General Secretary's Annual Report 2005
25 years ago, it was cuts in education spending that dominated collective union activity. For more than 20 years this particular challenge kept recurring. Now funding is increasing at least a little in real terms, creating the potential to deal with many of the other problems that have faced teachers.
Unfortunately, we now also have a Government obsessed with privatisation, creation of markets in public services, the primacy of choice for consumers over equality of opportunity for children, and a constant drive to create “labour market flexibilities”. These all threaten the professional status of teachers, and the NUT’s longstanding vision that our education system should be designed to deliver high quality education in the public sector and give all children equal life chances. A lot of the work that we do on your behalf has had to focus on these new challenges this year.
Just before the Easter holidays, we wrote to you with a warning that the Government was still intent on raising the normal retirement age for teachers from 60 to 65.
Because of the way that this would be phased in, its biggest impact would have been on teachers currently early in their career. A twenty five year old, who eventually retired at 60 on the equivalent of Management Allowance 2 and had an average lifespan, would have lost £63,827 from their pension compared with present entitlements. Someone currently aged 40 would have lost £27,004. Anyone proposing to work into 2013 and beyond would experience some loss.
We urged you to join your colleagues inall the major unions representing workers in the public sector and vote for strike action to stop the proposals. Your positive response in the indicative ballot, together with further campaigning around and after the General Election, finally resulted in the Government agreeing to protect the right of all serving teachers to retire at 60 on full pension. This was a big victory for trade unionism. We are continuing to campaign for a better deal for new teachers entering the profession, and against a two tier ill-health retirement scheme.
In April 2005, the School Teachers’ Review Body accepted the proposals made by RIG (a group obviously named without any sense of irony). RIG consists of the NAS/UWT, ATL, SHA, PAT, and the DfES.
These other unions agreed to:
It seemed incredible to us that unions could agree to pay cuts for some teachers while education funding was increasing, but that’s what they did.
We were faced with a major exercise to try to protect teachers from the consequences of this folly.
We held a series of meetings and training events all the way through from June to November to brief and support individual members and school reps on what to do as TLRs were introduced. We prepared responses to dozens of school proposals. We held meetings in many schools, took part in direct negotiations with many headteachers, and held indicative ballots for strike action in 2 schools where negotiation could not by itself secure a fair outcome. This campaign was an excellent example of a trade union doing what it does best. Salary levels were preserved for many members who had been threatened with a cut. This was achieved by local officers working with school NUT representatives, and members backing their colleagues.
Part Of The Bigger Picture
Moving towards school-based pay, where the individual is stripped of the protection of collective negotiations, is one of the Government’s big ideas. It knows the resistance it would meet if it moved straight to such an arrangement in one big bang, so it moves in that direction a little at a time. As a result of a previous move, we have to support many members trying to progress through the Threshold and up the Upper Pay Spine. My colleagues Jane and John have acquired a great deal of expertise in doing this, and have helped many members successfully present their case for progression.
September saw the introduction of a right to 10% Preparation, Planning and Assessment time for all teachers. We held meetings throughout the district to help teachers get their entitlement, or protect their existing arrangements if they were better. We also issued detailed advice on entitlements and negotiating to get them.
Education Bradford remains our own little bit of privatisation magic. Owned by Serco, who will privatise anything at the right price, during 2005 its targets continued to be lowered and reinterpreted; its lobbying for more funding intensified and eventually succeeded again. No-one now advocates this model of running an LEA (New Labour now prefers their phasing out as service providers), but in Bradford we have years of it still to run. It remains our job to look behind the spin and see what the difference is that it really makes, while fighting for the support that schools need.
Look at Serco’s web page. The first thing they want you to know is “In 2003, Serco became the first private air traffic control company at an active US Air Force base.”
The Future Of Education As A Public Service
As I write this report, I have been listening to a radio programme in which Rupert Murdoch has been saying that if the Labour Party is stupid enough to resist Tony Blair’s agenda for getting schools out of the grip of LEAs, then he will back David Cameron in doing so. His reason for doing this, he said, was that we had just had the “worst ever” pupil results in English and Maths, and we needed schools to be free to educate people out of the ghettos, which they didn’t have the independence to do at the moment.
It appears that Mr Murdoch believes what the Sun says. I don’t think Mr Blair does, but it feels as though he has to act as though he does. In this way, we could lose in the next 5 years any capacity to run a public education service that can protect the interests of those very underachieving children who Mr Murdoch and Mr Blair both claim to care about.
Academies are now “what works” in secondary education, and are to become the model for all schools: “goodbye” local democratic control with elected political representatives, parents and school staff on governing bodies, with LEA support; “hello” sponsors controlling governing bodies (faith groups, businesses, this year’s pushy parents) forever, owning the school’s assets, unfettered in their treatment of its staff. In 2005, attempts were stepped up by the DfES to force several Bradford secondary schools to become academies, including a secret visit to Bradford by unelected minister Lord Adonis. We have made it our work to bring these developments out into the open so that there can be a public debate about them, and so that teachers can know how they may be affected. This work is continuing into 2006.
We pride ourselves on asking candidates to explain their views on education to teachers, and we facilitated this again in the General Election. In March, we worked with the Council on promoting advice on avoiding and dealing with racist incidents – particularly necessary because of the stirring up of racial tensions by campaigns in both the General and Local Elections. We also played our part in urging voters not to be fooled by racists.
Our Wider Responsibilities
A contingent of Bradford NUT members joined the Make Poverty History demonstration in Edinburgh on July 2nd. Bradford was represented by teachers from Rhodesway, Greenhead and Buttershaw High Schools , High Craggs Primary, and the NUT Office. Many schools also did project work during the weeks leading up to the G8 summit. At Rhodesway School , Year 9 students researched the causes of world poverty, looking into aid, trade, and debt relief.
For more than a year now, union members at Bradford College have been fighting for pay and jobs justice. Lecturers, belonging mainly to NATFHE with some in the NUT, have staged a series of strikes to defend themselves against attacks from the management on two fronts – pay cuts and job losses. We had a speaker to one of our General Meetings, supported their pickets and made a donation to their hardship fund.
This appalling tragedy touched the lives of many of Bradford’s teachers and pupils. We made a substantial donation to the emergency relief fund, and have committed ourselves to supporting the rebuilding of a school. A speaker involved in the relief effort addressed our December meeting.
Our Health and Safety Representatives (Vernon Addison, Steve Boddy, Jim Cartwright, and Liz Freeman) continued to visit every school and place of work for teachers, and our Health and Safety Advisers (Stuart Davies and Miriam Murch) did the same but also ran the system and made sure that advice was issued regularly – e.g. on the hazard of bulbs in powerpoint projectors; the long term physical dangers of sitting in childrens’ chairs; the safe use of outdoor centres; improved reporting of violence against teachers to enable members to be supported.
We supported the staff of St Mary’s Primary in their battle against closure, and against the slurs visited on them to try to justify this. So far, their courageous fight has been successful.
My thanks to all who helped me to be elected National Treasurer of the NUT. I will still be able to devote some of my time to Bradford NUT.
It is sad to have to report the untimely death of Cath Cuusk (formerly Capstick), longstanding Union activist and friend of many of us, and the illness of Geoff Robinson, colourful and courageous campaigner throughout my time in Bradford .
It is good to be able to report that John Howarth, Jane Rendle and Lynne Thornton, together with the other members of our team I have already mentioned, continue to give NUT members in Bradford the best service any union members could have.