1400 teachers in all school phases in Bradford found out in 1998 that the Council intended to close the schools that they worked in. This was a result of its decision to eliminate middle schools, at the same time as reducing the number of school places and getting rid of small schools.
The consequences of this decision inevitably dominated our work for the year, but there remained a broader picture in education that we tried not to lose sight of.
The new Government has not meant an end to all the policies of the previous one that we had criticised. Indeed in some aspects of education policy and structure, New Labour has gone further than the Conservatives dared to tread. We have all felt the effects of increasing Central Government control of the curriculum, assessment and other aspects of the day-to-day management of education. Though the "naming and shaming" of individual schools that David Blunkett indulged in a year ago has been dropped as a publicity gimmick, it is hard to escape the feeling that the teaching profession as a whole has been singled out for this treatment. Failures of the system are laid at our door. More and more is expected of us, while our pay and status is constantly diminished. These are issues which our members rightly expect us to give leadership in addressing, and I hope that our record for the year shows that we have tried to do that.
When the year began, the Review proposals were in the first stage of public consultation, offering the choices of getting rid of middle schools everywhere in the district with no other changes, getting rid of middle schools everywhere and getting rid of all "small schools" as well, or getting rid of middle schools everywhere except in the Wharfe Valley. A member of the LEA's Review team was grilled _ or perhaps roasted _ at a packed General Meeting in January.
At this and other NUT meetings in the early part of the year, we had long and detailed discussions of the implications of different outcomes to the Review. There were differing views on the merits of a two tier or three tier system, though there was general agreement that the research used by Bradford to justify the changes it proposed was flawed and inadequate.
The General Meeting in March agreed our response to the LEA proposals along the following lines:
While the Association did not take a position for or against the retention of middle schools because of divisions of opinion on the issue, it did circulate arguments put by middle school members against the reorganisation to the whole membership.
Teachers and parents lobbied the Education Committee on March 24th in large numbers, but it went ahead with the most radical option, involving the closure of 76 schools.
A detailed plan was then put out for local consultation, saying which schools would close and open, and how other schools would change in size and age range. It proposed a large number of primary schools with 700 pupils, and some secondary schools with more than 2000 pupils. Sixth forms were to stay with schools. Our April General Meeting agreed our response to this proposal
This has been the plan that we have worked to throughout the year. We have had the guarantee of no compulsory redundancy and salary protection. We have also negotiated an early retirement scheme for the period of the Reorganisation which is better than that available in most authorities, though this took threats of industrial action to achieve. We are working still to try to ensure that procedures for placing staff from closing schools are as fair as possible, and to ensure that proper training is provided to all staff whose roles change in the new structure.
In the period of local consultation on the detailed proposals, we offered support and advice to any staff campaigning against the closure or change of character of their particular school.
At the end of the main phase of local consultation, the plans for 3 form entry primary schools (except 1) were shelved, as were the plans for monster secondary schools. Some schools threatened with closure were reprieved, but others that have
served their communities for more than 100 years and are still popular still face closure because they are "too small."
On paper, our concerns about class sizes after the Reorganisation were met when the building templates for new or reorganised schools assumed classes no bigger than we are asking for. The actual financing of schools, which is dealt with elsewhere in this report, paints a different picture.
Throughout the Review/Reorganisation process we have very extensively consulted with and given information to members. Our Officers have visited approaching 100 schools, as well as holding open meetings throughout the district. We have sent out questionnaires on the principles and practical effects of the reorganisation, and sent out dozens of newsletters with information in about it. We have supported several lobbies and demonstrations organised by parents. We have written to and met and lobbied Councillors on many occasions, and have weekly or twice-weekly meetings with Council Officers about the Reorganisation's progress.
It is impossible to describe all the issues we have dealt with here, but they include a lot of work on the placement procedure for staff, on the involvement of Grant Maintained schools (now largely involved in the process), on the role of the Church of England, on building arrangements, and on how the transition will take place. We achieved a small victory in April, when our national lobbying helped to achieve a promise from OFSTED that it would not bother schools threatened with closure with any new inspections.
It would be wrong, however, to congratulate ourselves, because there are undoubtedly big difficulties and uncertainties ahead for all Bradford teachers as a result of the reorganisation, but particularly for those in the closing schools. We still have a lot of work to do to try and protect and support our members.
When Bradford's Education Budget was set for 1998/99, it faced national Government claims that there was real extra money for schools for the first time for years, so there could be expansion rather than cuts. This was at best a trick at the teachers' expense, because the extra money came from keeping down the teachers' pay award well below other workers, and phasing it so nearly half of it didn't come until the end of the year. In Bradford's case there was still no extra money. So a further conjuring trick was required. £1 million was cut from Section 11, Community Language teaching, and Bilingual Home School Liaison in Special Schools, which are centrally funded services operating in schools, so that this could be put into school budgets. We organised a lobby of the Council and other campaigning activities against these cuts. Some had the temerity to accuse us of "playing the race card" in campaigning against these cuts. Our campaign to protect Community Languages was, however, largely successful, as most of the team are still in post and the cut has not been revisited for 1999.
As the year ended, we were facing further threats to staff employed under Section 11 because of Government requirements to delegate most of the money in the new Ethnic Minority Achievement Grant to schools
Planning for School Reorganisation has made it clearer than ever to us that, not only is Bradford not given enough for education to meet its particular difficulties, it does not even spend all of what it gets. There are various other priorities that Bradford has - Community Forums, for instance - that are not specifically funded from Government grant, and so have to be paid for from somewhere. We have met Ian Greenwood, the Leader of the Council, twice in recent months to press the case for more money to be spent in order to prevent the costs of the School Reorganisation causing cuts in teaching staff.
In January we launched a campaign against bullying of teachers by their managers. This led to a number of cases coming to light that we were able to tackle. By the end of the year, the LEA had a procedure in place that for the first time formally recognised the problem and set up a mechanism to deal with it. It also had some national spin-off with other branches requesting our materials, and a motion being passed by the National Executive committing the national union to similar work.
In a surprising and worrying lurch towards the anti-LEA part of the New Labour agenda, Bradford decided to put together an Education Action Zone bid for the Manningham area. Zones involve private companies in the provision of education, set higher targets for pupil achievement, and allow for variations of teachers' conditions. There was very great hostility to this from our members in the area, and we held several meetings to discuss our response. We couldn't prevent the bid going in, though we did support several school staffs in persuading their Governors not to take part. The effort to make sure that Governing Bodies did support the bid was some of the most heavy-handed political manipulation I can remember in Bradford. Fortunately for our members, the bid was rejected by the DfEE for reasons the LEA has declined to share with us. A decision has now been taken that the LEA will support no further bids in the next 2 years, though who knows what pressure there may be fron central government to change this. Meanwhile, in another part of the LEA, two upper schools were fronting a bid that was so hush-hush that most of its alleged participants had no knowledge of it. This also failed.
In the middle of all our little local difficulties, pressures of ever increasing workload continued to tell on teachers. In March, members voted to boycott excessive workload. Issues such as excessive meetings, obsessive preparation for OFSTED, too many reports, and the old favourites of collecting dinner money and covering for too many absences were all targeted. We had some successes reported from some schools, but we can't pretend that the problem has been solved. The boycott is still formally in place should any school wish to invoke it. We are working with other unions at the moment on new LEA guidelines on working time. If you asked it, the LEA would say it was still working on the outcomes of its own stress audit, but the evidence is hard to find.
Our joint working group with UNISON continued to meet to consider issues such as the Reorganisation
It was particularly pleasing for me to be able to successfully move at Annual Conference a motion detailing the further work that the Union should do to fight for a National Contract for all teachers giving them rights such as security of tenure, limits on class size, further restrictions on the requirement to cover, and 8 other points. I believe we have to go on the offensive over this issue, rather than be repeatedly on the defensive responding to greater Government demands on us. As Union members experienced in the politics of the Union will know, it's one thing to get a motion passed, it's another thing to get it implemented. I am confident, however, that the strategy is right and it will in the end prevail.
At our September meeting, we nominated Christine Blower - a firm supporter of the National Contract - as General Secretary of the Union, the post currently held by Doug McAvoy.
We renewed our campaign this year to get asbestos removed from all those places in schools where it can be damaged and can give rise to a health risk. It has had a high profile in the media, and we will keep at it until we see some more results than we have had so far.
Our Equal Opportunities Committee continues to meet regularly. As well as having responsibility for our work on Section 11 and Nursery Issues, it has also this year done work on supporting SENCOs and has worked with the LEA on measures to support Gay and Lesbian staff and pupils who feel threatened or vulnerable in schools. We have raised money for schools in Cuba and Kosova working in difficult circumstances, and we supported a public meeting in Bradford addressed by Kosovan teachers.
We have negotiated with the LEA and supported staff in particular schools because of excessive work or unreasonable prescription arising out of the implementation of these initiatives.
We have locally taken a firm stand against the introduction of any form of performance related pay. We have seen it as divisive, as a means of imposing extra workload, and as a way of the Government avoiding the increase needed in the pay of all teachers to restore our professional status. Our Conference delegates were among the majority at a Special Conference organised by the Union in September who rejected a particular variant of it based on "competencies." We are committed to the strongest possible opposition to the proposals in the Green Paper for "fast-tracking," "performance thresholds" and so on, and will campaign both inside and outside the union against them.
In our busiest year ever, there were lots of other issues we dealt with, not to mention the hundreds of individual members to whom we gave advice and support. Our membership continued to grow, despite declining teacher numbers in Bradford, as it has throughout the 90s.
Throughout this report, I have not named any of the people who did the work. Members of the NUT in Bradford have every reason to be grateful to John Howarth for the skills he has exercised on their behalf as negotiator and caseworker and campaigner for nearly 20 years - and now also Treasurer. Jane Rendle also now has considerable experience representing members and negotiating on the Reorganisation. Miriam Murch - an Officer for 14 years - has now taken on Cedric Binns' Health and Safety role. Our thanks are also due to our other Officers: Sue Arloff (Equal Opportunities and Teacher Rep on the Education Committee), Stuart Davies (Information Officer and Teacher Rep), Frank Jones (Health and Safety Adviser), Vernon Addison (President), Irshad Ahmed (Vice President) and Eileen Narey (working on the Reorganisation). Anyone who contacts the Office will also know what invaluable expertise we have in Lynne Thornton, our clerical assistant, who has kept me company there ever since I had a lot of hair and dressed like Noddy Holder.
Ian Murch, Bradford NUT Secretary 1981-98