Solidarity Calling Issue 2: 16th January 2022

Our second issue of our new weekly solidarity report by the NEU Left. If you have a dispute or a report you want us to spread the word about just get in touch. Email: [email protected]

We urge all our supporters to send messages of support and solidarity to colleagues on strike or in dispute. It may seem a small thing- but as anyone who has been on strike knows these messages do make a real difference. You don’t need to write an essay- just a quick line saying you heard about the dispute and are sending your solidarity on behalf of your school group of NEU district is enough.

Many strikers are also keen to come and speak at school or district meetings about their fight. Just email requests to them and they will get back to you- and this is much easier in a time when many meetings are virtual of course.

Solidarity calling- an injury to one is an injury to all.

A striking week in Newham

On the picket line in Newham again last week. Invite a striker to speak at your school or district meeting.

NEU members at Newham Sixth Form College continued their strike action last week against unfair management practices, workload and academisation. 

They plan another three day strike this coming week too, and more set for the following weeks unless management retreat.

The strikes have seen solid pickets on each of the three strike days and are strong and united. 

Strikers have been heartened by both the many messages of support and solidarity from NEU groups around the country and visits from NEU President Daniel Kebede, Redbridge NEU Haringey NEU, UCU, Unite and PCS. 

Strikers are united to win against a management who still haven’t listened to a 97% yes vote on strike action.

They would really welcome invites to spread the message about their fight by speaking at virtual district or school NEU meetings. If you can please email invotes with date and time of meeting and other details to NEU rep Rob Behan at [email protected] and the strikers will get back to you promptly.

INDEPENDENT SCHOOLS ACTION BALLOT

Hundreds of NEU members at 23 independent schools run by the Girls Day School Trust are balloting on strike action over their employer’s attempt to push them out of the Teachers Pension Scheme and impose a new , worse scheme.

Management say they cannot afford the Teachers Pension Scheme contributions following National Insurance contributions rises. Yet these would cost GDST around £6 million. They are about to spend £140 million on new buildings. GDST finances are healthy and they can afford to keep staff in the TPS.

Staff voted by over 90 percent on a turn out of over 90 percent to fight the change in an indicative ballot and are now holding a legal action ballot across all GDST schools for strike action. The ballot runs until 26 January- and strikes could follow unless management retreat.

One teacher at a GDST school told Solidarity Calling: “We worked so hard, we gave it all right through Covid. They can afford it so why are they treating staff so badly”.

As well as the new scheme costing many staff potentially thousands of pounds loss in their pension a big concern is that while under the TPS your pension is guaranteed for life, the new scheme is dependent on market fluctuations and also is structured in a way that means some staff could see their pension pot run dry and be left at some point without a pension as they get older.

Every NEU member should get behind the GDST members fight. They are fearful of being identified so please send messages of support to us if you can at [email protected] and we will pass them on.

FOREST SCHOOL IN PARALLEL PENSIONS FIGHT

IN A parallel fight to that at the GDST independent school chain around 90 NEU members at the Forest School independent school in Waltham Forest are due to finish their strike ballot this week.

The issues is exactly the same as at GDST, with the school management trying to take staff out of the Teachers Pension Scheme.

Management have threatened to “fire and rehire” staff to impose the new inferior pension scheme they are pushing. An indicative ballot say a 94% turn out with a 91 % yes vote.
*Messages of support to joint NEU branch secretaries for Waltham Forest: Paul Phillips [email protected] and Sandra Faria [email protected]

Support staff ballot

NEU members working as classroom support staff at Salisbury Manor primary school in Waltham Forest, east London, are this week beginning an official strike ballot over major attacks on working conditions.

The six support staff, all women, are facing an attempt to impose new contracts which will lengthen working hours, cut hourly rates and slash sick pay by up to 50 percent.

The school is part of the United Learning academy chain.

More strikes at St Matthews

St Matt’s members are standing firm in their fight and plan more action

Governors at St Matthews primary in Preston are still refusing to listen to staff, parents and community who are fighting against academisation,

So strikes and picket lines will continue this coming week and the one after. Staff also plan demos outside the Multi Academy Trust HQ and at Blackburn Cathedral – it is a church school.

*Messages of support to NEU Rep Julie Copeland at [email protected]

French lessons

TEACHERS, PARENTS AND STUDENTS MARCH IN PARIS LAST THURSDAY.

Hundreds of thousands of school workers struck across France on Thursday of last week over Covid safety.

Teachers’ unions said 75 percent of primary school workers and 62 percent in secondary took part. Half of primary schools closed and in Paris strikes shut 200 schools overall. 

This was the biggest school action since 2003. 

The biggest school strike in France for 19 years was backed by all 11 education unions in the country and the national FCPE parents’ organisation, and saw over 100 demonstrations in towns and cities across France which saw educators joined by parents and students in many areas. 

Anger at the government’s chaotic handling of Covid and failure to provide proper safety measures in schools laye behind the strike. Educators want schools open, but want proper safety measures in place- from air purifiers, CO2 monitors, proper medical grade masks for teachers, and circuit-breaking class closures from the first confirmed case in a class.

Unions are discussing more strikes in the coming weeks as France grapples with a surge in Civid cases, averaging over a quarter of a million new cases a day last week.

The NEU has sent a message of support to French colleagues at a national level. But it would be good for districts and school reps to do the same.

SOLIDARITY CALLING Issue 1: Jan 9th 2022

First of a weekly solidarity report from the NEU Left. We urge all our supporters to send message of support and solidarity to colleagues on strike in the coming week. The messages really do make a difference. You don’t need to write an essay- just a quick line saying you heard about the strike and are sending your solidarity on behalf of your school group or NEU district is enough. An injury to one is an injury to all.

Newham Sixth Form striking against academisation

On the picket line before Xmas- Newham Sixth Form continue striking this week

Education workers at Newham Sixth Form College are continuing their strike action next week over bad management practices, workload and proposed academisation. 

Talks have been ongoing with the college management, who have so far refused to meet the strikers’ demands. 

Strikers have been strengthened by messages of solidarity and will be holding a strike rally on Tuesday 11/01 to publicise their campaign with NEU President Daniel Kebede due to attend. 

Strike days have been called every week in the run up to February half term. 

Messages of support to Newvic rep, Rob Behan: [email protected] or Newham Secretary: [email protected]

St Matthews Preston primary strike against academisation

Following five days of action before Christmas, members at St Matthews CE Primary school in Preston are standing firm and are set for another 8 days of strike action in January 2022. 

Members are united in opposition against the headteacher’s & governors’ plans to academise the school. 

Membership has more than doubled – growing from 19 to 41 members – since the beginning of the dispute, with parents, local councillors and the wider community supporting their action to save the school from privatisation. 

Messages of solidarity & support to NEU rep Julie Copeland at [email protected]

NEU Left Bulletin

NEU Left bulletin 5th January 2022

Covid action needed

The shadow of Covid still hangs over us all as we go back to school. 

Cases are at record levels. The nature of the new variant and vaccines are both helping limit the proportion of the infected who end up in hospital or die, but the absolute numbers are still high.

Things could get worse as schools reopen, and if they do we need to be ready to act as we have in the past to protect our students, their families and ourselves.

One thing is certain already- this government is simply not doing enough to keep schools safely open.

It would be safest to delay school opening, or stagger restarts, until all staff and students have two negative tests and enough air purifiers have actually been delivered to schools.

The NEU and other education unions have rightly called for much more action. 

Some basic things should happen if there is to be any chance of keeping schools safely open- and if they don’t we need to fight to make them happen.

Royal Yacht or safe schools- which would you choose?

It would cost just £140 million to fit HEPA air purifiers in every classroom in the country- which would go a long way to helping keep schools safe. That’s just half the cost of the royal yacht.  

That should be done as a matter of urgency. In Germany the government spent £452 million in the autumn on a similar programme for public buildings including schools. 

Here, the government’s promised purifiers will not cover more than a tiny fraction of classrooms, and won’t be available until February at the earliest. Not good enough.

We should insist on carbon dioxide monitors in every classroom too – they don’t clean the air like purifiers, but they act as a warning if things are getting unsafe.

Schools don’t have enough funds after years of budget cuts for all this- but the government could and should find the money.

The SAGE scientific advisers recommend maximum carbon dioxide levels of 800 parts per million. We should insist that if any classroom goes above that it’s not safe to use and alternatives must be found.

If we are told to keep working in rooms above this level then this is a serious health and safety issue and we need to be ready to act.

In many schools simply saying open windows is not enough- many modern buildings have windows that can’t open- and if the weather gets colder it may be impractical if rooms are to be kept above the legal minimum temperature.

So we need to be ready to insist on changes to timetables and rooming as needed to ensure rooms used are safe.

Mask wearing in all communal areas, and in lessons too in secondary schools, should continue. 

Schools should be proactive in pressing for maximum vaccinations and regular testing of both staff and students and for government to ensure enough tests are available.

Forms of bubbles, one way systems and the like will need to be under consideration too in many schools. There should be no question of in person staff meetings, parents evenings and the like at the moment- all should be moved to be done remotely.

A key issue may be staff absences if infection rates stay high. 

All educators have worked above and beyond over the last 18 month to deliver the best education possible to our students in the most challenging of circumstances.

But we cannot and must not allow this to be taken advantage of to cover for staff absences caused by Covid. If schools try to take advantage of educators in this way we need to be ready to refuse and take action.

Education secretary Nadhim Zahawi has talked of schools being “flexible” or staffing and classes “doubling up”. 

We cannot accept teachers being asked routinely to supervise double-sized classes or cramming students together in large groups with no qualified teacher as a way of keeping schools open.

Instead we need government funds to ensure schools can get proper supply cover in as needed. And if that can’t be done we will have to demand schools move to at least partial remote learning.

Our national union should make clear that it will fully back any school group, including with industrial action ballots, if they want to fight over being told to work in rooms with unsafe carbon dioxide levels or being told to cover over-large classes or made to cover in PPA time and the like.

There should be no question of Ofsted inspections going ahead in the current Covid crisis either.

And exams set for May and June – from SATS to GCSEs and A Levels-simply cannot go ahead in the way the government has planned.

The differential impact of Covid, and illness, isolations and absences to both students and staff and the disrupted learning that this has and will cause, means it would be grossly unfair on many students to just go ahead with planned exams.

Some form of teacher assessments is again going to be needed- and it needs to be announced soon so plans can be made and not, yet again, wait until too late as has been the dismal pattern over the last 2 years.

In every district and school we should have meetings in the first week or two of the new term to discuss the pay survey anyway. But we should also meet to assess the Covid situation and to discuss and decide whether enough is being done and what we can do if it isn’t.

Make the pay survey count 

Build for action needed to reverse pay cuts

The NEU national pay survey will start on 14th January. It has to be a top priority for every activist and every NEU Left supporter to build the biggest possible turn out.

Education secretary Nadhim Zahawi has asked the School Teachers Review Board to look at making recommendations by May on pay awards for the next two years.

He says the “government remains committed to increasing starting salaries to £30,000 outside of the London pay areas” and that “this should be achieved alongside significant, but sustainable uplifts to the pay of more experienced teachers”.

But the Treasury has also written to the STRB demanding that any pay rises be “affordable” and within a “2 percent inflation target”.

The Treasury even had the cheek to tell the STRB that “if workers demand larger wage increase to maintain their purchasing power” they would be to blame for inflation rising further.

Our union has demanded 8% next year and 8% the year after- that would hit the £30,000 starting pledge.

And that should be for all teachers across the board- with similar pay rises for support staff and supply colleagues too.

Even that is barely a real pay rise. The latest Retail Price Index- the measure of inflation that includes housing unlike the government’s official CPI – is already at 7.1%. 

Even the CPI measure is already at 5.1%.  The Treasury says it thinks inflation will fall back to 2% quickly and therefore pay rises should be limited to around that.

But inflation has already done more damage to our living standards whatever happens this year. And there are already more food, petrol and energy price rises coming through and the 1.25% National Insurance rise- so inflation could get worse, not better, in the year ahead.

The 8% for all teachers for each of the next two years is the absolute minimum we need and deserve- and that should just be the start in reversing the 17% cut in real terms teacher pay has suffered since 2010.

And just as important as the pay award- it must be fully funded so all schools can pay it.

Without the funding we will see more jobs and vital educational provision cut on top of the damage already done by the 9% cut in per pupil funding since 2009.

So we need to build the turnout in the survey to help build the pressure on the STRB to meet our demands.  

That means treating the survey in the same way we would a national strike ballot- urging reps to join district briefings, to call school meetings, to go round schools chasing people up, putting arguments, ensuring members vote.

The survey is just the start. We will need to follow it with a sustained campaign, through this term and to NEU Conference at Easter and beyond.  

We will need a sober assessment of the strength and weaknesses shown by the survey and then a serious debate on the way forward.

We certainly need to prepare to be ready to take the next steps in the campaign if the STRB report in May does not give the pay rises and funding we need- and then aim to get in a position to take the national action we may need to win.

Every NEU district should be having pay briefings before the start of the survey. Those need to be the springboard for school meetings in as many schools as possible.

Make sure members use the My NEU link to update membership records, use the videos and other materials sent out by the national union. We need the biggest turnout possible- everywhere.

And in every area NEU Left supporters should meet together in the coming weeks and organise to ensure the battle plan for the survey and beyond is as effective as possible in their areas.

CURRICULUM RESEARCH

What curriculum do we need?

by Ian Duckett, Norfolk NEU

Much has been made of  the “recovery curriculum”, and I’ve read a good deal about the “emergency curriculum”, but what I’m really interested in as a socialist educator is a curriculum that paves an alternative road out of this pandemic that our schools could take and build for a different and better future.

Social justice, with a focus on real-world research on topics like decolonisation and climate change, must be a keynote of the NEU Left’s strategy. 

Curriculum development has, for me, always been concerned with three interwoven strands: the development of skills, knowledge and general education/enrichment with entitlement as its strong backbone.

During the pandemic events overtook learners and a blended learning model coupled with a more practical pedagogy linked to the emergency curriculum emerged.  

New ways of engaging with the young people, sometimes planned; sometimes as a means of managing in a crisis; sometimes negotiated collaborative, but always as a direct and personalised response to individual learner needs became a reality. 

While not always directly born out of the Covid19 crisis, some learning activities have been shaped and altered. 

This new curriculum should be based on genuine action research. 

If you are interested in engaging in and sharing left field and left wing research action research and shaping a bigger, more meaningful curriculum please contact Ian Duckett, Post-16 Officer, Norfolk NEU at [email protected]

Workload fight in North Somerset

NEU MEMBERS at Gordano school. the largest school in North Somerset, were this week voting on strike action over workload. This will strike a chord with NEU members everywhere, with excessive workload being a key issue facing us all.

Members at Gordano have 5 key workload demands and though some have been met not enough has been done in their united view. There is a real determinatin to resist and do soemthing to change the daily experience of working in their school and reps have done a fantastic job in organising the membership.

This is an example of exactly what we mean in the NEU Left by a “turn to schools” as a key element in building and developing union strength.

Please take a moment this week to send message of support to Gordano members by emailing NEU district secretary Jon Reddiford on [email protected]

NEU Left Bulletin

NEU Left bulletin 5th January 2022

Covid action needed

The shadow of Covid still hangs over us all as we go back to school. 

Cases are at record levels. The nature of the new variant and vaccines are both helping limit the proportion of the infected who end up in hospital or die, but the absolute numbers are still high.

Things could get worse as schools reopen, and if they do we need to be ready to act as we have in the past to protect our students, their families and ourselves.

One thing is certain already- this government is simply not doing enough to keep schools safely open.

It would be safest to delay school opening, or stagger restarts, until all staff and students have two negative tests and enough air purifiers have actually been delivered to schools.

The NEU and other education unions have rightly called for much more action. 

Some basic things should happen if there is to be any chance of keeping schools safely open- and if they don’t we need to fight to make them happen.

Royal Yacht or safe schools- which would you choose?

It would cost just £140 million to fit HEPA air purifiers in every classroom in the country- which would go a long way to helping keep schools safe. That’s just half the cost of the royal yacht.  

That should be done as a matter of urgency. In Germany the government spent £452 million in the autumn on a similar programme for public buildings including schools. 

Here, the government’s promised purifiers will not cover more than a tiny fraction of classrooms, and won’t be available until February at the earliest. Not good enough.

We should insist on carbon dioxide monitors in every classroom too – they don’t clean the air like purifiers, but they act as a warning if things are getting unsafe.

Schools don’t have enough funds after years of budget cuts for all this- but the government could and should find the money.

The SAGE scientific advisers recommend maximum carbon dioxide levels of 800 parts per million. We should insist that if any classroom goes above that it’s not safe to use and alternatives must be found.

If we are told to keep working in rooms above this level then this is a serious health and safety issue and we need to be ready to act.

In many schools simply saying open windows is not enough- many modern buildings have windows that can’t open- and if the weather gets colder it may be impractical if rooms are to be kept above the legal minimum temperature.

So we need to be ready to insist on changes to timetables and rooming as needed to ensure rooms used are safe.

Mask wearing in all communal areas, and in lessons too in secondary schools, should continue. 

Schools should be proactive in pressing for maximum vaccinations and regular testing of both staff and students and for government to ensure enough tests are available.

Forms of bubbles, one way systems and the like will need to be under consideration too in many schools. There should be no question of in person staff meetings, parents evenings and the like at the moment- all should be moved to be done remotely.

A key issue may be staff absences if infection rates stay high. 

All educators have worked above and beyond over the last 18 month to deliver the best education possible to our students in the most challenging of circumstances.

But we cannot and must not allow this to be taken advantage of to cover for staff absences caused by Covid. If schools try to take advantage of educators in this way we need to be ready to refuse and take action.

Education secretary Nadhim Zahawi has talked of schools being “flexible” or staffing and classes “doubling up”. 

We cannot accept teachers being asked routinely to supervise double-sized classes or cramming students together in large groups with no qualified teacher as a way of keeping schools open.

Instead we need government funds to ensure schools can get proper supply cover in as needed. And if that can’t be done we will have to demand schools move to at least partial remote learning.

Our national union should make clear that it will fully back any school group, including with industrial action ballots, if they want to fight over being told to work in rooms with unsafe carbon dioxide levels or being told to cover over-large classes or made to cover in PPA time and the like.

There should be no question of Ofsted inspections going ahead in the current Covid crisis either.

And exams set for May and June – from SATS to GCSEs and A Levels-simply cannot go ahead in the way the government has planned.

The differential impact of Covid, and illness, isolations and absences to both students and staff and the disrupted learning that this has and will cause, means it would be grossly unfair on many students to just go ahead with planned exams.

Some form of teacher assessments is again going to be needed- and it needs to be announced soon so plans can be made and not, yet again, wait until too late as has been the dismal pattern over the last 2 years.

In every district and school we should have meetings in the first week or two of the new term to discuss the pay survey anyway. But we should also meet to assess the Covid situation and to discuss and decide whether enough is being done and what we can do if it isn’t.

Make the pay survey count 

Build for action needed to reverse pay cuts

The NEU national pay survey will start on 14th January. It has to be a top priority for every activist and every NEU Left supporter to build the biggest possible turn out.

Education secretary Nadhim Zahawi has asked the School Teachers Review Board to look at making recommendations by May on pay awards for the next two years.

He says the “government remains committed to increasing starting salaries to £30,000 outside of the London pay areas” and that “this should be achieved alongside significant, but sustainable uplifts to the pay of more experienced teachers”.

But the Treasury has also written to the STRB demanding that any pay rises be “affordable” and within a “2 percent inflation target”.

The Treasury even had the cheek to tell the STRB that “if workers demand larger wage increase to maintain their purchasing power” they would be to blame for inflation rising further.

Our union has demanded 8% next year and 8% the year after- that would hit the £30,000 starting pledge.

And that should be for all teachers across the board- with similar pay rises for support staff and supply colleagues too.

Even that is barely a real pay rise. The latest Retail Price Index- the measure of inflation that includes housing unlike the government’s official CPI – is already at 7.1%. 

Even the CPI measure is already at 5.1%.  The Treasury says it thinks inflation will fall back to 2% quickly and therefore pay rises should be limited to around that.

But inflation has already done more damage to our living standards whatever happens this year. And there are already more food, petrol and energy price rises coming through and the 1.25% National Insurance rise- so inflation could get worse, not better, in the year ahead.

The 8% for all teachers for each of the next two years is the absolute minimum we need and deserve- and that should just be the start in reversing the 17% cut in real terms teacher pay has suffered since 2010.

And just as important as the pay award- it must be fully funded so all schools can pay it.

Without the funding we will see more jobs and vital educational provision cut on top of the damage already done by the 9% cut in per pupil funding since 2009.

So we need to build the turnout in the survey to help build the pressure on the STRB to meet our demands.  

That means treating the survey in the same way we would a national strike ballot- urging reps to join district briefings, to call school meetings, to go round schools chasing people up, putting arguments, ensuring members vote.

The survey is just the start. We will need to follow it with a sustained campaign, through this term and to NEU Conference at Easter and beyond.  

We will need a sober assessment of the strength and weaknesses shown by the survey and then a serious debate on the way forward.

We certainly need to prepare to be ready to take the next steps in the campaign if the STRB report in May does not give the pay rises and funding we need- and then aim to get in a position to take the national action we may need to win.

Every NEU district should be having pay briefings before the start of the survey. Those need to be the springboard for school meetings in as many schools as possible.

Make sure members use the My NEU link to update membership records, use the videos and other materials sent out by the national union. We need the biggest turnout possible- everywhere.

And in every area NEU Left supporters should meet together in the coming weeks and organise to ensure the battle plan for the survey and beyond is as effective as possible in their areas.

CURRICULUM RESEARCH

What curriculum do we need?

by Ian Duckett, Norfolk NEU

Much has been made of  the “recovery curriculum”, and I’ve read a good deal about the “emergency curriculum”, but what I’m really interested in as a socialist educator is a curriculum that paves an alternative road out of this pandemic that our schools could take and build for a different and better future.

Social justice, with a focus on real-world research on topics like decolonisation and climate change, must be a keynote of the NEU Left’s strategy. 

Curriculum development has, for me, always been concerned with three interwoven strands: the development of skills, knowledge and general education/enrichment with entitlement as its strong backbone.

During the pandemic events overtook learners and a blended learning model coupled with a more practical pedagogy linked to the emergency curriculum emerged.  

New ways of engaging with the young people, sometimes planned; sometimes as a means of managing in a crisis; sometimes negotiated collaborative, but always as a direct and personalised response to individual learner needs became a reality. 

While not always directly born out of the Covid19 crisis, some learning activities have been shaped and altered. 

This new curriculum should be based on genuine action research. 

If you are interested in engaging in and sharing left field and left wing research action research and shaping a bigger, more meaningful curriculum please contact Ian Duckett, Post-16 Officer, Norfolk NEU at [email protected]