Friday 10 November 2017

Interesting Times

Kevin opened his General Secretary's report to this month's Executive by noting that we live in interesting times with two cabinet resignations and a likely Labour victory if an election were called tomorrow.

The National Education Union is in a good position to take advantage of the opportunities this presents, with significant membership growth in recent months. This year's recruitment figures are 2.6x the size of last year. This gives us greater strength and more authority to speak on behalf of all teachers.

Thursday 20 July 2017

Ofsted, Secondary Assessment and Children's Mental Health

This morning's Education and Equalities Committee began with a discussion of children's mental health. In response to the DfE proposals on mental health 'first aid' training in schools, the NUT has used 'In Conversation' to discuss this with secondary school teachers. 88% of teachers surveyed thought that the number of students with complex mental health problems was increasing , whilst 67% didn't feel the pastoral support for students was sufficient.

A number of teachers reported positive approaches in their school towards addressing children's mental health and the committee agreed to seek to publicise some of these, whilst not ignoring the causes of increasing mental health problems amongst children and the inadequacy of funding for specialist services to address this.

Saturday 15 July 2017

Campaigning for Professional Unity

I am pleased to have been re-elected as an Officer of Unify - the campaign for one education union - at their AGM in the ATL offices in London today.

Unify was founded in 1997 as Professional Unity 2000, in the hope that professional unity would be achieved within three years. It has taken a little longer than that but now, twenty years later, we are making real strides towards bringing together education professionals. Throughout that time, Unify has been at the forefront of campaigning for professional unity and that campaign continues today.

For more information about Unify and to join or affiliate your union branch, you can contact me on

Thursday 13 July 2017

Joint Executive Council

This afternoon’s Joint Executive Council (JEC) meeting of the National Education Union was short and uneventful, in the sense that none of the papers before the council proved controversial. In many ways, its was a continuation of the Joint Officer Group process that has led the creation of the National Education Union over the past two and a half years.

The major difference is that the paperwork we were looking at today (which won’t be formally agreed until September 1st, when the JEC officially comes into existence) relates directly to the operation of the JEC up to 1st January 2019. In many ways, today represented a milestone in the creation of the National Education Union. So, what does that mean for NUT (and indeed ATL) members?

Thursday 6 July 2017

The National Education Union is Here!

The room was charged with excitement, the tension in the air palpable, threatening to burst every time an announcement was made and greeted with applause. On Saturday, I attended a joint briefing on the National Education Union for NUT and ATL local Secretaries. At least that's what the event was billed as.

However, not long into the meeting, with an warm welcome delivered by the Joint General Secretaries Designate, and the announcement of the Deputy and Assistant General Secretaries Designate, of the new union, it was clear why there was such a level of excitement in the room - we were effectively at the first meeting of the National Education Union.

Wednesday 21 June 2017

School Funding Campaign Post-Election

I've just spent the afternoon in a full Executive strategy briefing and workshop. We received a presentation, then had discussion in workshop groups, around three key campaigns - Funding, Assessment and Workload. In addition, we have had an initial discussion about the role of the Executive in the new National Education Union from September.

Our starting point was the unstable political situation following the General Election and the raised awareness over the issue of school funding. The School Cuts website the union launched, and the vigorous parent campaign that has developed nationally and locally, made education funding a real issue at the election.

Thursday 25 May 2017

Primary Assessment Consultation Continues

Much of this month's Education and Equalities Committee was spent discussing the NUT's strategy on primary assessment. With the recent House of Common's Select Committee Report and the Testing the Water report conducted on behalf of Pearson, not to mention our own Exam Factories report and The Mismeasurement of Learning by Reclaiming Schools, it is clear that the government cannot ignore the serious issues with primary assessment any longer.

They have opened a consultation on primary assessment and yet, far from improving the situation, the main recommendation of this consultation is the replacement of KS1 SATs with a compulsory baseline test at age 4. You can access and respond to the consultation here.

Tuesday 28 March 2017

Union Activity Should be Uplifting and Rejuvenating

After school today, I went to Slough NUT AGM, followed by Milton Keynes NUT AGM. At the end of the second meeting, I got into a very brief conversation with someone about the difficulty of balancing union activity with an increasingly stressful job. Far too many potential union activists are put off by the sheer volume of workload that teaching now entails. The only antidote to this is for union activity itself to be the thing that rejuvenates and recharges activists after a hard day at school.

The conversation reminded me of the regional union meeting we attended in Pinar del Rio in Cuba, where we were welcomed with song and delegates spoke animatedly about the difference involvement in the union made to their lives and those of their colleagues and neighbours. It was hard not to feel excited and energised by the end of the meeting.

Saturday 25 March 2017

An Unprecedented Opportunity

Kevin Courtney opened his General Secretary's report to this week's National Executive by talking about the unprecedented opportunity presented by the overwhelming votes in both NUT and ATL to form a new National Education Union. He described the decision as historic and paid tribute to those who had paved the way, in particular former General Secretary Steve Sinnott.

At the same time, Kevin cautioned against complacency. As he stated very clearly, whilst this situation presents an opportunity, unity in and of itself does not guarantee an improvement in our situation. The opportunity presented by the creation of the NEU is a strong voice for education professionals that can challenge the priorities of the Global Education 'Reform' Movement, as represented in current government policy. However, that opportunity can only be realised through our conscious activity.

Wednesday 22 March 2017

National Education Union confirmed

In an historic decision today, members of the NUT and ATL have voted overwhelmingly to unite in the creation of a new National Education Union.

This is a significant step forward for teacher trades unionism, which has been divided for far too long, exposing significant weakness in the face of a government assault on our conditions of service and our education system. The new union would bring together teachers and other education professionals in a single organisation of half a million members.

Saturday 18 March 2017

Recognising Local Activists at Regional Council

Today, I was very privileged to present the awards for South East Regional Officer and Rep of the Year at our regional council meeting. These awards, which I presented alongside my executive colleague Jackie Baker, recognise best practice across the union, in terms of engaging, organising and supporting members.

The two winners of the awards, David Stalley (Rep of the Year) and Marcia DeCruz (Officer of the Year) both demonstrated the extent to which local activists really are the bedrock of the union. They make the difference as to whether members feel supported, are well organised and develop the collective confidence to improve their working lives.

Friday 17 March 2017

We Must Fight to Preserve Comprehensive Education

On Wednesday, I attended the steering committee of Comprehensive Future as an observer for the NUT. It was clear from the discussion at the meeting that we face a crunch point on the future of comprehensive and selective education.

Theresa May seems intent on reintroducing selective education to those areas of the country that are currently comprehensive, as well as allowing the expansion of grammars in the selective areas. Given the fact that this government has few other domestic policies that haven't already ended in a U-turn, it seems possible that they will go for full repeal of the ban on new grammars, maybe within the next few weeks.

Opportunities to be Realised

On Wednesday, I delivered the political report and led discussion at the Education for Tomorrow editorial board. I focused on the opportunities presented by the possibility of a new union next week.

If ATL and NUT members vote yes to the creation of a new union, this will present us with a huge opportunity to build a stronger, more united voice for education workers, built on a foundation of greater engagement of members in workplaces up and down the country.