With the recent academisation news and the publication of the 2016 Education White Paper, we thought it would be useful to provide a summary of the teaching union’s comments and opinions on these crucial new plans and proposals.
The NASUWT organised National Supply Teacher Conference saw the largest gathering of supply teachers voice their concerns over the illegal working practices of supply recruitment agencies. Most of the concerns were over pay and how the supply agency’s teachers only receive a small percentage of the pay made to supply agencies from schools. Their comments on the White Paper were mainly about what had been left out, with the NASUWT general secretary stating that it ‘fails to address some of the most pressing issues affecting schools and teachers, not least low morale, a recruitment and retention crisis, and the continuing impact of real terms erosion of teachers’ pay and cuts to school budgets.’ They also mentioned how the proposals to increase the accountability of schools, which ties in with academisation, ‘do little to assuage the fears of many schools or make the jobs of teaching and school leadership any more attractive or deliverable.’
The National Union of Teachers conference voted for the government's Prevent strategy to be withdrawn from schools and colleges in favour of creating an alternative method of safeguarding. The vote took place at the NUT conference in Brighton due to many seeing the counter-radicalisation policies creating ‘suspicion and confusion’. Some of examples of over-reactions that have occurred during include a child writing about a "cucumber" which was misinterpreted as "cooker bomb" and a child who wrote about living in a "terraced" house which was misunderstood as a "terrorist" house. Other criticisms of the Prevent strategy were that it disproportionately targets Muslims, makes schools feel uncertain about what could be debated and makes teachers paranoid and feel like the secret police. NUT had similar concerns as NASUWT over how the Education White Paper does nothing to raise the profile of teaching. They also criticised school-led teacher training as contributing to the teaching recruitment crisis, the academisation plans for removing autonomy and freedom from many schools and the governments imposed funding cuts.
The National Association of Head Teachers have no real problem with the plans for academisation. However, they believe the focus should be on creating a framework of support for schools and encouraging collaboration, stating that ‘If every school in the country became an academy tomorrow, the performance of the education system would be unchanged; the gap between advantaged and disadvantaged students would remain the same.’
The Association of Teachers and Leaders are holding their 2016 conference later next week. However, if there comments on the Education White Paper is anything to go by they have their own misgivings about academisation. With their general secretary writing ‘Nothing in this white paper addresses the fundamental fault lines in English education. Ministers seem to believe that, magically, there will be enough high quality multi-academy trusts (MATs) to support the thousands of schools which they will force to become academies. But the evidence shows MATs are highly variable in quality and Sir Michael Wilshaw has said that the worst MATs are performing as badly as the worst local authorities.’ Other parts of the White Paper ATL took issue with was the proposals to lengthen the time it takes for trainees to earn QTS, which they feel could mean schools using the delay as a way to save money on their teacher’s wages by paying them less as NQTs for longer periods.