Sarah Bedwell is an Aussie teaching English and other things in the north west of England. She loves using technology in new ways to engage and excite learning, though she does believe in pedagogy before technology. Sarah is currently the ‘Lead Learner for Using New Technologies to Enhance Teaching and Learning’ – otherwise known as an eLearning Coordinator.
The NUT’s ballot for action in relation the recent White Paper: Educational Excellence Everywhere closes on Wednesday. Papers need to be received by first post that morning if they are to be counted. If you haven’t yet returned your ballot, please consider the following.
There are two aspects to this campaign: the political and the legal. To be a valid trade union dispute, the ballot needs to relate specifically to members’ pay and conditions. The political campaign is based on the fight against compulsory academisation. This is important if the ballot is successful and strike action is called. In the recent sixth form college dispute, the government challenged the action in the High Court. One of their arguments used to attempt to stop the strike was that members were clearly indicating that they were taking action to protect their students and as part of the #standup4edu campaign. Yes, you read that correctly. The government produced thousands of copies of social media posts in which members had explained that they were taking action because what was happening to funding in sixth form colleges was having a detrimental effect on their students. This, according to the government, is not what teachers should be concerned with.
Therefore, the fight against forced academisation remains a political argument. Every day we see stories in the press about mismanagement of academy funds such as this, sponsors losing control of academies, and even Sir Michael Wilshaw has taken to criticising multi academy trusts. Given the millions, if not billions, spent on converting local authority schools to academies, there are serious concerns over the forced academisation plans and the NUT will continue to campaign strongly against it, even though it is not the focus of the current ballot.
The trade union dispute on which the ballot is based is intrinsically linked to the political campaign. If all schools become academies, whether they are standalone or as part of multi academy trusts of varying sizes (there is disagreement about the most effective size of MATs, which makes you wonder why moving from an LA to a MAT will make a difference), then pay and conditions will be impacted. We will no longer be in a situation where pay scales are negotiated nationally; each academy or MAT will offer their own. Working conditions such as directed time – currently 1265 hours per year – and rarely cover will likely become a thing of the past. Pay portability, which still exists in most areas, will disappear. Employment rights including maternity and paternity pay will revert back to statutory. Even the length of the school year can be altered by the boards of academies.
Teachers in LA schools have the protection of the School Teachers Pay and Conditions Document and the Burgundy Book. You might not have seen these two documents previously, but they lay out pay and conditions for teachers in LA schools – PPA time, TLR requirements – even the minimum length of breaks during the school day. It’s not to say that all academies and MATs are run by bad people who want to take away your pay and conditions – but it can and does happen. It might be a little bit here and a little bit there – extending the school day by half an hour (which adds nearly 100 hours to the school year), removing rarely cover so that your PPA time is no longer protected – but over time your pay and conditions can be eroded until they no longer resemble what you started with. Without the benefit of being able to negotiate this on a national scale, teachers are disenfranchised and forced to fight on a case-by-case basis for what was previously an employment right under LA control.
If you haven’t yet watched this video, take a few minutes to do so and then consider which way you’ll vote. Irrespective of which way you choose to vote, please make sure that you return your ballot paper on time.