Education round-up 23 June 2012: teacher strike ballot

Education round-up 23 June 2012: teacher strike ballot

NUT strike ballot, performance management & teachers' payscale, Gove and O-levels

Back after a break for job-hunting, and the things that I complain about in the blog, being the things that mean I didn't have time to write the blog! But this was important enough for me to bother my arse wink

NUT workload strike ballot
NUT members have just received their ballot for discontinuous strike action, and action short of a strike, over pay and conditions. Although after the London-only teacher strike on March 28th there was rumours of a national June 28th strike over pensions, it seems there's no danger of that now. The ballot closes September 6th, so any top-down national action, whether it's pay or pensions, will be autumn at earliest.

The NUT seems to think that if they can get a YES vote they'll be able to persuade the NASUWT to come out too. Using each other as an excuse for doing nothing is what has lead the pensions dispute down the shitter. Goes without saying I'll be voting YES, but it's worth highlighting how previous YES votes have been ignored by union leadership. Despite a still-applicable pensions strike YES vote last year, teachers nationally were still ignored by union-bureaucrats and told not to come out on March 28th with London teachers, despite indicating by 73% in a stupid little survey that we still wanted to strike.

This disregard for members views has lead many of my colleagues to have really low morale with regards the pension struggle. Most aren't even worried about pensions anymore, as they're more worried about getting sacked in the next year or two, I'll explain why.

Performance management & teachers' payscale
The new Ofsted framework which I've moaned about before, places even more pressure on teachers to 'perform' for the powers that be. By stripping away 'satisfactory' - a word that has a dictionary definition; 'fulfilling all demands and requirements' - and replacing it with 'requires improvement', teachers will be forced to justify their wage should they not be deemed 'good' or 'outstanding'.

Now, how will this affect teaching workers? As well as the stress of observations and being judged by managers who spend as little time in the classroom as they physically can, it will be used to assess teacher wage progression.

Currently, teachers have a national pay-scale (not applicable in academies, though many still follow it anyway, but could change it at any time). The scale, like any, has newest/youngest teachers on a lower wage (low-20k per/year region, depending on whether they're in London or not), rise through M1-M6 - this is the main scale; by M6 you roughly get 10-12 grand a year more in salary. Then a teacher can jump to 'upper-pay' spine which takes them to high 30k pay bracket.

Obviously, the scale is problematic - it separates young/old and inexperienced/experienced in pay terms. Our criticism however, is very different from the attacks currently proposed. Now, the new Ofsted framework, performance management, and the salary scale are to be linked. How will this work?

Our head is barely hides his contempt for older teachers, and other schools like academies have notoriously young staff. Why? Old teachers are expensive, have kids, and are 'stuck in their ways', and, I shit you not, 'not value for money'. In contrast, young teachers are cheap. 'dynamic' and malleable (i.e. don't know any better).

If a school wants to save money, and has a lot of older staff, they will want rid of those pesky older staff who cost a lot, remember unions, and have to leave early to pick up kids. A head with money problems will think:

'I could have TWO new teachers for that price!'

So they will use performance management to target anyone they want rid of, be it for financial reasons, or possibly if they are 'trouble-makers'. Give someone a bad observation, then give them another, and another, and you can put them on 'capability' procedures. Everyone knows what this means, and everyone dreads it. It's a self-fulfilling prophecy - tell someone they're SHIT enough times (whether they objectively are or not), treat them as such, undermine their confidence, and they will begin to feel, and act, a bit shit. Do this enough, and eventually you'll have ground to get rid of them, and hire a newer, younger, cheaper worker.

Even if they don't necessarily want rid of someone, they can use observation judgements to deny salary progression. Not deemed 'good'? Fine, your pay won't go up next year.

The new Ofsted framework, linked to pay progression, and capability, will further divide old and young teachers, and worst of all, result in exactly the sort of parity we don't want - everyone on the lowest pay possible for the job.

Gove, Roman Numerals and O-levels
What the fuck can I say here? Gove wants all primary kids to be able to count in Roman numerals - to be fair, I'd never have known that ROCKY V was the one to avoid if it wasn't for my Da explaining roman numerals when I was 8. Rocky IV is the best anyway.

And O-levels? Well they did it in THE OLDEN DAYS so it must be good.

This man, Gove, who has never been an education worker, has his FINGER ON THE FUCKING PULSE.

Comments

fingers malone
Jun 23 2012 10:56

Great report as usual Choccy.

I thought it was a nightmare I had but I've checked with my coworkers and we are going to have ofsted inspections next year with TWO DAYS notice. Which means we will have constant hassle over paperwork all year round. It will be a freefloating state of anxiety as everyone will be terrified there will be a sudden inspection and they will fail because they don't have a tickbox chart for how often the students cut their fingernails last year.

Choccy
Jun 23 2012 11:16

Fingers, did you read Capitalist Realism on here yet? The bit on Ofsted in FE colleges had me pissing myself, nervously laughing, but also quite depressed!

Choccy
Jun 23 2012 11:39

We had two Ofsted inspections in my first two years teaching, absolute fucking nightmare.

Steven.
Jun 25 2012 09:55

Good blog, as always!

Just one thing, on the NUT ballot, it's not trying to get a result to persuade the NASUWT to come out as well.

Basically the NUT and NASUWT have reached an agreement (which they say is "historic") that they will take action together over all the ongoing issues in education:
http://www.teachers.org.uk/protect-teachers

What apparently this means is that they have merged their action committees, so that all national action from now on will be joint.

NASUWT already has live ballots, whereas the NUT doesn't have a live vote for action short of strike action.

Activists in NUT are massively excited about this, as they think the NUT/NASUWT split is the biggest thing weakening teachers at the moment (they have around 45% and 40% of teachers as members respectively).

In some way I think you are being a bit too sceptical here. However, your overall concern is totally valid.

My union, Unison, has an agreement in principle to fight with PCS against cuts. However apart from November 30 it has meant absolutely nothing in practice. This is a stronger agreement, with the merger of action committees, however I think there would be a definite worry here that rather than strengthen both the NASUWT could end up diluting the militancy of NUT.

That said, the work to rule of NASUWT could be really powerful. As I understand it it's not functioning, but if more teachers joined it do you think you might have a chance of making a go of it?

jef costello
Jun 25 2012 16:45

The NASUWT work to rule sheet is up in my staff room but not many people stick to it.
I think NUT is balloting for strikes STeven, I haven't opened it yet but I got a letter from them about it today. I'll vote yes just for the fun of it.
More pressing concern for me is potentiallty switching to academy status.
Speaking of OFSTED my school hasn't had a proper inspection for a while as it is outstanding but we're getting hit next year and everyone is shitting it.

Choccy
Jun 25 2012 17:18

Cheers Steven, a few quick points, yes NUT 'activists' may be excited, but rank and file are not and to be honest I met our branch sec on Friday, SWP, and he didn't even mention it! I am a teacher, in a school, with lots of both unions. No one is talking about either the 'historic' deal, or the current ballot, though it's still early days, there's nothing remarkable about my school. I'll be asking round about who has received their ballots and what not

Quote:
NUT doesn't have a live vote for action short of strike action.

The current NUT ballot is for both strike action AND action short of a strike, over pay/workload.

The NASUWT work-to-rule, despite initial promise, was a damp squib generally. The consensus on teacher forums and teaching press was that no one knew how to enforce it, what exactly it covered and where to draw the line, plus NUT did nothing on workload. This was evident within about 3 weeks of the NASUWT announcing it sad

I suspect your later prediction that this 'historic' agreement may dilute NUT militancy is probably correct. The exact reason all NUT members were given for no national action in March was that NASUWT weren't coming out. And the reason that NASUWT gave for not coming out, was that they were waiting on the NUT survey, which even though it indicated 73% YES, they still ignored.

Steven.
Jun 25 2012 17:29

Hey choccy, thanks for your comments. Just for clarification I wasn't saying that NUT "activists" were excited meaning that it was brilliant, just that the union activists were excited about it.

But as you say, this doesn't really mean much and what is of key importance in all these disputes is the level of organisation and militancy on the shopfloor.

Choccy
Jun 25 2012 18:35

Yep that's essentially where the NAS work to rule fell down, that action was announced with little agitation actually happening in schools in the few that I've been in. And with the huge potential that Nov 30th had, and the momentum then being lost, there;'s a huge degree of demoralisation amongst many school workers that is going to have to be rebuilt if anything is to be gained, or even defended.

Chilli Sauce
Jun 28 2012 04:36

Good post Choccy.

On this bit:

Quote:
So they will use performance management to target anyone they want rid of, be it for financial reasons, or possibly if they are 'trouble-makers'. Give someone a bad observation, then give them another, and another, and you can put them on 'capability' procedures. Everyone knows what this means, and everyone dreads it. It's a self-fulfilling prophecy - tell someone they're SHIT enough times (whether they objectively are or not), treat them as such, undermine their confidence, and they will begin to feel, and act, a bit shit. Do this enough, and eventually you'll have ground to get rid of them

In my experience, it doesn't usually come to someone being sacked. Rather, through a process of observations, close door meetings with management, and general undermining people leave 'of their own accord'.

FWIW, I created a presentation on the bullying which I gave to my workmates and for SF and it covered a lot of the above behaviour as bullying. I'd be glad to send it to anyone who knows someone who's dealing with this sort of thing.

Choccy
Jun 28 2012 17:11

And note I didn't say 'sacked', that was your word. The 'ground for getting rid' are laid out (and are usually already implicit in the way the performance management procedure, and 'capability', has gone) and yep, are used to make people 'jump' before they're 'pushed'.

fingers malone
Jun 28 2012 21:03

In my place performance is explicitly linked to redundancies, and bad observation grades are given to people as part of the process of laying them off.

Steven.
Jun 28 2012 21:47
fingers malone wrote:
In my place performance is explicitly linked to redundancies, and bad observation grades are given to people as part of the process of laying them off.

yeah, but school teaching is quite different to FE in many ways. For starters there have been more layoffs of teachers in FE than schools. In schools a lot of the cuts have been falling more on support staff than teachers. And when the cuts are smaller scale they can more often be managed by voluntary redundancy/early retirement.

But to be honest I think the bigger reason is that FE colleges have large numbers of lecturers. So when they need to make redundancies I reckon it is easier to do so by management assessment as opposed to interviewing/testing everyone. So you would take people's performance appraisals, tardiness, sickness etc into account and make redundancies that way. Whereas with a smaller workforce like schoolteachers you can do so by interviews.

jef costello
Jun 28 2012 23:05

Also, although school funding is falling it is much more stable than FE funding and there are legal requirements for teaching. For example my school could sack a member of staff from my department but unless they cut provision of my subject they would be forced to replace them.
School budgets are getting squeezed though, ours has dropped and due to academies schools are now being billed for services provided by the council (even though my school isn't one). Apparently councils have also begun removing money from the education pot that formed a big part of the rebate to academies which led to them having higher funding, although I can't remember the source.