Saturday, 19 April 2014

NUT Annual Conference 2014 report: Saturday 19th April

Following Max Hyde's speech to Conference this morning, there was a debate on a "reference back" to a paragraph in the Officers' Report section of the Annual Report. This has the effect of removing that paragraph from the report, and usually is moved to allow Conference to indicate to the Executive that they wish them to look again at a decision or action that was taken. Because this was internal business of the Union, it was taken in a private session, with only delegates and observers who were also NUT members present.

Following this, there were debates on three motions under the "Education- General" section- on Definition of a Teacher, Academies and Free Schools, and on OFSTED.

On the Definition of a Teacher, moved by Essex NUT, conference agreed to recognise that "..only those who have undertaken and completed training and statutory qualifications can be described as being teachers", and following an amendment, also rejected any "notion of an unqualified teacher status, other than as being a recognised route towards becoming a qualified teacher."

Following this debate, Christine Blower commented:
"As our recent NUT/ YouGov poll showed, unlike Michael Gove parents want their children to be taught by a fully qualified teacher. 88% of parents think teachers should be able to exercise their professional judgement to best meet the needs of their children. This is in stark contrast to the 3% of parents who thought politicians should be able to prescribe what and how teachers teach."
The debate on Academies and Free schools reiterated Conference's opposition to what incoming vice-president Anne Swift wrote in this morning's Broadsheet Bulletin "an anti-democratic and ill-judged method of providing education for all our children and young people."

The motion instructs the Executive to "continue to oppose vigorously both forced and voluntary conversions, and the creation of free schools by working with the Anti-Academies Alliance, parents and other stakeholders"  and to restore rights to local authorities.  However, it also reaffirmed strongly the Union's commitment to supporting members working in Academies and Free Schools to ensure no undermining of pay and conditions. The work of the NUT members in Islington's STEM 16 free school, in taking strike action to successfully win union recognition and defeat the imposition of zero-hours contracts for teachers (yes really !) was praised.   Christine Blower commented:
"For the sake of education in this country we need to see an end to the destructive and divisive forced academy programme and free schools programme. All state funded schools must employ only qualified teachers and all schools need to be brought within the same regulatory framework in respect of admissions, the curriculum and education policies"

The debate on OFSTED contained many horrific stories of how the inspection regime is destroying teachers and schools.   As well as clarifying our opposition to the current regime, the motion provided a number of methods for upping our campaign, including developing web-based resources to allow members to report bad practice. While these suggestions were subsequently removed from the final motion (with a wide ranging amendment) they provide important suggestions about how we put our policy into practice.

A first amendment added the case for demanding an independent review, and highlighted the evidence the Union had gathered from Finland (also mentioned in Max's speech) where there is no equivalent inspection framework, but government, teachers and unions work together to develop curriculum and government invests in teacher training, CPD and evidence based policy making. 

A second amendment removed the words suggesting that "OFSTED needs radical and innovative changes" and replaced it with a clear message of "no confidence" in the organisation, and called for the NUT to work  with other unions to promote the case for a "credible, evidence-based alternative."

In the debate a very pertinent point was raised by Roy Wilkes from Bury, who raised the conflice of interest he saw in the private Tribal Education company which has the private contract to carry out many OFSTED inspections, but also seeks private (for profit) contracts to advise schools and academies on school management issues.

After lunch came the big debate on the Stand Up for Education priority motion, which included debate on the next steps in the Trade Dispute.

The motion in the name of the Executive contained a range of proposals about stepping up the action in support of the campaign, including preparing for strike action in the Summer term following the exam season. The full text of the motion was published by me on this site on April 14th and can be read here.  Moving the motion, Jerry Glazier reminded us that the campaign has, and always has had, three strands- Engaging with the public, applying political pressure to the Government, and backing this up with strike action.

The first amendment was put by Martin Powell-Davies of Lewisham, and called for us to commit to "a week of action before the [Autumn] half term break, and a further week of action in November. In each week all members... would be called on to take at least two consecutive days of strike action."   It also added demands to the secretary of state including a flat-rate £2000 pay increase on all points of teachers pay scales.

Kiri Tunks of East London successfully opposed this amendment- pointing out that it was too prescriptive, and also introduced new demands into the campaign. We need to build on the incredibly hard work that members have undertaken as part of the Stand Up for Education campaign, and being clear about the support we want to build from parents.  Alex Kenny and Jay Barry of the Executive also opposed the amendment.

After a detailed and complex debate, the vote was called, and it appeared that the amendment was lost.  However, as a number of members stood to demand a card vote, this was taken, meaning that the debate was paused while it was counted.  As delegates are representing an Association or Division- or if there is more than one delegate, a proportion of one, the card vote reflects the number of members each voter is representing (as I was attending as an Executive member, my card was only worth one !)   The counted vote was:

FOR the amendment- delegates representing                87,262 members
AGAINST the amendment- delegates representing     158,138 members

so that amendment was lost.  The debate moved on to debate a second amendment, that was proposed by the incoming vice-president Phillipa Harvey, bringing a number of strengthening points including  specifying the need to consult with members through a range of methods to clearly identify their attitude towards different forms of action in the autumn term, and adding additional campaign ideas including circulating information about local People's Assembly groups.   Because of time, the debate will continue later in the Conference- either if time is made up elsewhere, or during the Unfinished Business section on Tuesday.

The afternoon concluded with the adoption of the Union's annual accounts from the Treasurer, Ian Murch, and also the accounts of the Union's training centre at Stoke Rochford Hall- where I have served as a director for the past two years.

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