You can read the full but textually erratic report from 2018 NEU Conference by Ted Truscoe, Assistant Secretary, Surrey Division here:- (N.B. Due to some technical difficulties, pdf downloadable version will be available later).
Brighton 2018 Annual Conference Report
Once again I have to report that Conference was largely a controversy-free zone (with the odd exception that I will come to later). There were 30 original motions passed either nearly or totally unanimously and one which caused some heat. To be fair there was fierce debate on some others which ran out of time and were never voted upon. This was the last NUT Conference because next year we will be fully integrated into the NEU and there will be a unified Conference in Liverpool. This year`s motions will have to be passed in both the NUT and the ATL Section`s conferences to become policy.
The first day of Conference is normally given over to formal business and reception of guests of the Union. This often produces interesting speeches and this year was no excep- tion. We heard from Wilson Sossion from the Kenyan
NUT who told us of the creeping privatisation of education in all parts of Africa and the activities of Bridge Ed- ucation which is simplifying and reducing the curriculum while receiving heavy subsidies for international organi- sations which do not appear to be being spent on the schools. But the highlight of the day was the presentation from Sirazul and Nijam Mohammad, Rohinja refugees and students in Leeds. We often get stories of communi-
ties , but these boys told us the stories of people, of individuals. When Nijam said how great school was here: you had books… and chairs !! He wants to become a human rights lawyer. Watch this space.
The next day began with the installation of Kiri Tunks as President. Kiri spoke of her immigrant family — from New Zealand — and how her father had tried to become a bus driver ( but drove too fast) and then tried many other things before becoming a builder. He was welcomed, as we should be welcoming other immigrants and refugees who have added so much to our society, a sentiment that this Polish immigrant can only support whole-heartedly.
And so to the main business of Conference. The first motion we discussed was entitled Academies, Mats, Re-Broker, Rebrand and Renationalise. Even members of the governing party are becoming uneasy at the vast salaries being paid to Academy CEOs with more than 120 of them receiving in excess of £150 00 pa — sometimes greatly in excess. The motion to reclaim these schools was massively carried, as was the next on School Funding which called on the Government to
restore the cuts that school budgets are facing. We then discussed The Housing Crisis which is af- fecting teachers in London, the South East and now much of the rest of the country and unanimous- ly called for more social and affordable housing, or much higher pay. It is a little-known fact that the law demands that prisons, but not schools have libraries and that local authorities need have only one library. The motion Speak Up For Libraries was massively passed. This session closed with a tribute to the late Mary Compton who had been an inspirational leader of the Union both nation- ally and locally in Wales. She will be fondly remembered.
It has been shown in research that children in Great Brit- ain are the least happy in the developed world. Life is not fun. The motion Crisis in Young People`s Mental Health sought to redress this and to follow up on the Government aim to have a mental health first aider in every school. We agreed unanimously. The Labour Party is promising a
National Education Service. We would like all parties to commit to this and voted heavily for it. People often forget that the NUT is an education union not just an industrial one. As we are sub- jected to an increasingly reductionist curriculum with more drill and memorisation we voted heav- ily for A Child-Centred Curriculum and Pedagogy . As an unreconstructed Plowdenite (ask your mother), I voted enthusiastically for this. The use of Data to set target grades for students and appraisal objectives linked to performance related Pay was unanimously condemned and rejected..
We have recently had two small Surrey schools threatened with closure so the delegation was pleased that Support For Rural Schools was heavily supported by Conference. Sometimes we feel that the big cities dominate debate.
The big news of this day`s work was Fair Pay For Teachers. Often pay plays a very small part in Conference and you probably know, many teachers do not even know how much they are being paid in comparison to other professions. Enough, however, is enough. After years of below-inflation pay “settlements” we are asking for a return to at least 2010 values and a 5% pay increase. This may require determined action to achieve, but achieve it we can. Conference supported this with very few against and went on to ask for a revision of Greater London Pay which , Surrey members will be pleased to hear also included London Fringe pay with its ludicrously nominal recognition of the costs of living in places like Surrey.
The session finished with a sparkling presentation of the Union`s accounts. This was Ian Murch`s last presentation before he retires. He has been a brilliant treasurer and we will miss him.
The next day was Easter Sunday, but we didn`t have it off. There was a half day of concentrated work. Many of you will have heard of Ofsted asking primary school girls why they wore a hijab and were they being forced to do so. This occurred after motions for Conference had already been decided but we agreed to suspend standing orders to debate it. We felt that Ofsted had stepped outside its remit and was acting as a monocultural policeman, not something that we felt was in its role and we voted overwhelmingly to condemn their actions.
We then debated Supply Teachers` Employment. Supply teachers make up about 10% of our member- ship and everyone may find themselves on supply at some stage in their career. The rise of agencies has pushed supply into the gig economy with no security, sick or maternity pay, no holidays and outrageously low rates of pay ( while the agencies charge outrageously high fees). The motion calling for better pay and conditions and better status within the union was heavily passed.
Ofsted have plans to ask senior leaders about reduction of Workload being apparently blind to irony as they are themselves principal instigators of increased workload.
The motion we passed unanimously wanted not only a re- duced workload with the ridiculous triple marking and holiday snaps removed but also guaranteed CPD and evi- dence-based pedagogy rather than what some minister re- membered from his Dame school.
Support and Promotion of Disabled Staff was unanimously supported. Up to 20% of the population is disabled, not always visibly, but schools still have a very low take-up of disabled staff and an even lower promotion rate . The Union is a champion for disability rights and rightly put this motion on the top of its priority voting on equalities. There was also unanimous support for Tackling Racism. This might sound like voting against sin, but institutional racism continues to plague the system and racist views are becoming almost respectable following the Brexit vote. A motion linking the fight against Islamophobia and supporting LGBT+ rights turned out to be more controversial, although it passed. Like our own society, Islamic societies ( the Chechens were specially mentioned) can be rather homophobic themselves and we should not assume that groups that suffer intolerance do not have intolerances of their own. You`ll be pleased to know that Sexism and Harassment in Schools ( 70% of our membership is female) was condemned. You`ll be less pleased to learn that sexism and harassment of women exists in almost every school. As I`ve already said, as an immigrant myself .I welcome the support of the union on Racism and Migration. The motion covered a wide range of issues and was heavily supported.
All of this was important, but the headline motion of the day which hit all the nation`s media was on Education and Social Justice where the issue of child poverty and its dire effects upon the health, education and future prospects of a growing number of children was described, sometimes in heart- breaking detail. Lanarkshire was praised for its initiative on feeding children during school holi- days and we asked for this to become nationwide while deploring the need. What hit me most was egg soup which a child said he had for breakfast. His mother boiled an egg for Dad before he went to work and then added pepper and salt to the water: Egg Soup.
Easter Monday morning began at 9.15 with a special debate on the situation in Wales. It was sup- posed to have been debated at the Wales NUT Conference but they got snowed off so they brought it to Brighton where it rained all the time. The Welsh government announced plans to have a separate system with annual reviews of deciding teachers` pay and conditions different from that of England. The likely outcome of this would be lower pay and worse conditions of service for Welsh teachers. Conference unanimously rejected this and called for the single system for both countries to be retained.
Secondary Curriculum and Assessment has become very strange. A legacy of Michael Gove was the odd idea that making GCSE very much harder but to lower the pass mark sounded like a system devised by Lewis Carroll (who was at least a mathematician). One can, under the new system get a Grade C with 17%. That means that you can fail to understand 83% of the questions and still pass. And indeed, people with good honours degrees say that many of the questions are so hard that they can’t answer them. Apparently these are there to give people something to aspire to — probably bloody revolution. We unanimously rejected the idea (but seriously considered the revolution).
In the afternoon we debated Baseline Testing and to Boycott High Stakes, Summative Testing in Primary Schools. There was some overlap between these and hence some of the second was ruled out of order after we passed the first. The gist however was that we are planning to campaign against baseline testing and also against primary SATs with a view to non-cooperation in pilots and a possible boycott. We will need to know what the ATL Conference thinks before there can be defini- tie plans drawn up for NEU action next year, but the NUT Section conference was strongly in fa- vour of action.
Things now got a little strange. Often the most contentious motions are concerned with the internal organisation of the Union and now with the very different organisation of ATL,
preparing for a unified NEU has started throwing up difficulties. ATL do not have retired teachers as activists and the NUT does. What to do with them? The Role of Retired Teachers in the NEU asked for a survey what retired teachers do in the Union and what they can and ought to do. This seemed a moderate question but it was strongly opposed by the Executive who sought to amend it by (if I understood the argument correctly) saying that retired teachers could do all sorts of things, like stuffing envelopes and making the tea. I took exception to this and spoke against this saying that I had retired as a teacher but not as a Union Activist. Conference agreed and passed the original motion.
We went on to pass a number of motions which basically exhorted the Union to build up its activist base in schools, look at the possibility of more paid workers to support casework, support the school rating website to aid members in job applications and to increase the role of young teachers in the Union. We still hope to achieve Building Unity Towards A Single Union and we extend the hand of friendship to the NASUWT and headteacher unions to build a single organisation which will have the power and influence to defend the profession and all in schools.
We then expressed our support for Colleagues in Mexico, Central and South America where teach- ers and their unions have been under murderous attacks for many years.
And apart from a rousing speech from Kevin Courtney, the Joint General Secre- tary of the National Education Union was what happened at the 148th Annual Conference of the National Union of Teachers. Since 1870 we have stood up for teachers, for children, a broad curriculum, equal pay, secondary education for all, abolition of selection , fairness, justice for all , for a society and an education service we can all be proud of. We belong to no political party and have stood up to them all when the need arose. It is a record to be proud of and one we will carry into the National Education Union when we will stand up for all workers in schools.
I really can`t finish on that serious a note. We worked hard at Conference, but we had fun as well. We had some nice meals ( Brighton is good for that), I believe that the whippersnappers went club- bing as well, we went to all sorts of fringe meetings. In the morning from my hotel window I saw people swimming in the sea at 7.00 am but I don`t think they were Surrey delegates
Thank you Phil Clark ( I’m sure with Lindsey`s help) for organising activities for the delegation. Thank you Tami and Cosmin, Anne and Jerry, Dan and Sarah, Rob and Liz, Hayley, Lauren, Ben, Margaret, Marc, Subhi, Maisie,Aku, Suu, Chris and Brian, and Patrick, for making this such a memorable last Conference for Surrey with the biggest and most diverse delegation we have ever had.
Next year in Liverpool the first Conference of the NEU will take place.
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