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NASUWT Conference will be sending a strong message to government

Pay, workload and the effect of cuts on vulnerable children are high on teachers’ agenda, writes CHRIS KEATES

TEACHERS and school and college leaders from across Britain are gathering in Birmingham this Easter weekend for the annual conference of the NASUWT, the teachers’ union.

The NASUWT Conference will be debating the key challenges facing the education system and highlighting the issues that matter most to teachers.

A range of motions will be debated, which have been identified as the top priority issues by the union’s membership. The issues will include debates on the deepening teacher supply crisis, the mental health of teachers, workload and pupil behaviour.

Excessive workload, the pressures of the accountability system and greater job insecurity are creating a toxic mix leading to teachers experiencing increasing levels of stress, depression, anxiety and burnout.  

Despite considerable handwringing and exhortation from ministers, governments and administrations throughout Britain have failed to take the necessary steps to deal with excessive workload in schools. 

The NASUWT Conference will be calling for radical action to tackle the workload crisis in schools and to ensure that teachers have the support and working conditions they need to enable them to get on with their job.

Too often teachers report their fear of the negative consequences for their careers if they speak out about their workload, with the risk that they could be placed on a capability process or lose their job. Too many teachers say they have simply had enough and are leaving the job and walking away from the profession they care about.

The NASUWT Conference will be sending a clear warning to governments and administrations across Britain on the need to address teachers’ concerns or risk further deepening the teacher recruitment and retention crisis in our schools.

Once again, pay is also high on the agenda this weekend, with all the evidence continuing to show the deepening real-terms cuts to teachers’ pay, with an average 17 per cent loss across the UK since 2011. 

The conference will be sending a strong message to ministers that failing to take the necessary steps to address the widening pay gap between teachers and other graduate professions will continue to damage children’s education and deter increasing numbers of graduates from choosing to teach. 

The NASUWT rejects the claim by employers that a substantial, above-inflation pay award for teachers is unaffordable. With more than £4 billion in unspent reserves in the budgets of maintained schools and academies, we are demanding that the government take action to ensure that this money is used to improve the pay of teachers. 

The NASUWT has consistently been calling for greater transparency and accountability in how schools use public money. Our updated analysis of Where Has All the Money Gone? which will be launched at the conference, will highlight the problem of stockpiling of funding while schools and academies make teachers and support staff redundant and while asking parents to make so-called “voluntary contributions” to school funds. 

The NASUWT Conference will be calling for an end to the secret garden of school and academy finances and for greater transparency in spending by schools and academies. 

NASUWT members will also be debating the impact of cuts to school-based and local authority provision for pupils with special educational needs, mental health and emotional needs. 

We will be publishing further analysis on this issue and the deepening crisis affecting some of our most vulnerable children and young people. 

The narrowing of the curriculum is also taking its toll, with many pupils denied access to creative and practical subjects, including music, art and drama. 

The NASUWT Conference will be restating its call for the fundamental entitlement of all children and young people to a broad and balanced national curriculum to be restored. 

The government is failing in its duty to children by giving schools freedom to charge pupils for these subjects. In one of the richest economies in the world, it is scandalous that the right to a broad and balanced education depends on parents’ ability to pay.

The teachers gathering in Birmingham this weekend will be putting governments and administrations across the UK on notice about the need to address teachers’ concerns about pay, pensions, working conditions and jobs. 

Politicians also need to recognise that failing to invest in teachers is failing to invest in children and young people. 

We will be expecting politicians to take note and act. 

Chris Keates is general secretary of the NASUWT.

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