Annual Report 1999

National Scene

1999 was another good year for those teachers who like constant change. The "modernizing agenda" proceeded apace, with Local Authority and National Government each trying to outdo the other in new initiatives. Most of this report is about the impact of such initiatives on NUT members in Bradford.

The Government has not yet quite got out of its own bad old habit of equating the raising of standards in education with the need to stop teachers being bad at their job. This year the Prime Minister described those of us who question any of these initiatives as the "forces of conservatism". We might have a fruitful debate about whether it was progressive to introduce a system of payment by results for teachers last used in the 19th Century; or whether it was conservative to be concerned about reversion to teaching methodologies of the first half of the last (i.e. 20th ) Century. It would indeed be nice to have a fruitful debate leading to a consensus decision before any more changes were imposed on schools. But we are not there yet. The Prime Minister still agrees with the forces of Conservatism with a Big C that began the present "education revolution" in the late 1980s: teachers are the last people you should talk to about educational change. While we struggle to develop proper dialogue at national level, we pick up the pieces locally.

School Reorganisation

Bradford Council had made its mind up by the beginning of 1999 that it wished to close more than 70 schools and move from a three tier to a two tier school system. Its plans were with the Government waiting approval. The late publication by one Grant Maintained School of different proposals for its size after the reorganization unexpectedly delayed the process of approval. This shortened the timetables for sorting out staff placement and building work, and we are continuing to struggle with the consequences.

Approval was finally given in the Spring, with modifications affecting the plans for a few schools.

Placement

Since then, we have worked continuously on the process of trying to ensure that staff in the closing schools are either placed in schools and jobs that they regard as acceptable, or are given voluntary severance or retirement if that is what they prefer.

The negotiations which led to the placement procedures were very difficult ones. The Council had no power to impose a scheme for assimilating staff from closing schools on those that were opening or expanding. It took many meetings and a lot of persuasion to arrive at a scheme which had the support of the LEA and of organisations representing teachers, headteachers and governors. It was then necessary to get the Governing Body of every school to sign up to the process. It was a great tribute to the collective effort of all parties that the vast majority of schools, including Voluntary Aided and Grant Maintained, did so.

Several rounds of placement meetings then took place from May onwards. Union observers were present at them all. At the end of them, about 750 teachers had been placed, with 225 continuing to be unplaced at the end of the year. We are currently in negotiation about how to make sure that as many of these teachers as possible are placed in the considerable number of posts for September 2000 that will be created by budget growth and staff turnover. In December we met the leader of the Council and the Chief Executive to request funding for our proposals for achieving this. We also put the case that early retirement and voluntary severance should be offered sooner rather than later.

We have tried to meet all of our members who are not placed, and discuss with them what their objectives are, so that we can do our best to help them achieve them. We are very aware of the immense distress, and often anger, that teachers with many years of valuable - and hitherto valued - service have felt at the indignities of the processes they have been put through. John Howarth, Jane Rendle and myself have done our best to get fair and effective procedures, and to take up any issues and concerns raised with us by individual members. We will continue to do so, and to be grateful for any ideas.

Consultation

We have held very regular meetings on issues to do with the reorganization. These have of course dealt with all of the other Reorganisation issues as well as staff placement. We have done our best to inform and consult members on training and buildings issues. The failure of the LEA to make sufficient headway with the massive building programme needed to create proper accommodation in the new primary and secondary system remains a major concern and a major focus of our work at the time of writing.

In the autumn we set up a group for the Year 5 teachers who had transferred from middle to primary. This group has continued to meet to share experiences, give mutual support in practical ways, and identify for local NUT Officers issues we need to take up with the LEA and schools, such as training and provision of resources.

Partly because of the experiences of these teachers, we have set up a further working group to look at the planning for lessons that teachers are expected to do. The aim is to arrive at a view of what planning is reasonable and
necessary, and to identify and publish sources of good practice, particularly through our Website.

EMAG

Section 11(TALIM in Bradford) had represented the last major group of teachers working directly for the LEA. The transition to EMAG required that the funding to pay for them be transferred to schools on a formula. It also meant that schools could choose to spend some of the money in ways other than employing teachers. We consulted TALIM teachers on how to deal with the new situation at a meeting in May. The disruption to teachers and to education of attempting to reallocate funding before the school reorganization was completed, and again after it was, has led to an arrangement which has allowed teachers to remain in the same schools during 1999. We have been working hard, however, on a procedure to place EMAG staff from schools closing in August 2000, because they are inevitably vulnerable in the new education marketplace.

EAZy Options

In 1998 Bradford Council's Labour leadership decided that it would not involve itself in any bids for Education Action Zones until the school reorganization had been completed. A few months later the power of the Labour national machine demonstrated itself when this decision was reversed, and a bid was put in with Dixons and the CTC for an EAZ in South Bradford. The NUT believes that EAZs are a discriminatory way of funding education, and have in many cases now been a mechanism for increasing private sector involvement in the delivery of services previously delivered by LEAs. For these reasons we opposed the setting up of the Zone. We supported members in several schools who were strongly opposed to being involved.

When it became clear that the Zone would proceed, we became involved in detailed negotiations to protect teachers' conditions of service, and sought representation on the Zone Forum. We appear so far to have succeeded in this.

Excellence in the Cities

This is a major Government initiative for changing aspects of secondary education. Bradford has been conscripted to be a pilot area. We have taken part in detailed negotiations on the introduction of Learning Mentors, Learning Support Units and Gifted and Talented Programmes. In other times, this report would have had a lot to say about these.

Other Reorganisations

We are also in the throes of reorganization of Special School and EBD provision, with the consequent need to negotiate on job security and the appropriateness of some of the proposals from a workload or educational point of view. At the end of the year, plans were also announced which would effectively get rid of the Bradford Education Directorate.

More Money?

Funding for education in Bradford was at least not cut in 1999, though the reality did not match up to the hype of the Government that large amounts of extra money were coming in. £2 million of extra money was put into middle schools to allow for the disruption caused by reorganization, with more promised for the following year. As this is by way of increases in the funding per pupil in the 9-13 age ranges, it will eventually feed through into a better allocation for primary and secondary. £1.2 million was, however, cut from other education spending, particularly Section 11/EMAG. Most of the "extra" money given by the Government had to be spent on the LEA's matched contribution to Standards Fund grants for particular Government projects that it was obliged to take part in.

Tackling Stress

Stress remains by far the greatest work-related hazard for teachers. We have continued, through representation on the Council's Stress Audit Steering Group and the Education Directorate's Stress Net Group to press for strategies to reduce stresses on teachers, and to support teachers experiencing stress related ill health. Some progress has been made on the latter with the appointment of a Stress
Counseling Co-ordinator and a Stress Trainer. The sort of workload and bullying that causes teachers to break under the strain remains very widespread, however. We are working on a stress risk assessment to use in schools, and we have referred a number of potential legal cases to our Union Solicitor. This along with monitoring the work that has begun on school buildings, has substantially increased our own workload on Health and Safety issues.

Pay and Performance

The 1999 pay award saw us fall slightly further behind average earnings. The main focus throughout the year was, however, the Government's proposals for Performance Related Pay, Performance Management, Fast Tracks and School Performance awards. In February, the DfEE organised a Roadshow to sell the proposals to teachers, governors and LEA representatives from across the North of England. Our representatives expressed their concerns inside the meeting, and we organised a well-reported lobby outside it.

As the year has gone on, the Government has pressed ahead with preparations for the scheme. Teachers have remained overwhelmingly convinced that it will be bad for education, in particular threatening rather than improving the prospects of the children who succeed least in the system at the moment. Bradford NUT has participated in every national initiative to oppose the scheme, and come up with some of our own. Locally we have had casework generated by schools starting to develop performance management systems for teachers, which it is hard to believe do not amount to preparation for the new system. The NUT overwhelmingly decided to boycott such preparations, and we have stuck to that position.

Equal Opportunities

Our Equal Opportunities Committee continued to meet regularly. We made substantial contributions to the Council's policy on Managing Cultural Diversity in Schools. We agreed to sponsor and participate in a Conference on Anti-Racist Education for sixth form pupils and teachers being organised by staff and pupils at Buttershaw Upper School early in 2000. The NUT/Unison Early Years Group also met regularly.

Kosova

At our April General Meeting a speaker gave a very moving account of the circumstances prevailing for those trying to provide education in Kosova. She had visited the Kosovan Teacher's Union as well as the camps. We made a donation and collected materials for a convoy of aid.

Participation in National Union Affairs

As always, Bradford submitted motions and amendments to Annual Conference, and delegates spoke to them. We sent representatives to many Union Conferences and courses on particular issues. Ian Murch was returned as National Executive member for West Yorkshire, having narrowly failed to be elected as National Treasurer. We supported John Illingworth of Nottingham, who was elected Vice President of the Union.

Local Organisation

This year we completed the purchase of our office premises at 22 Edmund Street. We originally moved into these with Bob Cryer MP, but his untimely death forced us to either buy or move out. We believe we got a very good deal. We have started a Website and can be reached by email, and have developed a system which allows us to fax every school if we need to communicate urgently. We continue to see large numbers of teachers in the Office or elsewhere to deal with the range of problems and concerns that affect teachers, and to deal with dozens of telephone queries every day.

Our membership continues to grow, as it has done throughout the 1990s. This has enabled us to propose reducing our local subscription for the year 2001.

Farewells and Thanks

Akhter Seyyad, the Head of the Council's Community Languages Team, sadly died in service. He was a committed and active NUT member, and had given great support to his colleagues in the Team.

Sue Arloff, our Equal Opportunities Officer resigned in the summer because of the work involved in transferring from middle to primary. She continues to be active in the Union, and would still be active as Teacher Representative if the council had decided where Teacher Representatives fit in its new structure. Eileen Narey replaced Sue as Equal Opportunities Officer. Our thanks also go to John Race, who retired after 20 years as an NUT Safety Representative, and Irshad Ahmed who completed his year as NUT President.

Stuart Davies, John Howarth, Frank Jones, Miriam Murch and Jane Rendle all continue to work as Local Association Officers. We are an experienced team with many years of Union involvement. I do not believe that anyone anywhere in any Union gets a higher level of support from their lay Union Officers than we do from my colleagues in Bradford. The person who is most likely to answer the phone to you in the NUT Office is Lynne Thornton, who does our clerical and administrative work. Her many years of service and patience and good humour help to keep us on an even keel.

I am in my 20th year as Bradford NUT Secretary, and, despite my advancing years and increasing eccentricity, I am hoping that members will continue to tolerate me in the job.

Ian Murch

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