2016 Brighton Conference Report
NUT Conference 2016. ‘Creative Spaces – not Exam Factories’
Report by Jon Woollard, Helen Davenport and Chris Barton
Friday 25th March, First Session – Helen
The new President, Anne Swift, was installed and Alex Kenny made a moving speech of thanks to the outgoing President, Philipa Harvey, mentioning particularly her work on the EDUkid Project and creating a voice for Palestine in UK classes.
He then introduced guest speaker, Jeremy Corbyn MP, who was welcomed with a standing ovation. The first political leader in 30 years to address an NUT Conference, and the first Labour leader ever, Mr Corbyn spoke as a lifelong trade unionist and the son of a maths teacher directly to some key issues for this year’s conference.
He vowed to repeal the Trades Union Bill in 2020 if he becomes Prime Minister. On Academies, he said that the government’s plans for the enforced academisation of all schools had not been in the Conservative Party Manifesto and yet over £600m has been allocated. He pledged his support to stop the plans.
On escalating stress levels in children, he cited 3 contributory factors –
• The housing crisis
• Child poverty, affecting half a million children
• 1 million families in Britain using food banks
He added that the attainment gap between rich and poor pupils was higher than when David Cameron took over: hungry children cannot concentrate on learning. However, in Wales, the Labour government are still providing free school breakfasts and meals despite cuts in central funding.
On teacher workload, he noted that –
• Due to the pressure of work, 50 thousand teachers left the profession last year
• One in four schools are using supply teachers full time
• One in ten schools are using unqualified teachers
Supporting the NUT’s aim to abolish primary testing and the over-assessment of pupils, he ended his speech to another standing ovation.
In thanking him, Christine Blower commented that we’d waited a long time for a politician to say all this and that he had presented policies rather than an ideological attack. Mr Corbyn accepted her invitation to stay for the rest of the session and afterwards, joined members in the foyer to answer questions for about an hour.
Awards went to Jean Marshall for Representative of the Year and Lisa Middle for Officer of the Year. The Steve Sinnott Award was given to Mary Compton for her work on international solidarity and the Blair Peach Award was won by Baljeet Gale.
Saturday 26th March, Second and Third Sessions – Jon
Anne Swift (President) opens with inaugural address. She speaks of the NUT “standing up for education” and finishes with saying “no to Nicky.” There is a standing ovation. Alex Kenny introduces a motion to suspend standing orders so that three priority motions can be put to conference. This is carried.
Motion 13: Workload, Teacher Shortage and Funding, which includes support for ‘sustained strike action’ for local disputes, is carried with three amendments. Motion 14: Supply Teachers and 15: Bullying are carried unanimously, both with two amendments.
Alan Gibbon receives the Fred and Anne Jarvis Award. He states that the Tories are in crisis like “ferrets in a sack.”
Motion 21: Sixth Form College Funding, with one amendment, is carried unanimously.
Priority Motion 1: Professional Unity. Discussions between the Union and ATL. Moved by Philipa Harvey (Ex-President). Was largely carried with one amendment. There was concern over “poaching” from other unions and the entry of non-qualified non-teachers.
Priority Motion 2: White Papers: Wrong Reasons. The government’s White Paper plans to force all schools to be academies, ending local council input and removing parent governors. Motion moved by Ian Murch (Treasurer) and seconded by Hazel Danson (Executive). They spoke of the need to “fight the forced academisation of our schools” which was a “wilful act of recklessness”. The motion, which includes ‘discontinuous strike action’, was largely carried with two amendments. One of the amendments stressed the need to link up with other unions but take action with or without them. There was opposition to the amended motion. Some delegates argued that a one day strike is not enough and held signs to that effect. The union will now be starting a programme of strikes – if the national strike ballot, starting on Monday 23 May, is won. If the ballot is successful the NUT will hold a national one day strike around 6 July – and announce further action for the autumn too.
Accounts – Motions 27 and 28 carried.
Report of Stoke Rochford Management Ltd – Motion 29 carried. There was concern over financial sustainability due to substantial loses. The Executive reassured conference that they are looking at various options.
Report of the Examiners of Accounts – Motion 30 and 31 carried.
Sunday 27th March, Fourth Session – Helen
We welcomed a further guest speaker, Dr Vicente Hugo Aboites Aguilar from the Autonomous University of the City of Mexico. He spoke about the successful protests by Mexican teachers, ongoing since 2013, against the government’s proposed education reforms.
He explained that the reforms, introduced by President Enrique Peña Nieto, were not based on any diagnosis of the education system nor with reference to teachers’ views. Rather, they were led by the agenda of the most powerful corporations, such as Corona and Kimberley Clark, “to prepare students to become human capital”. The repressive measures included teacher evaluations – aimed only at staff in state schools, not the private sector – and nationwide standardised tests which could never allow for the wide cultural diversity of the population.
We then returned to Priority Motion 32: Boycott of Primary School Testing, which was unanimously carried. Amendment 32.1 was passed by card vote and subsequently, amendment 32.2 was also unanimously carried.
Equality Conferences Section.
Motion 36: Impact of Government Policies on Race Equality, amended by 36.1, was carried unanimously.
Motion 37: Equality, Solidarity and Trade Unionism, along with amendment 37.3 was debated, amendment 37.1 was lost because it “diluted the main motion” and amendment 37.2 was passed.
Motion 39: Report of the Executive Member Representation Working Party. This contained proposals for a new National Executive structure to better represent the NUT membership in terms of their geographical distribution and gender balance. The debate centred round amendment 39.1, moved by Agnes Bishop of South East Essex, which suggested more research was needed. This went to a card vote in which the amendment was narrowly carried.
Monday 28th March, Fifth and Sixth Sessions – Chris
Motion 23: Prevent Strategy. “Poor referral and mistakes lead to suspicion.” David Anderson QC had commented on the following: “If the wrong decisions are taken the new law risks provoking a backlash in affected communities, hardening perceptions of an illiberal or islamophobia approach, alienating those whose integration into British society is already fragile.” Carried unanimously. Alex Kenny took the right to reply and asked the press present to report accurately the debate and subsequent decision.
Motion 24: Children are More Than a Score. Jenny Jones from Wandsworth speaking for the motion made a plea to boycott primary school tests and, that as a parent herself, she will be asking her school not to include her own son in the tests. Carried unanimously along with amendments 24.1, 24.2, 24.3 and 24.4
Motion 25: OFSTED. Existing policy calling for the abolition of Ofsted and its replacement with a proper system of accountability based on self-assessment. “Ofsted no longer fit for purpose” – Mark Slater.
Amanda Martin (Executive) called for “self-assessment as an alternative”. Gawain Little (Executive) called for “end to Ofsted and replace with a school based system”. Carried unanimously with amendments 25.1 and 25.2.
Motion 38: Investing in Disabled Teachers. Conference notes with concern the effects of austerity cuts on disabled teachers and their families. Carried unanimously.
Motion 39: Report of the Executive Member Representation Working Party. (Continued from yesterday). Conference still believes as passed in 2013 that the Executive should reflect a gender balance and the amount and nature and distribution of the membership within a geographical make up of each District. Philipa Harvey spoke on behalf of this motion. Carried by a card vote: 132,333 votes to 109,576.
Motion 40: SEND Reforms. Conference concerned by the new Code of Practice introduced in 2014. Issues with funding, accountability and testing. Carried unanimously with amendment 40.1.
Motion 41: Racism and Migration: Refugees are welcome here. Carried unanimously with amendment 41.1. For more information: https://www.facebook.com/wearewakefieldyorkshire/?fref=photo
Motion 42: Strategy, Finance and Communication. Motion adopted.
Motion 43: Teacher Shortage Crisis. Conference notes that the significant and increasing teacher shortage is now a crisis. Carried unanimously including amendments 43.1 and 43.2.
Motion 44: Children and Young People’s Mental Health. Conference is alarmed at the rise in numbers of children and young people who have mental issues. Carried unanimously by conference along with amendments 44.1, 44.2, 44.3 and 44.4.
Motion 45: Trade Union Rights. Conference believes that workers’ rights, including an effective right to strike, are essential both to the Labour movement’s ability to stand up for workers interests and to democracy. Unfinished business.
Motion 52: School Improvement, CPD and NQTs in Wales. Straight to vote as no speakers for or against.
Motion 53: The Organising and Membership Section of the Annual Report of the Executive was unanimously adopted.
Motion 54: Young teachers – Protecting the Future of the Profession. Moved by Laura Chisholm (South East Essex) and seconded by Lucille Parker (Colchester and North Essex). 40% leave the profession and a similar number make up the membership with 53% thinking of leaving. Unanimously carried with amendment 54.2.
Motion 56: Supporting School leadership. Conference congratulates those school leaders who have retained Union membership on promotion on the basis of our democratic and inclusive principles. Carried.
Motion 57: Organising Equality. “More can and must be done by the Union at all levels to address issues of inequality for groups of teachers and young people.” Carried unanimously including amendment 57.1.
Motion 58: Local Officers and a Lay Led Union. Conference reaffirms its belief that vibrant local associations, led by locally elected officers and committee members, are the bedrock of the union. Carried unanimously.
Tuesday 29th March, Seventh Session – Helen and Jon
Motion 59: Fair Pay for Individual Teachers and for the Whole Profession, as amended by 59.1 and 59.2, was carried unanimously.
*Announcement from the chair* Henry Emoni (Basildon) is one of 4 members voted onto the Conference Business Committee for 2017.
Motion 61: Adoption of the Resource Management Section of the Annual Report was carried.
Motion 62: Changes to the Rule Book, as amended by 62.1, carried.
Motion 63: The European Union. The NUT to campaign for a NO vote. Four key reasons were put forward: 1) TTIP 2) Refugee Crisis 3) Greece 4) ECHR not dependent upon the EU. Amendment 1 moved by Jerry Glazier. He stated that by taking a position on the EU, the NUT could become divided and distracted. Jerry argued for a neutral position. The Executive was instructed to ‘undertake work on the implications for members and for the wider Union on either outcome of the Referendum.’ Amendment was carried by 2/3 of Conference. Motion 63 with Amendment 1 was carried by 3/4 of Conference with quite a few abstentions.
Kevin Courtney talked about the legalities of the government White Paper
1. The White Paper has the wrong priorities.
2. It has no evidence base.
3. It is undemocratic because it wasn’t included in the manifesto.
4. Mass academisation removes rights to sick pay rules, length of directed time, all pay progression rules, disciplinary processes and much more – not determined by schools but multi-academy trusts.
Motion 45: Trade Union Rights, as amended by 45.1, 45.2, and 45.3 was carried.
Motion 60: Greater London Pay as amended by 60.1, carried.
Motion 33: Early Years, carried unanimously.
Motion 46: Climate Change, carried.
Motion 64: Adoption of Annual Report of the Executive, carried.
General Secretary’s Address
Christine Blower gave a rousing and much applauded closing speech, especially as she is standing down as General Secretary at the end of May. Fighting on many fronts, the NUT is having notable successes – solidarity with the junior doctors, progress towards professional unity and an active supply teachers campaign – to name but three. She concluded:
“Colleagues this has been a brilliant conference. We have debated and decided on the direction of the NUT for the next 12 months. We have caught the mood on the Wrong Priorities White Paper. So many teachers on the streets and at rallies is both a testament to how wrong the Government has got this and the determination of teachers and others to defend state education. We have also caught the mood on Baseline and primary assessment as well as the Prevent strategy. We have the resources, and in particular the people, activists and staff and of course our DGS to fight and to win on the things that really matter.”
And, as for the future, Christine will still be in Union employ on a part time basis involved in international work and will be “joining the Labour Party led by Jeremy Corbyn and continuing to fight for the better world that we know is possible.”
You can read her full address by following the link at: