The National Executive of the NUT has agreed, by a narrow majority, to join the NASUWT in suspending its Cover to Contract action in return for talks with the Government and local authorities about how teacher shortage and the extra workload arising from it can be alleviated.
Your local Executive Members, Ian Murch (Bradford) and Hazel Danson (Kirklees) felt that we should have got something firmer than just talks before calling off the action, and opposed the decision.
Nevertheless, we are still all committed to measures to reduce workload demands on teachers, and will not tolerate unreasonable demands to cover for absences.
What does this mean for Bradford teachers?
The ballot which was to be held in Bradford this term to commence such action will not now take place unless the situation changes.
It is important, however, to be clear that the situation in schools regarding cover should not be allowed to deteriorate as a result of the action not being commenced.
With or without this action, individual teachers are under no contractual obligation to cover for colleagues after the third day of absence, or for unfilled vacancies.
There is a clause in the conditions of service which qualifies this position, stating that teachers can be asked to cover if every reasonable effort has been made to obtain a supply teacher, and this clause sometimes causes difficulties.
But the National Union has made it clear that it considers this clause relates only to exceptional circumstances, and that it is a misuse of it to claim on a daily basis that supply teachers are unavailable.
The NUT will continue to support members in schools who are being asked to cover after the third day of absence, or for unfilled vacancies. We are determined to protect members from this unacceptable burden.
Please get in touch with the Union Office if there are cover difficulties in your school.
Another NUT member has recently been awarded a large settlement because of illness caused by stress. Alan Barber was awarded £100,000 in a claim against his employers, Somerset County Council.
The judge pointed out the brusque, autocratic and bullying style of leadership of the then head teacher. Despite complaints about the pressure he was under, nothing was done by the head or deputies to alleviate it.
This is yet another judgement against unsympathetic managers who failed to act to reduce the workload of an employee who they knew was suffering from work-related stress. It makes it clear that it is inadequate for those in positions of responsibility to simply say that everyone is under pressure.
Bradford NUT is able to conduct a stress survey in your school if you so wish. The survey is designed to identify major "stressors" in your school. Once the survey is done we request the school management to do something to remove or reduce the effect of the stressors.
Managements should, however, have carried out stress risk assessments. If they have not been done in your school, please let us know.
During the four days of conference motions were passed on a wide range of issues. This is a brief summary of some of their contents.
Excessive Workload. A joint motion with NAS/UWT, ATL and UCAC stating that, in the event of government failing to set up an independent inquiry or take other effective measures to reduce workload, these unions will take effective action, short of strike action, initially to limit teachers’ working time to no more than35 hours a week, starting in September.
Salaries. Conference urges Government to establish an independent inquiry into the pay and conditions of teachers, similar to the one carried out in Scotland, and to negotiate its report with the teacher unions and their employers.
Green Paper "Schools: Building on Success". Condemnation of term “bog standard”, and re-affirmation of belief that equality of opportunity in education can only be achieved through properly funded comprehensive education.
Professional Unity. Committing the Union to continue to work towards closer co-operation between the teaching unions.
Teacher Shortage. Criticising the Government’s response to the crisis and identifying low pay and poor conditions as the central reasons.
Allegations against Teachers. Committing the Union to consultations with employers, police and social service organisations to produce nationally agreed procedures for investigating complaints against teachers, replacing damaging current practice of immediate suspension followed by lengthy investigation.
Workload and National Contract. Deploring failure of Government to address the well-documented excessive workload and unacceptable levels of stress suffered by teachers – a National Contract for all teachers in state sector is a major priority of the Union.
Exclusion of Pupils. To campaign for a strategy which protects members and pupils from violence and disruption from pupils with challenging behaviour whilst at the same time developing the capacity of schools to meet these pupils’ needs and develop social inclusion. Inclusion must be fully resourced and funded.
Privatisation. Union re-affirms its complete opposition to the privatisation of the education service. The Union rejects government strategy of allowing private companies to run local education services, which inevitably places the interests of their shareholders above those of the users and providers of the service.
Performance Management. Conference opposed the Performance Management scheme introduced under the Education (School Teacher Appraisal) Regulations 2000, and supported action against it.
Primary Curriculum and assessment. Stating opposition to league tables.
Early Years Education. Stating the Union’s commitment to high quality nursery education for all three and four year olds.
Conference was, as usual, addresses by a number of speakers, some receiving a warmer response than others.
In this General Election year David Blunkett was perhaps a little less strident than usual in his attacks on union members who do not agree with his policies. Tory Shadow minister Theresa May, on the other hand, had calculated that an attack on the NUT would gain some backwoods anti-union votes and accused us of being an "unreconstructed trade union", a comment which was met with much applause. Lib. Dem. Spokesperson Phil Willis was the friendliest, attacking the Government for not listening to teachers. Marjorie Evans also spoke about her long and difficult battle to clear her name from the false allegations made against her, and paid tribute to the NUT for the support she had received.
Bradford delegates spoke on Workload, Salaries, Privatisation, and Primary Curriculum and Assessment.
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