General Meeting 15th November 2012

posted 10 Jan 2013, 07:22 by general office   [ updated 10 Jan 2013, 07:28 ]

1)  Action Short of Strike Action (ASOS)

It was agreed that  ITA should send a message of support to colleagues at Stratford Academy School (who are taking strike action after having pay deducted for taking ASOS) and that the UGM requests the Committee to make a donation of £100 under rule to the Stratford hardship fund 

2).  North London Education Conference.

 This branch notes the need for a local debate with all education stakeholders about the future of education in our local authority area as part of a National Campaign for Education

 This branch believes working together with another borough(s) such as Haringey can bring important benefits with different experiences  and perspectives

  This branch agrees to approach Haringey NUT and Haringey Campaign Against Academies to develop a plan to hold a joint 'North London Local Schools Conference' in 2013


 3).   National Conference motions. The following six motions were agreed

1.         The crisis in education, and the National Campaign for Education

NUT Conference notes:

  • The state of crisis developing in our schools, and in the wider education system.
  • The recent GCSE debacle has revealed fundamental structural failings in the high stakes, league table and OFSTED accountability mechanisms.
  • The shortage of primary school places – 500,000 new school places are needed by 2015
  • The impact of austerity on breakfast clubs, SEN and EAL services, careers and a range of other vital educational support services.
  • The continuing upheaval caused by the academies and free schools programme and the government’s commitment to privatisation and deregulation –for example removing academies from requirement to provide healthy food or to have qualified teachers (QTS)
  • The increasing centralisation of power in the education system, bypassing local democratic control, and giving the secretary of state a degree of control that is both undemocratic and unsustainable

NUT Conference further notes:

  • That the solutions to the crisis proposed by the Coalition government are driven more by ideological and political commitment to a ‘smaller state’ and ‘free market’ rather than educational best practice. For example, a massive new school building programme could provide solutions but the government will not allow Local Authorities to build.
  • That we need to continue to organise resistance to cuts, privatisation and deregulation but at the same time we need to engage in a wider national political debate with other stakeholders about what sort of education will deliver a good local school for every child.
  • That although detailed ideas on how a future education system should look can only emerge after extensive democratic discussion, there are some important basic principles: It should be comprehensive, progressive and democratic. It should also include a commitment to social justice, defending diversity and opposing discrimination.

NUT Conference further notes:

  • The energy, commitment of a new wave of parent campaigners such as those at Downhills School in Haringey North London, the Ask Parents First group in Birmingham and the Save Our Schools group in Louth, Lincolnshire.
  • The continuing efforts of the various education campaigns such as AAA, CASE, Comprehensive Future, the Local Schools Network, New Vision, and the SEA
  • The positive impact of unity and joint working by all education unions and the TUC over the last few years, for example in the Anti Academies Alliance

NUT Conference agrees:

  • To continue to support the work of the Anti Academies Alliance whilst working towards developing a new National Campaign for Education as agreed at Conference 2012 in the run up to the next election
  • To support Divisions and Associations in working at a local level to create a local National Campaign for Education (NCE)
  • To begin the process by organising a ‘local schools conference’ with other stakeholders to address current concerns and future issues
  • To organise and support other activities and events that help create a NCE.

 

 

2.         Academies

Conference notes that:

1.  Despite huge opposition Secretary of State Gove continues to use his powers to force 'failing' schools to become academies, handing them over to sponsors without democratic or transparent process.

2. Voluntary conversions are continuing with head teachers and governors promoting this for dubious reasons, without a popular mandate and in complete disregard for the impact on the wider education system.

3. That free schools are proving to be costly, wasteful and divisive. 

 

Conference believes that:

1. Gove's reform agenda is motivated by ideological commitment to a "supply side revolution" and creation of a market of competing schools.

2. This privatisation and deregulation of education is contributing a sense of deep seated crisis in the education system

3. The destruction of Local Authority education services flies in face of evidence of best practice and widespread professional support for a 'middle tier'. 

 

Conference agrees to:

1. Continue to oppose vigorously both forced and voluntary conversions and the creation of free schools by working with the AAA, parents and other stakeholders

2. Work with others to campaign in defence of Local Authorities and for the return of academies and free schools to the democratic locally accountable family of LA schools

3. To continue to support members in academies and free schools to ensure there is no deviation from national pay and conditions. 


3.         Reforming KS4

Conference reiterates the Union’s opposition to the disgraceful actions of examination boards, under pressure from Ofqual, in raising grade boundaries ‘mid-term’ so penalising thousands of students and denying many access to sixth-form courses and other educational opportunities. Conference endorses the legal action taken by the NUT and other education partners.

Conference recognises however that the debacle over last summer’s exam grading was not only the result of exam board and Ofqual irregularities but part of a more systematic attempt by Secretary of State Michael Gove to reduce examination pass rates and re-introduce  ‘normative’ assessment through using  ‘comparative outcomes’, rather than using criterion referencing

Conference considers that allegations about ‘dumbing down’ and ‘grade’ inflation are highly selective and there is no substantive evidence that examinations have become ‘easier’.  While it accepts that examination boards, particularly private ones, have sought to increase their revenue by offering schools higher chances of success and that teachers under pressure to meet their targets and preserve their jobs, increasingly  ‘teach to test’, it also recognises that young people faced with increasingly declining employment opportunities, are working harder to achieve top grades. Conference congratulates students and their teachers for the consistent increases in performance achieved over the last two decades

Conference opposes Michael Gove’s proposals for replacing GCSEs with ‘higher standard’ English Baccalaureate Certificates (EBCs) based on ‘end of course’ exams rather than coursework and modular assessment.  Conference considers this can only create a two-tier system with schools prioritising EBC subjects at the expense of a broad curriculum and those students not reaching EBC standards being given a (misnamed) ‘Statement of Achievement’.  

Conference recognises that the EBC proposals have little to do with ‘modernising’ education or increasing ‘economic competitiveness’ and on the contrary represent a step back to pre-comprehensive education, making schools more unequal still.

Conference further opposes the intention to limit each subject to one examination board, as this will further reduce the educational choices schools make for their students

Conference calls on the Executive to:

a)     Campaign, with others against the proposed introduction of EBCs

b)    Demand that opposition political parties give an undertaking to scrap the proposals if they enter Government in 2014.

c)     Campaign for an end to ‘high stakes’ testing and to teacher performance being linked to students examination outcomes

d)    Oppose the return to normative assessment and quotas for examination grades

 

Conference further recognises that while it is necessary to make formal responses to government policy initiatives, the Union, as an organisation with a long commitment to promoting public non-selective education, must be proactive and play a much greater role in seeking to influence public perception about education. 

 

Conference also recognises the need to both educate and actively involve members, many of whom, because of huge increases in workload and workplace stress, but also because of the increasingly top-own school management styles found in schools, have little opportunity to consider how the curriculum and assessment could be improved.

 

Conference instructs the Executive, drawing on expertise in and outside the union when necessary, to:

 

e)     Develop and promote alternative models of assessment in which teachers can use their professional skills to make judgements about student performance levels, but which also provide a role for external tests and examinations when necessary.

f)     Produce and promote alternatives for KS4 in line with the Union’s existing policies for a general diploma for everyone which offers young people a range of learning experiences while allowing for differentiated levels of performance at both 16 and 18 years.


4.         Workload – joint action with NASUWT

Conference congratulates NUT reps and local association officers who have worked hard to implement action short of strike action in schools and colleges across England and Wales. Conference welcomes the gains that have been made in many schools as a result.

Conference believes that this action shows the benefits of the two largest teachers unions working together and instructs the Executive to continue working closely with the NASUWT on this campaign.

Conference believes that this action has been successful in highlighting the desperate need for teachers to regain a degree of control and judgement over their working time and conditions.

Conference further believes that this action demonstrates the need for more dialogue in schools between headteachers and trade unions about working time and practices.

Conference instructs the Executive to:

i)          work with other unions to draw up a model framework for school based discussions and negotiations between headteachers and trade unions;

ii)          Press the Secretary of State to take steps to reduce teachers’ workload and allow teachers more to use greater flexibly and judgement over how they work.;

iii)         continue to work closely with the NASUWT in developing action short of strike action to reduce workload;

iv)         discuss with other school based unions whether our action can be broadened to include their members;

v)         continue to link the campaign on workload with the campaign to defend teachers’ pay and pensions;

vi)         continue to use strike action where necessary to strengthen the campaign.

 

5.         Defending Our Pensions

Conference recognizes that the fight to restore decent and fair pensions for teachers has to continue, and recognizes that to succeed in this objective it is very important to build a coalition of teachers’ unions committed to both campaigning and action. It also welcomes the Union’s commitment to campaign more widely with other organisations to protect the pensions of public and private sector workers and the state pension against the disgraceful attacks on them by the Coalition Government.

Conference reaffirms its support for good quality final salary occupational pensions in both the private and public sectors and a decent state pension. It deplores private and public sector employers and the Government using the recession as an excuse to attack occupational pensions

Conference condemns the irresponsibility of those who make plans for the future of education based on teachers working to 68 and beyond, and gives its full and continuing support the “68 Is Too Late” campaign.

Conference believes that our pensions are fair and affordable taking into account increasing longevity. We will not allow teachers, other workers or pensioners to have their pensions slashed as a part of this Government’s discredited economic strategy.

Conference condemns and will fight the “race to the bottom” in all pension provision except that of the richest.

Conference instructs the Executive to:

1.         Continue to give the highest priority to co-ordinated efforts to defend members’ pensions, as well as resisting attacks on our pay, working conditions and professionalism, recognizing that strike action will be a necessary part of a successful campaign;

2.         continue to develop our campaigning and action strategy with teacher and other public sector unions, and with pensioners’ organisations and lobby groups;

3.         take the initiative in the establishment and development of an organisation to lead the defence and improvement of pensions for all workers over the long-term, an organization that can challenge with good evidence the myths and lies about affordability spread by the Government and its allies;

4.         seek to organise national and local demonstrations, rallies and public meetings in conjunction with other unions and pensioners organisations;

5.         encourage and assist Local Associations and Divisions to build local campaigns through trades councils and other joint campaigning groups;

6.         press for commitments from opposition politicians to resist the Government’s proposals and reverse them in office.

7.         campaign alongside the TUC and the National Pensioners Convention for an appropriate increase in the state pension, which should thereafter be linked to earnings or prices measured by an index that takes into account the real increase in the cost of living of older people, whichever is the higher.

  

6) Building a unionised teaching workforce in new circumstances

Conference recognises that the breakup of the system of local authorities, national pay and conditions, and the employment of unqualified teachers presents a threat not only to the education service but also to an organised teacher workforce. This requires a determined and extensive reaction by the Union.

In a recession teachers’ pay and conditions will be placed under downward pressure if they are determined school by school, and/or chain by chain. As a consequence thousands of our members will face unfair and uncertain arrangements. Only a significant response by the Union to these changing circumstances can challenge this.

Conference recognises that:

a.         the Union needs to consider changes to its local, regional and national structures to ensure that they are best suited to defend and represent teachers and education in the new situation;

b.         whilst professional unity has been the Union's aim for many years, there is now a pressing need for and an increasing demand for a merger of the existing teacher unions.

Conference further recognises the following principles underlie effective, democratic, teacher trades unionism:

i.          negotiations should be carried out by democratically elected representatives of the members affected;

ii.         since decisions are increasingly made at school level this requires strong school groups with trained and elected reps;

iii.        school organisation alone is not sufficient to defend teachers let alone make educational advance a reality again. Local democratic organisation of teachers is essential to:

a. recruit, train and support school representatives,

b. build campaigns to defend education and public services,

c. establish relations with other interested groups e.g. parents groups;

iv.        our activists should as far as possible be representative of the membership in terms of age, gender and other characteristics;

v.         we must not accept that any schools are "no go areas".

Conference welcomes the work of the Executive, carried out through its task group on representation of members, in preparing the Union’s reaction to these changes and calls on the executive to:

1.         ensure that nationally and regionally the Union has relationships with major employer and other supra school bodies, such as; chains, churches and the co-op;

2.         support local associations and divisions in campaigning for release time for school representatives and local officers by all employers, be they maintained, academy, free school or 6th form college.

3.         continue to work with other teacher unions, including heads associations, to oppose the delegation of such release time - and to seek political support for the retention of this time;

4.         develop chain and cluster organisation to complement our association structure - including by resourcing organising campaigns and by experimenting with chain "branches", chain "secretaries" and email networks of chain reps;

5.         support and resource campaigns for recognition in free schools alongside other TUC affiliated unions;

6.         redouble efforts to recruit, retain and train school and college reps - including by developing resources for reps, building a reps website, ICT training resources and working with associations and divisions to set up reps networks;

7.         support divisions that request help, either because they are having facilities time cut or because the existing amount is inadequate, to develop and resource an organising plan, including the use of organising teams to recruit reps, build school groups, campaign for release time for local officers and where appropriate build smaller local structures. The Union should experiment to find the most effective models;

8.         open a dialogue with other unions facing the similar challenges as a result of privatisation and withdrawal of facility time;

9.         redouble efforts to work with other teacher unions and to campaign for a merger of existing teacher unions;

10.       give further consideration to membership regulations to ensure we can organise all those who are teaching or training to teach;

11.       give further consideration to local, regional and national structures to ensure they are fit for the purpose of defending teachers and education in these new circumstances and report to conference next year.

 

 

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