Teachers’ unions meet to discuss calls for strike action over pay and pensions
Britain’s two biggest teachers’ unions are meeting today, for their annual Easter conference, to hear calls for further strike action in England and Wales this summer term.
The National Union of Teachers (NUT) will meet in Brighton while NASUWT will gather in Birmingham. The agenda is to discuss the government’s new system of performance-related pay, changes to pension and escalating workload on a backlash of anger at the changes.
NUT general secretary Christine Blower has warned that “teacher morale is at a dangerously low ebb” while NASUWT general secretary Chris Keates has blamed the government for a “relentless assault on public education and the teaching profession”.
The government plans to introduce performance related pay in schools, linking staff pay rises to pupils’ exam results and behaviour coming September.
Both NUT and NASUWT have opposed the performance-related pay scheme following research evidence by Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and the Sutton Trust.
OECD research concludes: “The overall picture reveals no relationship between average student performance in a country and the use of performance-based pay schemes.”
The Sutton Trust states that schools should not assess teachers on data from a single year but should instead rely on a combination of approaches to gain a full picture of teacher effectiveness.
NUT supports the view that “teacher quality cannot be measured, quantified or ranked in the way performance related pay demands”.
Also, criticising the controversial plans, NASUWT has consistently argued that reforming the pay system by introducing a competitive element to salary determination will demotivate teachers and lead to problems with recruitment and retention to the profession.
Performance-related pay is said to encourage teachers to work for themselves rather than pooling their expertise and promoting a collaborative approach in schools. According to a research in Canada, it encourages teachers to focus on matters relevant to their pay at the expense of other matters leading to narrower choices and opportunities for students.
The Local Schools Network also argues that the reforms to pay will encourage teachers towards the “best” classes rather than those that require more support.
At the conferences, the Unions will also address teachers’ increasing workload and its effect on morale and recruitment.
Christine said: “Changes to pay, pensions and a working week for many teachers of 60 hours is driving many out of the profession.”
The Unions will also hold discussions over the government’s expansion of state-funded academies and free schools and its decision to allow their heads to appoint unqualified teachers.
A Department for Education spokesman said: “We have reformed teachers’ pay so that heads can reward the most effective teachers who get the best out of their pupils. Through academies and free schools we are giving heads and teachers more power over what happens in the classroom and freeing them from central bureaucracy and interference by politicians.”
Activists are expected to use the conferences to call for fresh strike action in the summer term.
Kevin Courtney, deputy secretary of the NUT, said: “We don’t want to have strike action. We want to engage with Michael Gove and there are ways to avoid this.”