November 2000 Newsletter

Threshold - NUT wins Safety Net

The School Teachers Review Body (STRB) presented its report on the Threshold system to the Secretary of State on the 20th October after the NUT alone had forced David Blunkett to recognise that he had acted illegally. After the court judgement Mr Blunkett accepted 4 major changes sought by the NUT, and accepted that the STRB to do what it should also carry out a proper consultation on the whole of the Threshold system.

Only the NUT among teacher unions asked for any substantive changes to the Threshold system.Nobody can deny that the report is a significant victory for the stand that the NUT took.

The significant gains are:

The outcome of this consultation proves that the Union was not just making an academic legal point as some of our shortsighted sister teacher Unions claimed. The Threshold system as introduced by David Blunkett, besides being onerous, was fundamentally flawed, both in the criterion of pupil performance, and from the point of view of the breach of natural justice in not having any appeal mechanism for a teacher who was failed by their headteacher.

The significance of achieving an appeal mechanism can be judged by the howl of protest about this from the General Secretary of the Secondary Headsí Association, John Dunford quoted in the TES of 20th October: " Having external assessors and an appeals procedure means there will be two checks on a headteacherís judgement. This is simply intolerable." On the basis of the evidence in the Bradford Vanguard assessment an appeal system is simply necessary.

Having an appeals mechanism will benefit teachers in schools where they have been frightened off from applying by individual headteachers - and this has happened in Bradford, sometimes on a big scale. Knowledge of an external appeal will give confidence to teachers that decisions that they feel have been influenced by personality clashes or even discrimination can be challenged because the head will no longer be the final arbiter as at present.

Bradford NUT has a long list of members who feel that their applications were unfairly judged in the "Bradford Vanguard". We know that other Unions have similar cases. We have raised these with the Cambridge Education Associates, but the lack of an appeals mechanism meant that these members were left feeling deprofessionalised and helpless.

Many schools will have had a supportive system of applying for the threshold, and in many schools all the staff may have passed. We appreciate that in these circumstances members may have felt worried about the implications of the Unionís legal challenge. Bradford being in the Vanguard made our situation more delicate. However, for those teachers who have felt aggrieved about their treatment, this change is fundamental. It now means that the process contains a powerful counterweight to the power/responsibility of the headteacher alone to determine your professional future.

Every teacher should feel more secure because of this achievement, including headteachers, and it would be nice if the General Secretaries of other teacher/headteacher unions had the grace to acknowledge this.

Of course, the news is not all good. We have still not convinced the STRB to remove the criterion of pupil performance from the standards, but perhaps some unity on this issue with the other teacher unions will allow us to make progress in the future.No additional form filling is being required of teachers who completed their forms before last July. Those who pass, or in Bradfordís case have passed, the Threshold will have their increase backdated to 1st September 2000. It may be that Bradford teachers involved in the "Vanguard" receive theirs by Christmas because of the early assessment, and we will certainly be pressing for this.

A Chink Of Common Sense On Privatisation

No one in Bradford asked for the privatisation of educational services. The Government, keen to experiment with part of its Americanisation agenda, came in with its seven league boots and used an OFSTED inspection as the vehicle for bullying politicians of all parties into accepting something that no-one has any reason to believe will actually raise standards.

It is refreshing that a majority of the Education Scrutiny Committee of the Council has called for the process of privatisation to be suspended for a year. This would be to allow for a proper evaluation of the outcome of privatisation elsewhere, and to see whether the reforms already put forward within the Local Authority framework are able to improve key area of work.

Leaders of all three political parties still need convincing for this approach to be adopted by the Council, but it is important that we put pressure on to achieve this. The known track record of abandoning public service and begging a private provider with no previous experience to run something as complex as education is not encouraging.

Performance Management - Donít Buy Any Pups

You should be aware by now of how your school is going to arrive at its Performance Management Framework. The NUT has sent out its own model to schools. If you want a copy, or a copy of our simplified version of it, ring the Office.

Heads have frequently brought forward the NASUWT/SHA document as their starting point for discussions. The major flaw of this model is the amount of extra work it would impose on both managers and managed.

First, it proposes a minimum of three substantial sessions of classroom observation per teacher per year, with all the discussions and paperwork that would arise from this. There is no need for more than one observation. The NUT model suggests that a further one only takes place if the teacher did not feel that what happened in the first satisfactorily reflected the normal quality of their work. Second, it makes no reference to the need to remove other work from the 1265 hours of teachersí directed time to allow for the substantial extra work for both appraiser and appraised.

Please contact the Office if you would like help with amendments to a policy put forward to the staff by the headteacher.


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