Monday, 1 April 2013

Conference Report: Sunday 31st March

It is fitting that the International Section of Conference debate was headed by a motion entitled "The Girl Child."  Max Hyde of the Executive moved the motion- referring again to Malala Yousafzai the winner of our Fred and Anne Jarvis Award, and the fact that the United Nations has dedicated 11th October as the inaugural Day for the Girl Child.

Christine Blower noted that:
“All governments and international organisations must play their part to ensure that the millions of children who are currently out of school receive the education that is their birthright. Progress has been made since the Millennium – with girls now representing 53% of out-of-school children compared with 60% in 2000 – but there is much still to be done. "
Conference debated the Priority Motion on the National Curriculum- a debate reinforced by the release of an NUT survey undertaken independently by YouGov of a sample of more than 2,000 of our members, that clearly showed that the majority do not agree with Gove's proposals.  In particular:-
  • Two thirds of teachers felt that there is far too much emphasis on ‘facts’ rather than skills. The fear that many teachers have is that this will lead to rote learning and will squeeze out creativity and critical thinking. 
  • Only 8% believed that the proposal gave teachers more freedom.
  • 85% of parents believe that the curriculum in secondary schools should provide a broad and balanced range of experiences and areas of knowledge which embrace both vocational and academic subjects.
  • 72% of teachers do not believe that the new proposals for the curriculum will ensure that student’s entitlement to a broad and balanced curriculum will be met.
  • 71% of respondents did not agree that that the proposals would meet the needs of pupils with English as an additional language, special educational needs or disabilities.
Also, as expected, the NUT joined with ATL colleagues in passing a motion of no-confidence in the Chief Inspector of school, Sir Michael Wilshaw-  who believes that "teachers don't know what stress is" and "if teachers tell you that morale is at an all-time low, then you know you're doing something right"    Christine commented that:-

“It is high time this process which drives many good teachers and head teachers out of the profession ends. While teachers understand the need for accountability, school evaluation is at its most effective when school communities understand its purpose and relevance.  The attrition of dedicated and committed staff by the current Ofsted approach and its Chief Inspector has to stop.”
As a former head of PSHE, and still a teacher delivering SRE programmes, I was particularly pleased that Sex and Relationships Education was debated. The debate reaffirmed the NUT's belief that all young people are entitled to good quality information and advice to allow them to enjoy healthy relationships and sexual wellbeing.

The motion took a particular focus on the rise in harrassment of young women in schools, and that "the sexual objectification of women, and the sexual stereotyping of people generally  are major obstacles to equality in practice."  An amendment from St Helens strengthened the motion to address homophobia in schools.  Annette Pryce and Debs Gwynne from the LGBT Advisory Committee both spoke in the debate.

As it was Easter Sunday, Conference had a half day. However, the events continued, and I was pleased to attend the fringe meeting hosted by the LGBT Advisory Committee (which I chair)  The topic was "Do LGB Teachers have a duty to come out ?"  The room was packed to the extent that people were sitting on the floor and listening outside in the corridor.  Both sides were sensitively and eloquently argued by Annette Pryce- National Executive member for the LGBT Reserved Seat, and Debs Gwynne, who represents the North West region on the Advisory Committee.  Max Hyde, Vice President of the Union, and a long-standing ally of the LGBT movement chaired the meeting, which then took a range of moving testimonies and discussion points from the floor.  

The meeting closed with a statement from Annette Pryce about the death of trans teacher Lucy Meadows, who committed suicide after a vitriolic and vicious press vilification led by Richard Littlejohn and the Daily Mail.  The meeting held a minute's silence in Lucy's memory.

This was followed by the annual LGBT Delegates Reception, and it was pleasing to welcome so many delegates, as well as the support from a  range of Past National Presidents and other Executive members who came to show solidarity.

Finally, it was my great pleasure to end the evening at the Cumbria NUT reception, always a great "do", with live music from The Amendments, featuring Cumbria division secretary Alan Rutter !

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