Join the Socialist Party Join us today!

Printable version Printable version

Facebook   Twitter

Link to this page:

From The Socialist newspaper, 15 April 2009

National Union of Teachers conference: Battle on workload begins

Teachers' anger at the pay and workload they face was clear at this year's National Union of Teachers (NUT) conference. But unfortunately the new 'left' executive's acquiescent attitude was also evident. While the SATs boycott grabbed the press headlines, the Socialist Teachers Alliance (STA)/CDFU majority appeared lacklustre on leading struggles on other key issues facing teachers.

Dave Reid reports from NUT conference in Cardiff

THE STRESS faced by teachers today was revealed by the debate on mental health at this year's conference. This is considered the biggest problem facing teachers, with four out of five teachers expecting to leave the profession because of stress.

The huge pressure on teachers was graphically revealed in the debate on SATs, the rigid tests that students are required to undergo in England. The conference unanimously voted for a boycott of SATs in 2010-11. Speaker after speaker denounced SATs because of the pressure it puts on teachers, children and parents and the distortion it causes to education: "Let's end this child abuse" said one speaker.

But the danger is that teachers could be disappointed by the final outcome. The executive motion that was passed called for the boycott, but nowhere did it say how it would be carried out and at what stage it would begin - at the start of the year, in the run-up to the tests, or on the day of the tests?

Unless this is clarified there could be confusion over the boycott. And faced with possible legal action by the government, it could be left up to teachers in individual schools to decide what to do. The action might not take place, or only in isolated areas and schools.

And the union leadership appear to have no other strategy. When Socialist Party member Derek McMillan asked how the executive would galvanise members after the disappointment of last year's abandonment of strike action, acting general secretary Christine Blower replied sharply: "I think the answer is the SATs boycott, Derek".

In any case the government is considering replacing SATs with other forms of assessment. Many delegates referred to the abolition of SATs in Wales, but, as a Welsh teacher pointed out in the Classroom Teacher meeting, the assessment process in Wales actually increased the workload of primary teachers. There is a danger that the government might propose a change to SATs that will not change the target-driven culture that is damaging students and teachers alike.

Cover supervisors

A similar problem was also reflected in the debate on cover supervisors, who have been replacing higher-paid supply teachers as cover for absent teachers. Conference debated two amendments. The amendment from the executive watered down the union's opposition to the use of cover supervisors. Another from West Sussex put the Socialist Party teachers' position to maintain the union's principled support for the demand for all students to be taught by a qualified teacher.

Some delegates reflected frustration that many schools have already agreed to use cover supervisors. They were looking for a way to approach the issue where cover supervisors already exist.

But instead of leading a national campaign to rally the members to give them confidence to take up the issue where possible, the executive proposed an amendment that would sanction the use of cover supervisors for three days. This was passed.

The executive was assisted by members of the Socialist Workers Party who opposed the amendment from West Sussex by calling for "a reality check". One declared that the reality is that "teachers don't care who does the cover so long as it is not them". Sheila Caffrey, a Socialist Party teacher, called this an insult to supply teachers.

The reality is that now it will be much harder for NUT members to oppose the use of cover supervisors in schools as the principle of opposition to them was diluted by the executive's amendment. A government spokesperson reacted to the vote within hours, telling the press that the use of cover supervisors would be "a short term solution" in the absence of teachers.

Classroom Teacher

Classroom Teacher (CT), initiated by Socialist Party teachers, is a campaigning newsletter written for, and by, classroom teachers. Launching a new pamphlet on workload, CT hosted an extremely successful meeting at the conference. Over 50 teachers packed into the lunchtime meeting to discuss how the issue of workload impacts on most teachers.

Martin Powell-Davies issued a rallying call for action in the conference debate on public services. He pointed out that the government would attack the pay, the conditions and especially the pensions of teachers. He warned conference to prepare for action, contrasting the guarantee to banker Fred Goodwin's pension to the threat to teachers' pensions.

A number of young Socialist Party teachers at the conference represented the new generation of determined young teachers who will not accept these attacks lying down and will force the NUT leadership to take action to defend conditions.

More reports next week.

Classroom Teacher

If you are a teacher and want help in organising a union in your school, if you want to take action to defend teachers and education, if you want to give us your views about the pressures teachers face: write to:


Pressure from below pushes union into action

Socialist Party teachers at NUT conference were expecting a resolution on workload, pay and class sizes to be axed from the agenda, but after applying pressure, it was taken and passed. Martin Powell Davies, Lewisham NUT, moved it and Phil Clarke, Lewes, Eastbourne and Wealdon NUT, seconded it.

The motion instructs the NUT executive to draw up a comprehensive claim in line with union policy, setting out the linked objectives of improved pay, improved work-life balance and reduced class sizes.

It called for members to be prepared for a campaign of industrial action in support of the comprehensive claim and to be balloted for strike action if no satisfactory progress is made.

Why not click here to join the Socialist Party, or click here to donate to the Socialist Party.

In The Socialist 15 April 2009:

MPs' snouts in the expenses trough

Stop the slaughter of Tamils

Sri Lanka: Stop the war - fight for democratic rights

Stop the war in Sri Lanka: Protest at India House

Socialist Party election campaign

European elections: Why No2EU?

Socialist Party workplace news

Visteon workers angry and determined

National Union of Teachers conference: Battle on workload begins

London Underground: Set a new strike date

Fury at John Lewis' trickery

Preparing to fight probation meltdown

Youth fight for jobs

Youth Fight for Jobs: What next to build the campaign?

Marxist analysis: history

The Spanish Civil War: Defeat snatched from the jaws of victory

Socialist Party editorial

Deceptive denigration of Lindsey strike

Socialist Party campaigns

G20 Summit death: Bring the cops to account

Council manoeuvres in Lewisham hit school children

Parents occupy schools in Glasgow to stop closures

Fast news

International socialist news and analysis

Thailand: Battles erupt on the streets of Bangkok

Moldova: Thousands storm parliament buildings as economic crisis worsens


Rugby league: In League with big business?


Home   |   The Socialist 15 April 2009   |   Join the Socialist Party

Subscribe   |   Donate  

Related links:


triangleEscalate summer strike wave into coordinated action to defeat the pay cap

triangleSchools and teaching: A perfect storm of cuts, underfunding, excessive workloads and low pay

triangleEducation cuts forced back

triangleEducation cuts: Tories buckling under public pressure

triangleUnions call for action after Grenfell


triangleSchool spend is behind eastern Europe

triangleWorkers' struggles in Peru: eyewitness report

trianglePublic sector wages - Pay up!

triangleStruggle can beat Tories' outlandish 7% cuts to schools


triangleMood for a fightback at education conferences

triangleEd Balls: 'Speaking Out' for capitalism

triangleEducation for all - not exam factories


triangleTower Hamlets Socialist Party: "You can't have capitalism without racism" (Malcolm X)

triangleTower Hamlets Socialist Party: Capitalism in Crisis - is Corbyn the answer?

Socialist Party:

triangleWest London Socialist Party: Young people need socialism!

Reports and campaigns

Reports and campaigns



Justice for Tube cleaners demo



Salford Unison condemns pay cuts


Royal Mail

CWU fights court attempt to stop national strike



Carlisle NHS campaigners hand in petition to MP



Don't wreck our rec! Campaigning to save green space in Standish



No more fire deaths - ensure safety now!



Cardiff Socialist Students confront 'Parasite' Jacob Rees-Mogg


John McDonnell

Manchester rally discussed unionisation and nationalisation



Join the Orgreave Halloween rally



Workplace news in brief


Democratic rights

Who's watching who?: The fight for justice, trade union and democratic rights


Northern Ireland

Boeing bust-up threatens thousands of skilled jobs



Too much to cross the Mersey


Royal Mail

Set for national strike action



Supporting the general strike in Catalonia

triangleMore Reports and campaigns articles...

Join the Socialist Party
Subscribe to Socialist Party publications
Donate to the Socialist Party

triangle13 Oct The end of the Tories?

triangle11 Oct Nasty party out the Tories

triangle11 Oct CWU fights court attempt to stop national strike

triangle11 Oct The fight against racial discrimination is tied to fighting against...

triangle11 Oct Catalonia: Workers can finish what Puigdemont won't

triangle6 Oct Boeing bust-up threatens thousands of skilled jobs

triangle4 Oct The nasty party turns on itself... but the Tories must be driven out

More ...

triangle16 Oct Teesside Socialist Party: After the party conferences

triangle17 Oct London: TUC lobby & rally; and London march

triangle18 Oct Warrington & St Helens Socialist Party: 1917-2017; the October Russian Revolution

triangle18 Oct Hackney Socialist Party: 100 years ago - the Bolshevik-led revolution

More ...

Socialist Party Facebook page
Socialist Party on Twitter
Visit us on Youtube



October 2017

September 2017

August 2017

July 2017

June 2017

May 2017

April 2017

March 2017

February 2017

January 2017





















Platform setting: = No platform choice