps and officers to fight local battles alone will not succeed. At best, as when striking against Teaching and Learning Responsibility (TLR) pay cuts, we may win some local victories. But as a long-term strategy it leaves the NUT playing King Canute trying to stem the New Labour tide.
Unless the union acts, the attacks will continue on pay, conditions and comprehensive education. But, if the NUT led from the front and campaigned to win a ballot for national strike action, members would respond. A successful one-day strike would give an outlet for teachers' many grievances and raise the sights of members who aren't yet confident to take action in their school alone.
It's not that the union is short of issues to galvanise the membership around. By the government's own admission, teachers are still working 50 hours a week and more. Pay rises are being pegged beneath the rate of inflation. The Education Act is fragmenting comprehensive state education.
A demand to withdraw the new performance management regulations could prove the clearest focus for action.
They threaten to add a cruel twist to the existing performance pay regime. Schools will be expected to carry out more nit-picking observations and set teachers more 'challenging' objectives. More staff will be demoralised and denied their pay rise. More will accept an unreasonable workload so as to keep in line for salary progression.
But the union doesn't have to choose one priority for national action above all others. The civil service union, the PCS, with Socialist Party members playing an important role in its leadership, have recently successfully won a ballot and called national strike action.
They linked different threats to jobs, pay and conditions into one national action. The NUT can do the same.
We must have confidence in our members. Teachers are fed up with everything that has been thrown at them by this government. A fighting leadership should be able to harness that anger. It's time the union gave a lead. NUT conference delegates have a responsibility to make sure it does.
Socialist Party Teachers NUT Conference Fringe Meeting
Grants Hotel, Swan Road, Harrogate, Monday 9 April, 8pm
Speaker: Councillor Jackie Grunsell,
Huddersfield Save Our NHS councillor
The national union must call national action