Annual Report 2004
For teachers everywhere, the year was dominated by the Government’s “reform” agenda, and this was if anything more true of Bradford than elsewhere. We had to cope with the threat to our pensions, the freezing of pay and threats within that to remove management allowances and safeguarding, and the “remodeling” of the education workforce, like everyone else. We also had to deal more than most with the privatisation plans of the Government.
Pensions Robbery was one of our constant themes throughout the year, as the Government consulted on plans to raise the age for retiring on a full pension to 65. We were well aware of the hostility of teachers to this proposal, and their reasonable refusal to accept that they should die with their boots on. During the course of the year we
1. Met with Bradford MPs in Bradford to explain our opposition – accompanied by colleagues from other unions;
2. Attended a TUC march and rally in London;
3. Lobbied Parliament;
4. Successfully proposed action and campaigning activities at NUT Annual Conference;
5. Toured schools with a Powerpoint presentation on the changes
We continue to call on the National Union to step up this campaign.
NUT members and other teachers looked on aghast as the Government did a series of deals with some of the other teacher unions that removed the top two points of the Upper Pay Spine, imposed a three year below inflation pay deal, froze management allowances with the threat that many would disappear completely in the future, put up extra hurdles to progress on the Upper Pay Spine, introduced cover supervisors and High Level Teaching Assistants to do the work of teachers, and threatened to take away safeguarding of salary. We recognise the value and importance of working with our colleagues in other teaching and non-teaching unions, and continue to meet with them locally to try to ameliorate some of the bad consequences of things decided at national level.
We have given a lot of advice and support locally to protect teachers from excessive cover and to help them progress up the Upper Pay Spine.
Remodeling began as something that was supposed to reduce teacher workload. All the evidence is that it continues to grow, as the drive to meet targets leads to extra tasks for teachers. We’re pleased when we can help members in schools successfully reduce unreasonable demands on them. We’re sad, but committed to help, when we have to deal with the many teachers who come to us because their health is suffering from unreasonable pressures.
Education Bradford continued to be less than ideal as a vehicle for delivering “support” to schools. Driven by the need to meet pupil performance targets to make profits, its strategies often seemed to put unreasonable pressure on teachers, especially in schools working in difficult circumstances. The year ended with this local arm of the enormously profitable conglomerate Serco pleading the poor tale, and asking the Council yet again for more money.
We moved towards the start of the Building Schools for the Future Pathfinder, which will see refurbished Bradford secondary school buildings handed over to a company to run.
It was revealed that in order to get into this programme Bradford Council had agreed to try to find up to 7 secondary schools to be turned into Academies. These schools would be handed over to a private “sponsor” who would then appoint a Governing Body to hold the school in perpetuity.
We have warned people of what might come of these schemes and campaigned against them, in favour of proper publicly funded, democratically accountable comprehensive schools.
Violence At Work
After a lengthy battle we secured the reinstatement of our local scheme for reporting and dealing with violence to school staff, a little extra that Education Bradford had lost from its schedule. This revealed that problems remained at their historically unacceptable levels, and we resumed our service of supporting the victims.
The rest of our Health and Safety System continued to be of such good quality that others come to us to see what they could do. For this we have to thank our Health and Safety Advisers Stuart Davies and Miriam Murch, and our “roving representatives” Vernon Addison, Steve Boddy, Jim Cartwright, Liz Freeman, and John Howarth.
Standing Up To Bullies
Early in the year, we completed the negotiation of a Bullying and Harassment Policy with the LEA, and issued our own advice and poster to accompany its launch.
Appalled by BNP victories in the Bradford Council elections, which we had campaigned to stop, we resolved to hold a Conference in West Yorkshire on how schools might work to prevent the development of racist ideas and behaviour in children. We are now working with other branches in the area to develop this.
Your Growing Union
Our membership in Bradford grew for the tenth year in succession. We rely heavily on the support of those of you who volunteer to be NUT School Representatives, and we organised a series of training courses. We also again supported Leeds NUT in organising the Young Teachers Weekend, which several of our members attended.
The first six months of the year were a haze to me, as I traveled around the country seeking support in my campaign to become NUT General Secretary. I spoke in more than 20 places across the whole of the country. I can tell you just how good Virgin Trains are. I would have spoken in my home town of Liverpool if a lorry had not fallen over on the M62 and kept me stationary for 6 hours. I was able to keep the meeting informed of my lack of progress by ringing the Chair on my mobile, and in the end asking him to relay a few thoughts. So I can just about claim to have spoken at the Adelphi Hotel.
I got tremendous support from my colleagues in Bradford, and I was sorry to disappoint them by coming second (out of four). The very substantial vote I got was a credit to my fellow local officers and the work they did to help my campaign.
You still may not see me all that often, as I break exciting new ground for me in doing things like present evidence to the School Teachers’ Review Body and try to persuade Government officials on the Teachers’ Superannuation Working Party that they are mad to try to make us work to 65. My wish for the New Year is that we are strong enough as a Union to make the Government at least once take notice of teachers.
Our local Officers, John Howarth, Jane Rendle, Stuart Davies, and Miriam Murch, and Lynne Thornton, our clerical assistant, are as good a team to support you and act on your behalf as any members of any union can have anywhere in the country, and we are all lucky that they are continuing in their roles. Thanks also to Chris Cheetham for being President in 2004.
Our best wishes go to Dennis Farrell, former President and regular attender of our meetings for nearly 30 years, who retired in 2004, depriving us of his sharp wit and passion for justice and equality.