Thursday, 6 November 2014

National Executive: Standing Up for Education

When we launched our national Stand Up for Education campaign in March 2014, it would have been impossible to predict quite where we would be only 8 months later.  The campaign was a response to two things:
  • The end of our joint strike action with the NASUWT and the first national strike action taken by the NUT alone since we began action on pensions 3 years earlier - this presented us with both dangers, in particular of being isolated, and opportunities, namely the opportunity to broaden our campaign and to deepen parental and wider community involvement.
  • A developing feeling that the NUT, and the Trade Union movement more widely, had to build broader alliances in order to campaign effectively against policies which are not just limited to teachers' terms and conditions but which affect education in the broadest sense.
So, we embarked on a course suggested both by conviction and by necessity and, drawing on experiences that has already been developing locally (in particular, the East London Teachers Association green Stand Up for Education solidarity T-shirts), began to broaden our sights and reach out beyond the NUT, whilst continuing our campaign of industrial action as part of a three-pronged strategy - to Engage parents and the wider community; to Pressure politicians; and to Strike for education.

As Deputy General Secretary Kevin Courtney reported at this afternoon's National Executive, our campaign has had an impressive list of successes already, notably the resignation of Michael Gove and the protection of lunch breaks, PPA time and the 1265hr limit on directed time.

We have developed a strong social media presence which, alongside political lobbying, membership surveys and strike action, have raised teacher workload to a national political issue.  Indeed, Secretary of State Nicky Morgan used the bulk of her speech to Tory party conference to talk about the need to reduce teacher workload as a direct response to our campaign.  We have secured national guidance from OFSTED which can be used at school level to improve members' working lives, and now a national Workload Challenge, the results of which will be reported to both government and unions and is intended to lead to concrete actions to reduce workload.

At the same time, we have pursued the broader aims of our campaign, alongside the thousands of parents who have signed up to support it and, this term launched our Education Manifesto, which has been endorsed by significant figures from across the educational spectrum, including children's authors Michael Rosen and Philip Pullman, and educationalists Sir Tim Brighouse and Professor Robin Alexander, Director of the Cambridge Primary Review.

Stalls, Education Question Times, lobbies of MPs and public meetings continue to be held all over England and Wales in the run up to the General Election and there is a real chance that this time the narrative may be different and that, rather than compete to be seen to be tougher on teachers, politicians wanting public support may for once be vying to show their support for teachers and for state education.

At a previous Executive meeting, Alex Kenny, Executive member for Inner London proposed a well-deserved vote of thanks to Kevin Courtney for his leadership  of the Stand Up for Education campaign.

We can be incredibly proud of how far we have come since March.  Now, it is up to us to deliver the potential this campaign offers.

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