Why I Will strike and support my Union

The NASUWT and NUT are striking “to defend teachers and the education service against government attacks which include:

  1. pay
  2. pensions
  3. workload pressures
  4. conditions
  5. inspections
  6. job security”

That is a pretty big list. I am a union member in a region due to go out on 17/1/0/13. In a brief response to this list I would say:

  1. We are in times of austerity. I would not consider this a reason to be striking at the moment
  2. The amount of money that all of us are losing because of changes to pensions is huge. We should definitely be making a strong stand on this. the loss of a day’s pay is nothing compared to how much we will all be losing over the following decades. Get on your union website and fill in their spreadsheets if you haven’t already to see how much you stand to lose
  3. Please see previous posts of mine on this
  4. Those academies and their ‘open 51 weeks of the year’ scare me. We should be ensuring our conditions are not damaged through the “academisation” of schools. We cannot work any harder or longer. No one who has not taught a full day in any KS1-5 school does not know how draining it is.
  5. OFSTED is an awful system but i wouldn’t strike about it (for an excellent insight into what to do with OFSTED, see Tom Bennett’s article in the TES)
  6. Fortunately I have seen little evidence of this happening in the schools in my local area. So i feel unable to comment on this issue.

Add those together and I support the action of the 2 unions and will be taking action this month and after half term if necessary as well. If we don’t take action then the government will know they can treat us how they like in the future and who know where that could lead

However there is a stronger and vitally more important reason I shall be striking.

I am a member of the union. The union has taken a legal and democratic vote and the decision was clearly to strike. IT IS MY DUTY AS A UNION MEMBER TO SUPPORT THIS. If I don’t stand with my union how can I reasonably expect them to take action on my behalf? When I had a horrible and baseless and stupid and possibly career ending accusation made against me, it was my union who sent along a legal representative to meetings and assured me over and over again that they would assist me. MY UNION SUPPORTS ME SO I SUPPORT THEM. We have to act together. Even if I had voted against striking, because the union as a whole had voted for it, I would still join them in walking out.

The philosophy of unions has been unfashionable ever since the 1970s when press and government attacks on them were so successful. To stand up for and stand up with your fellow human being is seen as a laughable and even naive action to take. I disagree. To take action for the common and greater good is exactly the sort of things I want both my pupils to grow up doing and the society I live in to be like. If you don’t think in that way then I cannot understand why you pay your union fees.

“I kept the faith and I kept voting
Not for the iron fist but for the helping hand
For theirs is a land with a wall around it
And mine is a faith in my fellow man.”


Michael Gove is Correct, Absolutely Correct

When Maths and English students have been endlessly pulled out of other classes to to extra revision sessions , when SLT talk about Key Marginals ,when pupils have been forced to sit 2 different syllabus for English, when they have had to endless re-sits for maths we have always been told it is all for the benefit of the individual students and not at all all about improving the school’s 5 A*-C (including English and Maths) or lining someone’s CV with positive looking statistics.

But now Michael Gove wants only the first attempt at a GCSE by a pupil to count toward the whole school’s figures and their position on the league tables and the leader of the ASCL says “It is grossly unfair to make changes like this when courses are already under way.”. Instead of cheering the lifting of endless exams from the shoulders of 15 year olds, Brian Lightman, the general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders seems to be complaining that schools have been caught cheating the system. And by moaning in such a way it becomes abundantly clear that all that force feeding and cramming was never really for the students’ benefit after all.

and what do you know? I am agreeing for the very first time with the Secretary of State for Education, The Right Honourable Michael Gove and agreeing wholeheartedly

New GCSE Curriculum Proposals

There is a lot about at the moment on today’s new GCSE curriculum proposals. Controlled assessment is going, modular exams are going. Well thank heaven for that. I was beginning to wonder if my own GCSE classes were really just a child minding service for KS4 pupils when they weren’t actually revising for another module of their maths GCSE or preparing for their English Controlled Assessment.

There is going to be more rigour apparently. Well I am not sure what rigour is, but I have a sneaky feeling it is one of those words used to brow beat teachers, because everything was more rigorous in the ‘good’ old days.

Grading will be from 1-8 instead of A* to G. Well, that appears to be THE SAME THING. Only I know the members of my SLT who will know why this is being changed; it will make number crunching and data studying much more easy. “Ooh look this school’s pupils who are predicted 3s achieved on average a score of 3.125 which 0.097 down on last year. SEND IN THE INSPECTORS -SOMETHING IS WRONG”.  So apart from the continuation of turning my pupils into little numbers on some DfE computer screen, there is nothing really new there.

The pass mark is being pushed higher. Personally, I take that as a compliment to the teaching profession of England. “You are all doing so well that we need to make it a bit trickier and therefore are making it harder for your pupils to do well.” Now that would be okay if a) that was actually being said, instead of the “exams are getting easier….” that we usually get and b) if it wasn’t totally unfair on pupils taking exams in 4 years time who will be getting lower grades than their slightly elder peers. So that when they go for a job in the future and are competing against them, they will be at a completely unfair disadvantage.

Finally, there is one point that hasn’t received much comment. Only 9 subjects are undergoing this change. so a pupil may look at choosing chemistry or art and say “CHEMISTRY WILL BE SO MUCH HARDER, I AM GOING FOR ART” and perish the thought, but there may even be some head teachers who encourage pupils to do this very thing, so that their school appears to be doing better down the road.

So as a conclusion, there is nothing new in all this and no change of direction. We just need to wait until the syllabi come out and choose the best one for you and your pupils. We will need to readjust, rewrite schemes of work and lesson plans, buy new books, spend money on exam board courses. Pearson and all those companies will be laughing all the way to the bank….. guess where Mr. Gove may be taking a non executive director, part time well remunerated type position when he leaves politics?