French workers are continuing their massive wave of strikes and protests against president Macron’s imposing a raising of retirement age.
How can we win on pay and funding?
The union has rightly called on teacher members to deliver a huge rejection of the government pay offer.
A one off bribe of £1000 is very thin cover for a still below inflation deal this year and then another one next.
It was a deal that would leave teachers in England thousands of pounds worse off at every pay scale than in Scotland or Wales.
And that at a time when it has just emerged the government has been deliberately sitting on a report which detailed the massive workload crisis in our schools too.
Worst of all, the government deal was still mostly unfunded so would provoke more cuts in schools and damage to education for the students and communities we serve.
A massive rejection of the deal is the first step. We then need to discuss and decide what the best way forward is to win better.
Conference will be asked to back a priority motion from the executive which will commit us to two days of strikes on Thursday 27th April and Tuesday 2nd May.
Our current ballot mandate runs only to 13th July, so the motion also commits us to a national reballot- that can extend our mandate for six months.
The motion also talks about the need for an “escalating programme of strike action through the summer term”.
Alongside strikes we need to ensure we also step up campaigning to win parental support and to lobby and pressure politicians, not least around the May local elections.
All the polls show that so far parents have backed our strikes, we need to build on that as we moved forward.
Crucial to that is to foreground that the central importance of any pay deal being fully funded to protect education from more damaging cuts.
There are genuine and serious debates to be had about what level of and what pattern of strikes can shift the government. Equally whatever we think is needed we also have to be sure we can members to actually take that action too.
Conference is the right place, the democratic place for such serious debates and decisions to be taken.
The government pay offer has now seen the heads NAHT union move to a reballot, one which talks about joining strikes too. That would be very welcome addition to the fight.
And the secondary heads ASCL is consulting its members on what do do too.
Support staff pay awards run from April to April, as part of local government pay deals, and all local government and school support staff unions may be moving towards national strike ballots.
The NEU should ballot support staff members to join that fight- one which can strengthen then fight on teachers’ pay too.
Everyone in education should be united in wanting to win the battle on pay and funding.
And the mood shown in our first four days of strikes, and if anything hardened in anger at the government offer means there is a chance we can win. At Conference we need to discuss and decide how best that potential victory can be secured.
Ofsted damages Mental Health
by Chris Dutton, Chair National Leadership Council and Executive Member
The recent tragic death of a headteacher from Reading who was also an NEU Leadership member highlights the impact that Ofsted has on staff well-being and our mental health.
The stakes are high, particularly for headteachers, under the new inspection framework and we all know of schools which have received unfair judgments as a result.
Now is the time for us to unite as a profession and demand that Ofsted is reformed and as a union, we need to ensure leadership members receive the right support from the NEU.
We need to engage political parties to promote the idea that alternative accountability is possible, and the profession is best placed to lead on this reform. Ofsted is not fit for purpose and does not improve outcomes for young people – it’s time for change.
Support the emergency motion to conference on Ofsted.
Palestine – for justice, for freedom for the right of return
by Louise Regan, national membership and equalities officer
The NEU has a long and proud history of standing in solidarity with the people of Palestine.
For Palestinians 2022 was the deadliest year since 2006. The monthly average of Palestinian fatalities increased by 57 per cent when compared with 2021.
I have visited Palestine many times and I am always in awe of the people, their ‘steadfastness’ and resilience against the oppressive regime under which they live.
The ongoing occupation, the human rights abuses they face on a daily basis limiting their ability to work, to access their own lands and family, to attend medical appointments or even go to school are all truly shocking and something that once you have seen you cannot un-see.
During the last year important reports by B’Tselem, Human Rights Watch and Amnesty have all been released calling Israel an apartheid state.
During all my visits I have witnessed apartheid in action – from the restriction of Palestinians freedom of movement, the segregation and control of their daily lives to the dispossession of land and property.
On one of my first visits to Palestine I was told that Palestine was being built out of existence. What I have witnessed since my return to Palestine post-Covid shows this completely – the huge settlement expansion, the new settler only roads cutting through the Palestinians land and the escalating house demolitions and evictions means that the reality of this statement is coming ever nearer.
In Sheikh Jarrah when one of our union members cried after hearing about the plight of the families there – the Palestinian father we were meeting with said “we thank you for your tears but we don’t need tears – we need voices – go back and tell people what you have seen – tell them our story as we are voiceless.”
Let us all be the voice of the Palestinians, let us all speak out until we get justice and freedom for the Palestinian people.
Give Us Back Our Schools campaign
by Ian Duckett
At the 2022 Annual Conference NEU passed a motion is support of the Give Us Back Our Schools (GUBOS) campaign.
In 2020 the Socialist Educational Association (SEA) launched the Give Us Back Our Schools (GUBOS) campaign because progressive reform cannot be achieved in education without reversing the structural changes made since 1988 and implementing a programme of democratisation across schools, colleges, universities, central service providers and local authorities. GUBOS is working to push the Labour Party and NEU (and other unions) to prioritise this campaign.
Pass this model motion to back the campaign.