Theresa May's surprise decision to call a general election was announced just an hour before the NUT General Secretary, Kevin Courtney, spoke to NUT Conference in Cardiff.
This meant that Kevin was in an ideal position to respond and to declare that the NUT intends to do everything we can to make education a key issue in the period before the election. In his speech Kevin highlighted a number of key concerns that the Union will be raising with candidates seeking election to Parliament:
• Selection in schools
• Teacher workload
• Testing and assessment
A motion on political campaigning called for consideration of 'whether a different relationship with political parties, particularly Labour, could promote the interests on NUT members' in the context of affiliated unions having a formal role in policy formulation. This clause was very narrowly defeated.
At NUT National Conference, Supply Teacher Network members argued successfully that the union should pressure parliament and the political parties within it to do more to stop abusive agency practices. Agencies are frequently ignoring Agency Workers Regulations and deliberately confusing supply teachers over issues of tax and pay.
The NUT supply teacher network is continuing to highlight the large cost of agencies to schools' budgets. In Leicester alone, for 2015-16, £6,689,275 was spent on agency supply costs. Upward of 25-30% of that could be the agencies' fees to the schools, on top of supply teacher pay. The amount of money spent varies across the city; a large secondary spent £130 per pupil on supply costs, a primary £348 per pupil and one infant school, £627 per pupil. Local authorities, Multi Academy Trusts and government urgently need to find an alternative solution to agencies.
I have been a member of the NUT since I started my teaching career at Beauchamp College in 1996. I taught there until 2006 when I moved to Leicester High School. It is perhaps surprising that attending the LGBT+ Conference is my first significant interaction with the NUT in all that time. In hindsight I wish I had attended such an event years ago as the whole experience was empowering and it has given me a something new to focus on as I approach the final stages of my teaching career. Looking back to my teenage years in the 1980s, I had no information or support around issues of sexuality or gender identity, and certainly no role models who were other than heterosexual. I saw the LGBT+ conference as an opportunity find out what I could do to ensure that appropriate support is available to young women at Leicester High School.
Fullhurst Community College is introducing a probationary period for all teachers that it employs. This means that all new employees are required to complete 6 months (26 weeks) satisfactory probationary service before their appointment is confirmed. There are reduced rights for probationary teachers regarding capability and disciplinary actions.
The NUT's response was a rejection of what we believe is a hostile and provocative action by the college:
The neo-liberal government of Macri has centered social conflict on teachers. He wants to break our resistance and willingness to fight, to set an example to the other workers.
The conflict began in February, even before classes started (March 6). The government refused to engage in collective bargaining on our salaries and working conditions, as is established by law in Argentina.
Teachers' Unions started 48 hours of strikes on 6 and 7 March. In some districts (Buenos Aires province) the International Women's Strike was added to these first strikes. With variations across the country some districts have not started classes yet. Others have had strikes once a week or 48 hour strikes for several weeks.
UCU activist, campaigner and defender of lifelong learning services in Leicester
Much-loved comrade and trade union activist Les Price died on 2nd March 2017 after a period of illness. He was 61.
His association with those of us in NUT went back many years and he was a longstanding member of our consultative committee. For much of his working life he was based on the Saffron Lane estate, an area of the city which was dear to his heart. He campaigned ceaselessly in support of Lifelong Learning for the communities across the city and for a top class youth service.
At March's Leicester NUT meeting, Sheena Wheatley, from Nottingham NUT, spoke about the Nottingham Fair Workload Charter that has been negotiated with the LA. Coventry also have a Fair Workload Charter. Leicester NUT officers have been meeting with Leicester LA officers to discuss a similar arrangement in Leicester.