Wednesday, 23 April 2014

NUT Annual Conference 2014 Report: Tuesday 22nd April

The last day of Conference, and my last day as Executive Member for Kent, East Sussex, Brighton and Hove and Medway, after six great years proudly serving our members.

The day opened with the important debates on those motions brought forward from the Equalities Conferences. The motion from Disabled Teachers Conference, which I had attended, looked at Promoting Disability Equality-  and heard from activists Mandy Hudson and Richard Rieser amongst others. After the debate, Christine Blower commented:-
"Every school has disabled pupils, staff and family members and the Union must continue to do all it can to support and raise awareness amongst our members and the wider school community of the barriers that disabled people face. But further we must insist that everyone deserves to be treated with dignity. The Government's benefit cuts are hitting disabled people hardest of all and the employment of disabled people is especially vulnerable to public sector job cuts.  Disabled teachers say that they would definitely not disclose a disability or health condition when applying for a job for fear of discrimination or not getting the job. A high level of harassment, negative stereotyping and adverse reaction is reported by disabled teachers wishing to remain in the workplace."
The motion from the LGBT Teachers Conference focused on  Transgender Teachers' Visibility and Rights. The motion referred to the tragic death of our member Lucy Meadows, after a hideous campaign of abuse from a national newspaper, despite being well supported by her school.

I spoke in this debate. While recognising that we should not speculate on the causes of Lucy's suicide, I reiterated that there are many writing in the tabloid press who have questions to answer about their responsibility, not just for this but other tragic cases. I also referred to a recent case of a trans teacher in the United States who was suspended because her gender identity could be "confusing". I said that:
"People's gender or LGB identity is not confusing for children. Prejudice and discrimination is confusing for children. Telling children that bullying is wrong, but letting them witness unchallenged homophobia and transphobia is confusing. Challenging children's language and prejudices when they can read the prejudiced filth in the tabloid press over their breakfast is confusing."
I also took the opportunity to thank the Conference for their support over the last six years, and celebrated the fact that, although my defeat meant that the executive had one fewer gay and disabled member, I was less concerned because of the excellent work of Betty Joseph, Annette Pryce and Mandy Hudson, who, thanks to Conference's decision to create our reserved places, meant that people like myself would never ever go unrepresented on our Executive again.

The motion from the Black Teachers' Conference looked at Addressing Inequality for Black Teachers, and highlighted in particular the way in which black colleagues are demonstrably overlooked for promotion and disproport8ionately targeted by so-called Capability procedures.

The Unfinished Business section of the day allowed us to finish the debate and pass a motion reaffirming our determination to achieve Professional Unity and One Union for All Teachers. A motion on the General Election recognised the need for us to create and promote a manifesto for education and teachers, and to vigorously promote our policies to all of the political parties. in pursuit of this, I met with a group of teachers who are Labour Party members after the Conference to discuss how we can promote and forward our Union's policies in the Labour Party in the coming months.

Christine Blower gave a barnstorming address to close Conference once again. Christine paid tribute to three heroes we have lost since we last met- the great Nelson Mandela, who was an honorary NUT member; Bow Crow, the leader of the RMT and a colleague of Christine's on the TUC General Council, and the veteran Labour MP and campaigner Tony Benn. She reminded us of the words of Joe Hill- "Don't mourn, organise"   Christine spoke of the challenges ahead, and the need to organise and win our action campaign, and explained the dire threat from the incoherent but dangerous Global Education Reform Movement, of which Michael Gove is a zealous follower.  She closed conference with a video of the rousing Billy Bragg song "There is Power in a Union"

Christine brought conference to its feet with a rousing standing ovation- reminding me why I am so proud to be supporting her re-election campaign- and urge all members to support her in this.

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