the Teacher – November 2016

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Inside: How much is your school set to lose?

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Welcome As we go to press, news of Justine Greening's abandonment of Nicky Morgan's Education Excellence Everywhere white paper has just reached us. This is a stunning victory for campaigners and means that no school should now feel pressured into converting to an academy. It is also good news that the plans to carry out SATs re-tests in Year 7 have been dropped. But abandoning bad policies isn't the same as implementing good ones. Together with ATL we are launching a new website that we believe will be a powerful campaigning tool on the subject of education cuts (see page 22). As you may know we have been in discussion with ATL about the possibility of combining the best from both our organisations to create a new union. As this magazine was on its way to you in the post, the NUT held a special conference to decide whether progress in those talks is sufficient to ballot members on this issue. We’ll keep you updated with the results at and through our social media channels. Finally, I would like to give a big shout out to teachers who have been working to ensure good treatment for child refugees and to all the members attending the 25th Black Teachers Conference in November. It’s incredible to have so many members doing so many good things at the same time. Kevin Courtney, General Secretary of the NUT President: Anne Swift General Secretary: Kevin Courtney Editor: Daniel Humphry Journalists: Emily Jenkins, Monica Roland Administration: Maryam Hulme Design:

NUT Hamilton House, Mabledon Place, London WC1H 9BD Newsdesk: t 020 7380 4708 e To advertise contact: Century One Publishing t 01727 739193 e NUT membership enquiries: t 0845 300 1666

Features 15 The social ladder Resident poet Michael Rosen takes aim at the pitfalls of social mobility. 17 Bad grammar Melissa Benn – writer, campaigner and chair of Comprehensive Future – discusses the Government’s green paper on grammar schools. 20 Measuring learning – there must be a better way We share some exclusive extracts from this landmark new publication on primary education. 22 Mapping school cuts A groundbreaking new website is set to map and lay bare the funding cuts that schools in England will face by 2020. 24 Meet Kevin We catch up with new NUT General Secretary Kevin Courtney, to find out what he’s been up to since he was elected, and his plans for the future of the Union. 27 First steps We catch up with three young teachers to find out how being active in the NUT has shaped their early careers. 30 All together The NUT is looking for disabled members to come together and affect change. 43 Teachers need time to learn Paul Howard – Education Consultant and NUT member – tells us about the NUT CPD courses that aim to provide measurable, practical development. 46 So long and goodbye Here the blink-and-you’ll-miss-it-story of Baseline Assessment and what's next... 50 Backbeat NUT head teacher Siobhan Collingwood tells us about how she and her staff are pulling together as a Union group to support their school and community.

Follow us online: Keep up to date with all the latest education and Union news through our social media accounts and website!


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6 Out and about 8 Success stories 13 Letters 19 International 34 Your Union

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36 Ask the Union 38 Reviews 44 Staffroom confidential 45 Noticeboard

November / December 16 | the Teacher


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November / December 16 | the Teacher

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n undertaking that is crucial to society, and one de. Every child deserves a quality education and the moment it can feel that education policy is een assessment regimes, funding cuts and attacks ort of our children’s future is at stake.

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at rkload survey found th The NUT’s national wo y had considered giving 90% of teachers said the last two years because up teaching during the is is not acceptable and of workload. Clearly th At central aim of the NUT. reducing workload is a n will continue to give a local level the campaig lp to empower members associations practical he aningfully reduce and enable schools to me the l level it will ensure that workload. On a nationa d Ofsted clarification DfE’s workload reports an selves were a product documents – which them in are being implemented of NUT campaigning – l ools, and will hold schoo primary and secondary sch authorities to account management and local ored. where they are being ign

Be the campaign The NUT is committed to these campaigns and improving the education system for every teacher, child and parent in England and Wales. These three campaigns will be at the heart of every step the Union now takes; whether helping members locally or when bringing your concerns to Westminster. But to be successful, these campaigns need every teacher to work together – for one another and for the profession that we all hold dear. Together we are stronger.

.uk Get involved at: November / December 16 | the Teacher


Pride in Manchester NUT members and staff from the North West region took part in the Manchester Pride parade recently, manning the NUT float and handing out whistles, garlands and flags while the NUT DJ kept the crowds dancing. Regional Secretary Peter Middleman said of the event: “We’re very grateful and very proud of the staff, activists and members who gave up their valuable time on a Saturday to support our appearance at this year’s event. “As well as demonstrating support and solidarity with the LGBT+ community, events like Pride allow us to identify socially aware and progressive members who can help with the vital task of taking NUT messages into schools, colleges and the wider teaching community.”

Island life Teacher union representatives from Guernsey, Isle of Man and Jersey held the sixth Inter Island Teachers’ Conference in St. Helier in September. NUT Regional Secretary Andy Woolley explained that changes to wages and rates of taxation coupled with a higher cost of living mean that moving to the islands is now a less attractive proposition. This in turn means that there is a much smaller field of applicants for teaching posts and current teachers are struggling under increased workloads.

Most of the delegates also attended the Channel Islands Pride March in St. Helier under the NUT regional Pride banner and flags. Andy Woolley commented: “This is an area where great strides have been made in recent years and the acceptance of Pride as an annual event by a large part of the population is very welcome. This will help give confidence to teachers and pupils about their sexuality, whatever it is, and should lead to more positive attitudes throughout the year.” The next conference is being planned for September 2017 in the Isle of Man.

Addressing social isolation Kensington Primary School and Newham Council’s Manor Park Community Neighbourhood team have launched a scheme that brings together older local residents and young pupils. Kensington Cares is an intergenerational project that encourages older people to visit schools and share their life experiences with Year 5 and 6 students, who are often eager to befriend them.


November / December 16 | The Teacher

Head teacher Ben Levinson said: “This is an opportunity for us to get to know our neighbours, while helping in a small way to address social isolation in older local people. It has broken down barriers and the children and older people now stop for a chat in the street when they meet.”

Trade union rallies Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn spoke about the damaging effect free schools and academies have on school systems at the annual Burston strike school rally in September. The event celebrates the children’s strike that lasted until 1939 after NUT members Annie and Tom Higdon were sacked in 1914 for recruiting labourers into the agricultural workers’ union. Praising the achievements of local education authorities, Mr Corbyn told 3,000 people gathered on the Norfolk village’s green: “You don’t have to be in competition with the school

down the road. You work together with them to provide music and all the other add-ons that are so important. So I want to bring free schools and academies into local democratic control.” Mr Corbyn also warned the number of working class young people going to university would continue to fall if the Government continued to ignore growing inequality in education.

Members from the NUT and five other trade unions joined disabled people, community groups and local councillors to demand an end to Government attacks on public services at the Conservative Conference in Birmingham. NUT General Secretary Kevin Courtney addressed the crowds, where he slammed the Prime Minister’s plans to

create more grammar schools while ignoring issues such as funding cuts and the teacher recruitment crisis. The lively march received an excellent response from the public and culminated in a buoyant rally at Eastside Park, where speakers highlighted the plight of those on the receiving end of the austerity measures.

Professional unity By the time you read this edition of the Teacher both the NUT and ATL will have held special conferences to discuss progress on the formation of a National Education Union bringing together both our unions. In particular, those conferences will have decided whether or not progress is sufficient to ballot members of both unions. If this is agreed it will be an historic step towards our long held policy of professional unity – one union for all teachers. The NUT has long been open to discussions with all the education unions and we have worked successfully with other unions,

including the head teacher unions, on campaigns over many years. In 2014 we wrote to all the teacher unions to ask them to engage in talks about creating a new union. Over the last two years the NUT has held in depth discussions with ATL about a new united union, which could work for members working in schools and across the education sector. Read the report of the conference at to find out the latest on this historic venture.

Got a story? Email our newsdesk at

Photo: Alamy

On the march in Birmingham

Rep stories Protecting each other’s pay

Helena Aksentijevic is a drama teacher and head of Year 11 at her school. At this year’s conference she was awarded the regional rep award for her work campaigning for the rights of a colleague who was refused her pay increment. Although Helena has been teaching for the last 17 years, she only became a rep four years ago. “It’s brilliant, I really love representing members and making sure that management are doing the right thing… it feels worthwhile,” she tells us. Last year there was a member at Helena’s school who wasn’t being progressed along the pay scale due to exam results, despite the fact that she had always been graded as an outstanding teacher. “Everyone felt very strongly that if this person was not progressing, someone who had always been held up as a great example to us, then that would have a bad effect on everyone,” says Helena. As a consequence, all the members of the Union at the school banded together to fight on behalf of their colleague. After sending a signed letter and speaking to the board of governors, they were forced to ballot for strike action where they achieved a 93% turnout and 99% said yes to strike action. “When I told the head teacher I think it scared them a little bit. In the end that teacher was given her pay rise.”


November / December 16 | the Teacher

“It was a really positive experience because everyone on the staff was united,” Helena explains. “The member had actually left the school because she was so traumatised, but even though she had left, the rest of the staff were 100% behind her.”

"It was a really positive experience because everyone on the staff was united." On winning the regional rep award, Helena is quick to say that it doesn’t really feel like her award, and that it was for the whole staff after such a group effort. “We have a great working relationship at our school, we all go out together and socialise which means we get on well – which I think is important in our profession.” Helena stresses that her job is not about fighting management, but working with them to improve the life of the whole school. “It’s about trying to find solutions with my head teacher that have a positive result and which creates happy staff,” she says. “It’s such a rewarding experience. I can’t think of anything negative about being a rep!”

Success stories Every year, the NUT receives hundreds of calls from teachers who’ve not been granted their yearly pay increment. For those in this position, appealing the decision can often seem like a long and frightening process. One member tells us about his experience and how he successfully managed to right this particular wrong. Last academic year Chris Fynes, a music teacher in County Durham, was told he would not be receiving his annual pay increment. “It absolutely knocked my confidence,” says Chris “I felt insecure, annoyed and I had all sorts of negative feelings. As a music teacher I spend hours on extracurricular activities on top of my day-to-day classes and I felt like I had been doing a good job.” Chris's school told him its decision was because his lesson observations had been graded ‘requires improvement’. Chris disagreed that there had been any evidence to support that conclusion. So Chris decided to challenge the decision. He got in touch with his local NUT branch and received help in making his initial appeal in writing. After receiving an extremely unhelpful response to his letter, Chris decided to take his appeal further and demanded a hearing. “You hear lots of negative stories about these things,” says Chris. “I thought it was going to be intimidating, but having someone else from the Union there was a great benefit. The whole thing was a lot more positive than I thought it was going to be.”

After the appeal, Chris had an agonising two weeks wait before hearing the outcome. Finally, he was told he had been successful and that he would receive his pay increment after all. “I was absolutely elated. The head even came down and congratulated me!” Asking him about the process and what he’d like to pass on to other teachers who might be in a similar position, Chris told us: “If anyone is considering challenging a problem at school then they should absolutely go forward with it. I did feel quite alone until I got the Union involved, but it was probably one of the best things I have done in my teaching career. The amount of support I got was fantastic.” Of course Chris is not alone. More and more teachers are finding the confidence to contest unfair pay and management decisions. All the advice you need to pursue an appeal – and to challenge an unfair policy collectively – can be found at Here at the Teacher we want to shout your successes from the roof tops and make sure all teachers know they have a voice – so get in touch and tell us about your success story via:

November / December 16 | the Teacher


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Letters No NUT rep in your workplace? Please elect one! Once a rep has been elected, notify your division/association secretary, whose details are on your membership credential and at: Find out what reps do at A change in your circumstances?

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Please let us know if you: • change your home or school address • change your employment contract (to part-time, fixed-term or supply), where a range of reduced subscriptions apply • are about to retire, take maternity leave, or leave the profession, where differing subscription rates apply • are appointed to a new post such as deputy or head teacher or Senco. Ring 0845 300 1666, visit www.teachers., or write to Records and Subscription Services, NUT, Hamilton House, Mabledon Place, London WC1H 9BD. By providing your email address and mobile number you help the Union to keep you informed of important campaigns and to contact you about professional development courses and events. Need advice? Members in England seeking advice and guidance should contact the NUT AdviceLine at 020 3006 6266, email Members in Wales should phone 029 2049 1818 or email Or get in touch online at:

Please write The editor welcomes your letters but reserves the right to edit them. Write to: Your letters, the Teacher, NUT, Hamilton House, Mabledon Place, London WC1H 9BD or email Letters for the January/February issue should reach us no later than 20 November 2016. Please note we cannot print letters sent in without name and postal address (or NUT membership number), though we can withhold details from publication if you wish.

November / December 16 | the Teacher


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Poem by Michael Rosen Illustration by Dan Berry

Today we offer you social mobility. Do you possess extreme agility? Are you willing to devote some time? “Today wethink offeryou you social Do you have the mobility. ability to climb?

Do you possess extreme agility? Are you willing to devote some time? We’d like you to think that above you there sit Do you think you have the ability to climb? places for lower-class people who’ll fit

because, don’t know, recentest trend sit We’d like you to you think thatthe above you there is forfor upper-class people to choose places lower-class people who’lltofitdescend? because, don’t you know, the recentest trend is for upper-class toyou’re choose to in descend? They respect thepeople fact that living hope. For you they’ll slide down the slippery slope,

They respect thesort factofthat living in hope. they’ll do that thingyou’re because they’re nice For they you believe they’ll in slide slippery slope, the down value ofthe self-sacrifice. They’ll do that sort of thing because they’re nice they believe in the value of self-sacrifice.” Though we don’t have a real aristocracy

nor dowe wedon’t have what callaristocracy meritocracy. Though have they a real With inherited wealth, private education nor do we have what they call meritocracy. and tax avoidance, it’s private a dividededucation nation. With inherited wealth, and tax avoidance, it’s a divided nation. The reason they offer us social mobility

Theisreason offer us social mobility to stop they us thinking about social equality; is tothey stop us thinking social want us to thinkabout everyone willequality; go far theysowant us toaccept thinkthings everyone will goare. far that we’ll just as they so that we’ll accept things just as they are.

November / December 16 | the Teacher


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By Melissa Benn – writer, campaigner and chair of Comprehensive Future

It is hard not to see the Government’s decision to re-open the debate about grammar schools as one more example of this bleak post-Brexit landscape. Theresa May has made much of the opportunities that grammars offer to ‘ordinary working-class families’. However all the evidence points to the opposite, as we know from looking at those parts of the country where selection never went away. Every year tens of thousands of children take the 11-plus exam and are officially declared either winners or losers, before they have even finished primary school. In fully selective areas such as Kent and Buckinghamshire, grammar schools tend to educate the already advantaged and keep out children from poorer families and some ethnic minority backgrounds. On average only 3% of children in receipt of the Pupil Premium get into grammars. Selection further exacerbates the attainment divide. In contrast, successful comprehensive systems, from London to Hampshire, show us what can be achieved when we concentrate on the right elements: excellent teaching, positive discipline, significant investment and proper support systems such as the hugely successful London Challenge. More generally, comprehensive education has offered opportunities to millions of young people over the past


50 years, with steadily rising attainment and far greater numbers going to university. There has also been growing recognition across the political spectrum that non-selective education really can work. But instead of building on this growing consensus, May’s government is dragging us back to an already discredited and failed past. The Government knows it is on weak ground in terms of the evidence, so watch out for some tricky new arguments. Pro-selection politicians and campaigners now insist it is not about division but diversity, increasing specialisation in a diverse schools market and the need simply to open up grammars to children from different backgrounds. Don’t be fooled. It is about division. Every time you set up a selective school, even if you re-badge it a Centre of Excellence, it has a negative impact on the intake, results and overall mood of surrounding schools. And shouldn’t all our schools be encouraged to become Centres of Excellence? As for opening up grammars to more children, which might mean lowering the bar on the entrance test, we might as well call this an allability school and drop the selective entrance tests altogether! You can view all the Government's education consultations at and I would urge all members to make clear your rejection of these backward-looking ideas.

You can learn more about Melissa’s work and join the Comprehensive Future campaign at:


November / December 16 | the Teacher


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Profiting from poverty From Nigeria to Burma, foreign aid money is being channelled into forprofit schemes that deprive children of education and line the pockets of private companies… and UK taxpayers’ money is helping it happen. Photo: iStock

Less than a year ago, a report published by the NUT and 13 other global organisations lifted the lid on the UK’s role in privatising education across the developing world. The report detailed how the UK Government’s Department for International Development (DfID) invests millions of pounds on initiatives promoting fee-paying schools in Asia and Africa, where poorly trained teachers using pre-prepared scripts in large classrooms is commonplace. A recent study by Education International further incriminates DfID by naming and shaming one of their aid recipients, Bridge International Academies (BIA). In August, the Permanent Secretary of Uganda closed all BIA schools in the country after they failed to meet educational standards. The study found that nine out of ten BIA teachers were unlicensed, in direct contravention of Uganda’s Education Act (2008), and that children were often given tablets with pre-loaded lessons rather than having teachers lead classes. “This report on Uganda shows that BIA continues to undermine the provision of education as a human right and a public good in the global south,” commented Kevin Courtney, NUT General Secretary. “BIA is supported by DfID and both are complicit in compromising the rights of poor children who cannot afford to go to these so called low-cost schools by damaging the provision of state education.”

Such fee-paying schools are often out of the reach of many families, further marginalising poorer children and entrenching inequality in the communities in which they are founded. As such the UK Government’s funding of BIA means that it's potentially in contravention of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child by not providing education to all children in need. But it is not only government money that is causing a problem. Global Justice Now argues that charities such as the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, a fellow funder of BIA, are promoting corporate globalisation and profiteering that does not address the root causes of poverty. “As it stands, public money and venture philanthropy is perpetuating a cycle of poverty and inequality in some of the most deprived communities around the world," says Samidha Garg, International Relations Officer at the NUT. “The only way to ensure development aid money is serving its intended purpose and reaching those most in need, is to promote investments in free, public and accountable school systems that are accessible to all children. Only then will social and economic justice triumph.”

You can read the Education International study in full at: DOC_Final_28sept.pdf November / December 16 | the Teacher


Measuring learning There must be a better way… Leading academics have come out in force in Mis-Measurement of Learning, a landmark new publication from the NUT that collects a series of articles debating the ongoing crisis in primary education. Here, in advance of the full publication, due out in November, we share two extracts to give you a taste of what’s in store…

Three assessment myths By John Coe, National Association for Primary Education On 3 May 2016 a new chapter was opened in the story of state education. On that day, up and down the country, thousands of parents and carers kept their children out of school. Teachers had not prompted them; this was an entirely spontaneous act that needed no more than a Facebook page to generate action. A message of "enough is enough" was sent loud and clear to the Government: stop the incessant testing that is hurting our children and find another way of assessing their progress. As we join parents in attacking the testing that is blighting our children’s learning, we have to expose the three myths about assessment that are assiduously promoted by the Government. We hear that "harder tests raise standards of achievement", yet the absolute reverse is true. When you pitch the level


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of difficulty so far above the heads of children that half of them fail, you separate assessment from the act of learning itself. In this way you distort school life and reduce it to mere preparation for the next test. Such testing lowers true standards of achievement. Too often a line is spun that "test results are an accurate measure of progress through primary school". But a test is only a snapshot of performance at a particular moment, and even then only of what is inherently measureable. Testing reveals only limited aspects of human development, because performance in a test cannot show how far knowledge and skill are embedded in the individual or drawn upon in real activity. Finally, we’ve all been told how "teacher assessments can’t be trusted". This particular myth reflects the general lack of trust in the profession, evidenced by politicians as they use

children’s test results to hold schools accountable. In fact we can trust teacher assessments a good deal more than the scores achieved in ‘one shot’ tests of children – who are coached to perform and then, inevitably, forget. From now on we must work with parents and carers, as they begin to learn of the damage done to their children’s

lives by the current testing regime. With them we will find a better way to judge children’s progress. We choose to teach young children and are fortunate in receiving all the human rewards that such work brings; yet when we assess we have to reach into the mind of the child and see them more dispassionately. It is indeed a formidable professional challenge and we will not fail.

Everyone's educational future is always in the making By Dr. Patrick Yarker, University of East Anglia A child is more than a level, grade or score. So obvious a truth should not need stating. Yet the need to do so reveals how far the policies that intensify high-stakes testing and penalise schools for not meeting imposed exam targets have reconstructed our education system. Education has moved away from any concern for the child as a whole person towards a disproportionate focus on tests and attainment. Whatever their reservations, teachers are constrained by the assessment system to acknowledge a child's test-score – from phonics and SATs through to GCSEs – as a proxy for learning. These grades are little but a reductive abstraction, yet they have come to stand in for the true dynamic, multifaceted reality of the learner. Our testing system is now built on the untenable assumption of smooth and evenly calibrated linear progress. This does not reflect real learning and is statistically unreliable. It leads to flawed statements about ‘expected progress’ and school effectiveness. Scoring also works to encourage fixed-ability thinking about pupils, and the idea of a child having a given amount of 'ability' has practical consequences. Children are routinely grouped by ability in classrooms, and then presented with differentiated curricula or levels of challenge, response to which tends to re-confirm the given ability label. Designation by ability can even affect the way that teachers respond to children and give rise to inequitable

To order your free copy please email with your name and contact details.

treatment, often reproducing structural inequalities of social class, gender and ethnicity. What perpetuates the idea of fixed-ability, and the prophetic pedagogy associated with it, is the belief that children come in kinds. Under our current system each child must be categorised as soon as possible into the bright, the average and the less able. Or, under this renewed clamour for grammar schools, segregated into academic and nonacademic. But children do not come in kinds. Each child is unique. A more educationally productive way of thinking about the learner would not only recognise them as unique, but as capable of remaking knowledge – not just receiving it – provided conditions are right. It would acknowledge that everyone's educational future remains unwritten, unpredictable, open to change, and that teachers have the power to affect that future for the better. Fixed-ability thinking has become naturalised in our education system. It appears as professional common sense rather than as domestication by an ideology. It endures even when learners perform in ways that belie their designated ability label. Any alternative to fixed-ability thinking must dare to re-consider pedagogic principles and encompass a recuperated view of the child as a learner untrammelled by fixed innate limits.

More Than a Score Conference on Primary Assessment Saturday 3 December, London Speakers include Michael Rosen, Tanya Landman and Wynne Harlen OBE For free tickets register at:

November / December 16 | the Teacher


Mapping school cuts An innovative new website, launched by the NUT and ATL, is set to map and lay bare the funding cuts that schools in England will face by 2020. Here the project’s founder, Andrew Baisley, tells us how this groundbreaking project came about… is a new web tool that uses Government data and spending plans to allow any parent in England to find their child’s school, and in one click learn the budget cuts that it faces – should funding plans remain as they are. After entering your postcode, schools appear on the website’s map. For the first time we can visualise how areas are going to be hurt by Government funding plans, and unfortunately it makes for quite an eye-opener. Here the combined impact of the Government’s plans for a new system for funding schools by redistributing money around the country, as well as the effect of its funding freeze, inflation and other cost increases can be seen. Our site clearly shows that inner city schools across Birmingham, Bristol, Liverpool, Manchester and London – in fact across most cities – are looking at up to 15% cuts in real terms by 2020. Contrary to the Government’s ‘we’re all in it together’ mantra, if your child’s school is in one of England’s bottom most 10% deprived areas, it will be facing on average a £900 cut per pupil. The Government will say that the current system is not fair and that money must be redistributed across the country. But the site shows that, after inflation is taken into account, schools in rural areas will rarely fare better either and that coastal towns are very badly hit. Across Yorkshire, Sussex and Somerset, some schools are looking at 10% cuts.


with either a rise in inflation or pupil numbers. Crucially they have not promised both and, as the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) has declared, the result will be the largest real terms fall in spending on schools in a generation. Under these plans, schools are either losers or worse losers and there are almost no winners. The only solution that will ensure children receive quality state education, whether they live in the inner city or in a rural village, is simply for the Government to spend more money on education funding.

Perhaps most shocking is what the Government considers to be a fair way of redistributing funding. The Government is not planning any increase in funding overall – so any increase for the lowest funded schools will be paid for taking money away from other schools. And, after inflation and other cost increases, almost every school will be worse off.

We hope that will stimulate a national debate on education funding and put pressure on politicians to put a stop to the slow erosion of school budgets. The site will also soon offer data on the cuts facing sixth form colleges in England and schools in Wales, which are subject to their own challenging funding issues.

George Osborne and now Justine Greening have tried to hide these cuts behind a promise to ‘protect school funding’ in line

See how schools in your area might fare and help us spread the word by visiting:

November / December 16 | the Teacher

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Meet Kevin After six years as Deputy General Secretary under the leadership of Christine Blower, in July Kevin Courtney was overwhelmingly voted in as new General Secretary of the National Union of Teachers. We sat down with Kevin to find out about his first few months in office and his vision for the Union. You’ve been General Secretary for three months now, how are you finding it? I’m finding it busy. Very busy. It’s been an astonishing three months. We’ve had the Brexit referendum, a change of Prime Minister, a change of Secretary of State, a change of Shadow Secretary of State. We’ve had a retreat on forced academisation, a delay on the consultation on the funding formula, the announcement of grammar schools and I’ve been to four party conferences plus the TUC… so safe to say it’s been a very busy period! Your history with the Union goes back some time. How long have you been involved with the NUT? I’ve been with the Union since I first started teaching at Camden School for Girls in 1983. I joined as a student member in 1982 and within my first year of teaching I took over as school rep. I’ve always thought trade unionism and political campaigning is important, that you have to stand up for what you believe in. But I never expected to come as far or be as involved as becoming General Secretary. So what drew you further into the Union movement? Even as a student I was quite politically active, getting involved in the anti-apartheid campaign for instance. I liked the idea of coming together with people to try and change things for the better. During my time as a rep the events of the miners’ strike began to unfold and unions across the UK became more and more active. It brought everybody together and I quickly got involved with my local branch in Camden and the local teachers’ association, eventually becoming local branch secretary. Even at that local level we managed to run campaigns that I’m still extremely proud of, including winning big increases in maternity pay for teachers – some eight weeks extra. I’ve still got the poster in my office. In 2006 I was elected to the National Executive and, after the untimely demise of Steve Sinnott in 2010, I talked to my friends and family and decided to stand for Deputy General Secretary (DGS) and won.


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How have things changed for teachers since you took office as DGS? Some things have changed dramatically since 2010. Academisation is the first thing that comes to mind. But a lot of change has been relatively continuous since the Great Education Reform Act in 1988, which brought in SATS and school league tables, and Ofsted came in around the same time as well. Even those who think that the Act had some positive effect in the beginning would have to agree that the pendulum has swung too far. Teachers are being expected to produce evidence of what they’re doing all the time and teaching hours have gone up. In fact they’ve gone up again since 2010. Really, every time a politician makes some rhetorical statement about driving up standards, they drive up the lack of trust put in teachers and drive up the demands of evidence from teachers. So now that you are General Secretary, what can Union members expect from the NUT? One move I’d like to see is towards creating one united Union. Talks are currently happening between the NUT and ATL so there could be some big changes ahead. We also want to start providing alternatives to Government policies. For example, we know that SATs are the wrong way, but we increasingly have to speak up with a better alternative. Members can also look out for the Union increasingly speaking out on social justice matters. If we want the best education for our children we have to recognise that the poverty and inequality some children suffer does increasingly hold them back. The Government has started to discuss this, which is a good sign, but we want action, not sentiment; and I’ve seen nothing in their actions that would actually improve things. Are there any other key campaigns you’d like the Union to prioritise? There is a real potential to build campaigns over school funding, Key Stage 2 SATs and workload. But the fight for pensions is something that we also need to revisit.

Photo: Jess Hurd

“ You can probably guess that I’m also a huge advocate for social justice."

I was pleased that the NUT was at the heart of the campaign when Michael Gove attacked pensions, but in truth, with the workload they have now, teachers won’t be able to work until they’re 68 and so there will be increasing numbers of teachers who’ll leave earlier with insufficient pensions. You can probably guess that I’m also a huge advocate for social justice, and the growth in racism that is affecting our pupils following the Bexit vote is

something that I’m determined to face head on. We need to reassure our children, their parents and our overseas teachers that they are welcome here. Before we go, tell us something about yourself that readers may not know… Tom Jones is my mother’s cousin. I met him a couple of times when I was younger and I did have a pint with him in a pub in 1987!

November / December 16 | the Teacher





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For many teachers the first few years in school are exciting and exhausting in equal measure. Becoming active in the Union may seem like an additional burden while navigating the rollercoaster of a new career. But for thousands of teachers, involvement in the Union has provided surprising opportunities. We caught up with three such young teachers to find out how being active in the NUT has shaped their early careers.

World of possibilities by Niparun, secondary teacher, Rochdale I originally joined the ATL, NASUWT and NUT as a student teacher and later as an NQT. My first year was extremely tough with a tiring workload and while I’m not normally someone who cries, I found myself having regular meltdowns and barely made it to Christmas. At the beginning of my second term as a teacher I attended the NUT’s NQT weekend at Stoke Rochford Hall, which opened my eyes to all the things the NUT did. It was an amazing residential weekend where I received a lot of advice that helped me better manage my work-life balance. It might sound strange, but it was great to meet people who were also struggling as well. Better still, we all kept in touch and supported each other throughout our first years. After this I attended the NUT behaviour management training and a regional

November / December 16 | the Teacher


young teacher weekend. I decided to get more involved with the local committee. I’d already gained so much from the Union and felt that I should give something back. So I became a joint Young Teachers Officer for Oldham and we organised our first local event. We invited teachers under 36 and teachers of any age who are new to the profession to a meal, where they could share their stories and experiences. I wanted to support new and young teachers as I remember how hard it can be (and still is) when you are just starting out.

Since taking this role I’ve had some eye-opening experiences and met so many inspiring people. Just this summer I went to volunteer in a school in Calais with NUT members and saw how much people valued education whilst living with very little. I am now in my eighth year of teaching, and while workload is always tough, the Union has allowed me the flexibility to only take on what I can manage. I have gained more CPD from Union events than in school and would highly recommend everyone to get involved in any way, big or small!

Challenging rewards by James, primary teacher, London Teaching has been exactly what I expected, both exhausting and hugely rewarding. Like many NQTs I have found behaviour management difficult. I can’t seem to get it right. On Monday I will be too lenient, Tuesday too strict. Despite this particular challenge and the constant fatigue, I’m enjoying it. The cliché is real: the best thing has to be the kids. When I decided to become a teacher I also quickly decided that I wanted to become active in the NUT. Alongside my year group colleagues, it’s been my Union reps who’ve been most helpful in showing me the ropes.

The main change to my life since starting teaching in September is that now I go to bed about three hours earlier. Combined with marking and preparation in the evening, this has not done wonders for my social life. Nonetheless, I’ve tried to find time to get involved in the NUT and have attended several events: an association meeting, a social for NQTs and a London-wide meeting of young teachers. Each time I’ve met people who share my concerns about what is happening to our schools and our children, including many more experienced teachers who have been more than happy to share some words of advice. Without the NUT, my first few weeks in the profession would not have been the same. The nature of our work means that we need a union and we need a professional association. NUT seems to be both. I’m new, so at the moment what I really need is the latter. I’ve already benefited a lot from the CPD and networking opportunities. In the longer-term, it’s the campaigning and industrial side of the Union that I am most invested in. We need to stick together to defend our rights and to improve our living standards. I want my evenings back for a start. But more importantly, there is no National Union of Children so often it falls to us to defend their education, their mental health, and their future prospects. This is a big task but the alternative is too frightening to contemplate. So I’m 100% committed to it. I’ll get started as soon as I can work out how to get the kids to listen to me.


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Paying it forward by Chika, primary teacher, Manchester I remember walking into the university lobby and being attracted like a magpie to all these shiny things, my eyes focused on a stall filled with bright highlighters and pretty stationery. A free goodie bag could be mine if I joined. “Where do I sign?” That was the start of my relationship with the NUT. Drawn in by bags of freebies, I joined several other teaching unions as a student, but decided to stick with the NUT as my career progressed, since they were the most visible in my area and I appreciated the regular emails and easy access information. In my second term of teaching, I attended a regional young teachers weekend. I still regard those two days as the most important 48 hours in my career to date. Not only did I get the chance to meet many other young teachers, some of whom I am still friends with today, I also became familiar with how the Union was organised, and took part in some useful and thought-provoking CPD. In the beginning I was enthusiastic and eager to make a difference as a teacher. Unfortunately, after a brief encounter with an unsupportive school and the real-life incarnation of The Demon Headmaster, I lost my spark and seriously considered walking away from the classroom. One night, in utter despair, I called the then Teacher Support Network. As I sobbed, they listened, consoled and most importantly advised me to contact my local NUT office, which I did the very next day. The help and support I received was invaluable and I am in no doubt that it’s the main reason why I am still teaching today. Everyone needs to feel like there is someone on their side and that phone call helped me to find my team.

After this experience I knew that I wanted to get more involved in the NUT. I love the idea of “paying it forward” and I wanted to give back. I started attending committee meetings with a friend, and through them heard about other events. In the last year I have joined the Young Teachers’ Advisory Committee, attended the TUC Black Workers' Conference, the Young Teachers' Conference and also the Black Teachers' Conference. I’ve met so many other teachers, both new and experienced, and had the pleasure of discussing the issues that affect our profession. I’ve received stellar advice and have been given countless inspirational ideas. At a recent conference I heard someone say that the trade union movement is the working man’s lawyer. I love the sentiment of this statement, but I feel it needs to be expanded. The Union is a friend, a confidant, a leader and a mentor. It’s something we all need and it needs us.

Young Teachers' Conference The 12th annual Young Teachers' Conference is due to take place from 22-24 June 2017 at Stoke Rochford Hall. The conference provides an opportunity for teachers aged 35 and under to discuss the common issues that they face and work out practical and creative solutions. The conference offers a variety of pedagogical and trade

union workshops, inspiring keynote speakers, plays, a disco and quizzes. The Young Teachers' Conference is not to be missed! To book a place please apply online: or email:

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All together It would be nice to think that, as the years go by, we become more inclusive as a society. But when nearly half of disabled teachers comment in an NUT survey that they are not confident in disclosing their disability or health condition when applying for a new job, it is clear that something isn’t working… One out of three disabled teachers who have left the profession claim they have done so because teaching was too tiring, stressful and difficult an occupation with their disability or health condition. Mandy Hudson, the current Equality Seat Holder for disabled members on the NUT National Executive explains that too often schools fail to provide reasonable adjustments for disabled staff and pupils, adding: “This kind of access is a human right which the Union continues to support as it represents disabled teachers and campaigns for an inclusive education system for all.” The NUT recognises the social model of disability, which asserts that an individual's impairments do not disable them, rather the barriers created by society do. Bearing this in mind the NUT is proud of the way in which it collaborates with disabled teachers to celebrate their work in the classroom and demand equality as outlined in the Equality Act 2010. Vin Wynne, Senior Organiser for disabled members, says that disabled teachers need to organise regionally if they are to affect change. “We want to build a safe communicative space for teachers with impairments in order to encourage discussion and the development of ideas. Campaigning for teachers with disability needs a higher profile.” As such the NUT is calling on its disabled members to come forward and form regional groups in their local areas, which will be the backbone of a network of disabled teachers. Colleen Johnson, a primary school teacher from Birmingham, knows only too well the barriers that teachers with impairments can face. “When I started teaching on my PGCE course in 1986 I asked people in the school if they thought I could be a teacher? I suppose I meant do you think I'll be accepted as a teacher, because of my disability. They said, almost mysteriously, ‘only you can know that!’ So they hadn't got a clue really. Eventually I wised up and gradually became more politicised as a disabled person.” Part of the NUT’s history of support for disabled teachers was the establishment of the NUT Disabled Teachers’ Conference. Set up almost 20 years ago, it is a key event in the NUT 30

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calendar where delegates can meet and network with other disabled teachers from across England and Wales. “The NUT Disabled Teachers' Conference was a great place to discover support, and widen my knowledge of disability issues in schools and society. It helped me to understand the Union view on equality and equality promotion and to know that you are not fighting alone,” one delegate told us. “The NUT has made a huge difference to me,” says Colleen. “It's a matter of personal identity as well as professional support. I know equality work is very important to our Union going forward. Members support one another by sharing their experience and knowledge, which is good. We all want to see a more diverse teaching profession and so we have to get organised.” Now is a particularly pertinent time to address the challenges that our disabled teachers face, as 22 November marks the start of UK Disability History Month (UKDHM), which runs through to 22 December. The event creates a platform from which participants can focus on the history of disabled people and their fight for equality and human rights. “UKDHM is now in its seventh year," says Richard Rieser, UKDHM Organiser. “It provides an excellent opportunity for teachers to focus on disability in the curriculum and hold a Union meeting to consider equality for disabled staff. The definition is much broader than most people think, covering 19% of the UK population.“ “It is our turn to document this history and to become agents of change within our communities,” reads the tagline on the UKDHM website. Hopefully, with the support of the NUT and the establishment of regional and local networks set up by disabled members, teachers with impairments can finally enjoy the open, level playing field that should be every worker’s entitlement.

If you would like to set up a disabled network in your area please talk to your Division Secretary or contact Vin Wynne on: For more information on UK Disability History Month please visit: November / December 16 | the Teacher


This November marks a milestone for the Union as it celebrates 25 years since the very first NUT Black Teachers’ conference. Aptly, the theme of this year’s conference is Looking Back and Moving Forward, so here at the Teacher we thought now would be the perfect time to look back at the Union’s history of campaigning for black teachers*, and forward to what the Union has in store in 2017 and beyond. While the Black Teachers’ Conference (BTC) has been at the centre of the NUT’s campaigning for racial equality for the last 25 years, the Union’s history of standing up for the rights of black pupils and teachers goes back much further. Since the 1970s the Union has been publishing specialist resources and materials to help promote racial equality in schools. Its first publication In Black and White was a groundbreaking guideline for teachers on racial stereotyping in text books and learning materials. In the years following, the NUT commissioned a range of resources, policy guidance and research into racial issues


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including giving evidence to the Rampton Committee of Inquiry into the education of children from ethnic minority groups. Of course the Union doesn’t work alone. Always believing that two heads are better than one, and that collective voices shout louder, over the years the NUT has joined forces with a number of organisations such as Show Racism the Red Card and the Anthony Walker Foundation to develop practical educational resources for teachers on how to challenge racism, anti-immigrant racism and Islamophobia. In 2007, the NUT reached another important marker in its timeline, when Baljeet Ghale became the first ever Black President of the Union. Having attended the Black Teachers' Conference since it first began in 1991, we asked for her perspective on the Union’s campaigning, and how conditions for black teachers have changed over the years.

The Black Teachers' Conference 2017 takes place 11 – 13 November. A full report of the event will be available in the next issue of the Teacher.

Photo: Andrew Wiard

For resources and more information on how to become involved with the Black Teachers’ network please visit: equality/black-teachers

Baljeet, you’ve been involved in the Union for some time. What initially drew you to the NUT? Choosing the NUT as the teaching union to join was not a difficult choice. This Union has always been the most vocal and active of all the teaching unions. I’ve been a member of the NUT from my college days, since 1977, and a teacher of English in London schools since 1981, so 36 years altogether. 36 years is a long time in the profession. How have things changed for black teachers since the start of your career? In the early days there were far fewer black faces visible in staffrooms. And often if there were, they would be compartmentalised into certain departments such as EAL and SEN, and not in any management roles. Now, there are certainly more black teachers in positions of responsibility in management and across all subjects. Certainly, this is the case in my current school but unfortunately this is not, as it should be, replicated across the country. And during that time, how has the Union supported black teachers’ rights? Our Union fights against divisive Government diktat and for the best conditions of service for all teachers. But it also takes those teachers most adversely affected by changes and encourages them to engage in and lead the

campaigns, which ensures they are not silently accepting discriminatory policies. And what about the Black Teachers' Conference? Why did you become involved? I attended the very first NUT Black Teachers’ Conference back in 1991 and have only missed four or five since. The conference provides an opportunity for black teachers to come together and learn from one another, to develop as professionals and discuss issues that affect us as teachers. It is also a place where we can debate the direction of Union’s policies and how best to influence its course. As a black teacher and as someone who has always been active in the Union, being involved in the conference is absolutely fundamental to ensure that the voices of black teachers are heard. It’s important to be part of a supportive network and to help guide the Union. What do you hope the BTC/Union focuses on now, with regards to black teachers and their place in the profession? I think the conference needs to continue focusing on involving those that attend to become integral to the work of the Union: to become part of their local associations; to stand for officer and committee positions; to stand for executive positions; and, at a school level to become reps and Union activists. Only by doing so will the make-up of the Union truly reflect its membership.

*The NUT uses the term ‘black’ in a political context to encompass all members who self-identify as black or Asian and all other minority ethnic groups who do not identify themselves as white.

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n o i n U r u o Y NUT at party conferences Over the last six weeks the UK’s major political parties gathered for their annual conferences, and the NUT was there amongst the thick of it to keep education at the top of the agenda… With new leaders at the helm of two major parties, and a reaffirmed leader of the opposition, this year’s conference season was always going to be lively. In education the recently published Schools that Work for Everyone green paper provided an interesting backdrop, as the Government’s plans for more selection and grammar schools came to the fore.

(and NUT member) Vix Lowthion, who made the important point that teachers, unions and parents need to develop links to stand up for education. The meeting also heard from ATL General Secretary Dr Mary Bousted, who highlighted the incongruous current situation of local authorities having a legal duty to provide sufficient school places, but no powers to force academies to expand pupil intake.

The NUT always works hard to have a high-profile presence at the party conferences. They are an excellent opportunity for the Union to meet with opinion-formers and decision makers – school governors, councillors, MPs, Peers and party activists. We have thousands of conversations at the conferences and leave people both with a better understanding of the key concerns of the teaching profession and our solutions to the challenges being experienced in schools and colleges.

Next up was the Liberal Democrats, who gathered in Brighton for their conference. Speaking at our fringe meeting, General Secretary Kevin Courtney explained that the NUT and the ATL were working together to give a louder voice to the teaching profession. He described as ‘disgraceful’ the situation this summer of the expected ‘standard’ being placed beyond the reach of half of 11 year olds.

Coming together ahead of the professional unity special conference in November, the NUT and ATL held joint stands and fringe events to help refocus the education debate on more pressing issues in education; including funding shortfalls, this year’s primary assessment chaos and teacher workload. The Green Party kicked off a busy few weeks with its conference in Birmingham, where it was announced that Caroline Lucas MP and Jonathan Bartley had been elected as co-leaders. An NUT fringe meeting heard from the Greens' education spokesperson


November / December 16 | the Teacher

Later the Liberal Democrat spokesperson for children in the House of Lords, Baroness Pinnock, addressed the meeting about the need for proper democratic accountability for schools as they had gradually disappeared out of view for local communities and local councillors. Councillor Henry Vann of Bedford Borough Council remarked how the Government would do far better to focus on the early years given that 40% of educational disadvantage hits a child before they arrive at school. At the Labour Party conference in Liverpool, the NUT held a joint meeting with the University and College Union (UCU) on the Government’s plans for teacher education.

A joint NUT and ATL panel at Labour Party Conference. Photo: Danny Fitzpatrick

Here Kevin Courtney expressed concern that if Ministers continue moves towards a purely school-based training system, hard-pressed schools may train the teachers they need, rather than those that the education service as a whole needs. Mike Watson, Labour’s education spokesperson in the House of Lords, made a welcome commitment that a Labour government would protect the position of universities as the prime trainers of teachers.

Society to speak at its conference fringe meeting, where he stated that the Government’s top priority should be alleviating the funding pressures in schools. The Chair of the Society – a secondary school teacher himself – agreed, describing how in his own school the pressure on budgets meant they could no longer afford textbooks. By way of illustration he showed the audience the photocopied handouts he was using with his pupils instead of textbooks.

Shadow Education Secretary, Angela Rayner MP and Cllr Nick Forbes, Leader of the Labour Group at the LGA, featured at a packed NUT/LGA meeting. The panel drew applause for saying that workload of no educational purpose was driving teachers out of the profession and exacerbating teacher shortages.

The NUT and UCU held another joint discussion on teacher education in Birmingham. Pam Tatlow of the university think tank Million+ said a national planning system was needed to ensure that we train a sufficient number of teachers. The President of UCU suggested the Government needed to understand that being an expert in a subject and being an expert teacher were very different things. Similarly, Kevin Courtney said the Government was misguided to try and take universities out of the equation when it comes to teacher training.

Kevin Courtney was also a speaker at the NUT’s joint meeting with ATL at the Labour Conference. This meeting heard from Gordon Marsden MP, Shadow Education Minister, who said that if the Government were at all serious about social mobility they would bring back high quality careers advice and work experience. The final conference of the season fell to the Conservative’s gathering in Birmingham, where the scale of opposition to the green paper proposals amongst party members and parts of the parliamentary party quickly became apparent. A straw poll at the NUT/ATL fringe meeting found approximately half of attendees registering their disapproval of the plans for more grammar schools. At this meeting the ATL’s Mary Bousted said schools couldn’t compensate for gross inequality and that the societies which do particularly well in education are more equal societies. Emma Knights of the National Governors Association pointed to the findings of its joint survey with the Times Educational Supplement which had found deep dissatisfaction amongst governors in England with Government policy. 53% had registered a ‘very negative’ verdict on how the Government had performed in its first year. Kevin Courtney was invited by the Conservative Education

Justine Greening’s first speech as Education Secretary to the Conference as Secretary of State for Education included an announcement of £60 million targeted funding for ‘social mobility coldspots’. In response the Union said this figure was a drop in the ocean compared with the 8% real terms funding cuts to schools, which will result in £2.5 billion being removed from the education system. As the conference season drew to a close, and with the Chancellor expected to make his autumn statement to Parliament in late November, it was clear that more would need to be done to persuade the Government to change course, invest in education and deliver an overall uplift in funding for all schools in all parts of England and Wales. The NUT is dedicated to keeping up the pressure, and the best way is for our members to spread the message far and wide. Teachers should visit the Union’s innovative new funding website to email their MP about how schools in their area will be affected.

November / December 16 | the Teacher


e h t Ask n o i n U In my school ‘learning walks’ take place on a regular basis and I am unsure as to the status of these activities. Do they count as observations for the purpose of appraisal? Does the NUT have any guidance on the way in which learning walks should operate?

• Pupils will not be asked for their views of an individual teacher during any learning walk

The NUT believes that learning walks should be developmental and constructive – not judgemental – and should be a whole-school improvement activity rather than focused on individual teachers’ performance. There should not be an attempt to use this approach as part of capability procedures or for appraisal. The NUT has a protocol for the conduct of learning walks. This is available at:

• There will be no evaluation of an individual teacher during a learning walk

The following factors are important:

If your experience of learning walks is different to this, you should raise the matter with management, with the assistance of your NUT rep where possible. See also teachers. for details of how NUT members can use the NUT’s programme of action short of strike action to tackle issues such as this.


• The programme and timetable will be agreed with teachers so that they know the date, time and focus of the learning walk and who will be conducting it

• Those teachers whose classes are visited will be given the opportunity to see any written records which have been made during a learning walk

• Regular reviews of the operation of learning walks will be held with all staff • Any teacher whose classroom is visited will have the visit counted towards an overall maximum of three observations per year, each of up to an hour in length.

• All learning walks will be undertaken in a supportive and professional manner, with a maximum of two colleagues involved at any time

Contact the NUT AdviceLine on 020 3006 6266 or email Members in Wales should contact NUT Cymru on 029 2049 1818 or email


November / December 16 | the Teacher

I’ve been told that my pay progression depends on a certain percentage of my ‘A’ level students achieving a C grade. Is this acceptable?


Appraisal targets based on test or exam results are known as ‘numerical objectives’. Reviewers often want to set numerical objectives but they are not a reliable measure of performance. No teacher can guarantee to achieve exact percentages because pupil attainment is affected by many factors outside a teacher’s control. It’s also very difficult to establish a firm link between student progress and the input of any individual teacher. NUT advice is to avoid numerical objectives unless they’re reasonable and it’s accepted that anything outside your control, which affects the outcome, will be taken into account. Where possible, try to agree appraisal objectives with your reviewer at the beginning of the appraisal cycle. Many school/ academy pay policies support this approach. Resist pressure to accept objectives you’re unhappy with. Where agreement


isn’t possible and an objective is imposed, challenge it at the outset and record your objections in writing. If during the year you become concerned you might not meet your objectives, discuss this with your reviewer, ask for any support you may need, and ask for objectives or timescales to be modified. Where your appraisal review leads to a decision to deny you pay progression, you can appeal. Check your school/academy pay policy for details and consult the relevant section of the NUT Pay Toolkit – see below. Meanwhile, consider how your colleagues have fared. If others have progressed, this may be evidence that you’ve been treated unfairly and inconsistently. If others have been turned down too, you should consider collectively challenging the pay policy. You can seek support from the NUT locally to do this. For comprehensive NUT guidance on pay progression see the NUT Pay Toolkit at:

I have recently found out I’m pregnant and I intend to take maternity leave, but I’m unsure about my entitlements. How can I find this information?

Your employer will be able to provide you with a copy of the teachers’ maternity scheme which applies to you. In many cases this will be the Burgundy Book scheme or equivalent. Teachers are also covered by statutory entitlements.


Maternity arrangements can be complicated and you are likely to have many questions during your maternity leave and beyond. To assist, the NUT has created a comprehensive guide that explains the various maternity and parental rights available to all teachers, whether full or part-time. The guide is available at:

Send your questions to: Ask the Union, The Teacher, NUT, Hamilton House, Mabledon Place, London WC1H 9BD or email

It is impossible to anticipate every potential question about maternity entitlement but this guidance will answer the majority of the questions you are likely to have. If any aspect remains unclear, members in England should contact the NUT AdviceLine on 020 3006 6266 or email: Members in Wales should contact NUT Cymru on 029 2049 1818 or email:

November / December 16 | the Teacher


School books Amazing Assemblies for Primary Schools is a new book that looks to bring some creative learning to children’s mornings. We sat down with author Mike Kent, himself a head teacher with some 30 years experience, to learn a little more about the potential of assemblies. Hi Mike, could you explain to our readers the idea behind Amazing Assemblies? I’ve always believed that assemblies are very important, shared occasions for children, staff and head teachers. I always wanted children to come away from one of my assemblies enthused about whatever theme I’d introduced. The best way to do that is to present something that children find fascinating. Young children have a real thirst for knowledge and an endless fascination with the world around them, which we as teachers need to nurture. By providing a great start to the day, children can be inspired and teachers given themes which they may want to develop in their own classrooms. Why is it important that children don’t have a bad assembly? If children experience a bad assembly, there is no point in having one! Many of us, especially older teachers, remember school assemblies that bored us to tears. If we didn’t actually fall asleep, we couldn’t believe that time could stand still for so long. When I began teaching back in the sixties, I learned very quickly how an assembly shouldn’t be done. At my first school we’d file into the hall, there was usually a telling off because a school rule had been broken, a hymn would be sung, and out we’d go again. It was an utterly pointless 20 minutes that children gained nothing from.


November / December 16 | the Teacher

How did you keep your assemblies interesting and educational? I would often bring my own hobbies and interests into an assembly, and these themes could last for a week or more. For instance I once showed children how I restored a 1970s Mini, starting on Monday’s assembly with a photograph of the car as it came when I bought it, and finishing on Friday with a picture of a gleaming, fully restored car. In between, they learned how a car works and how I restored all the various parts. Do you worry about the opportunity for creative learning being narrowed in schools? Yes, enormously. Just take music for example. In my school every child in Key Stage 2 played at least one instrument, we had two choirs, a jazz group, three large guitar groups, a brass ensemble and a full, 30 piece orchestra that played at all sorts of functions. In today’s climate, it simply isn’t possible to offer primary children those kind of facilities. And if you could give one tip for any teachers looking to plan an amazing assembly… Think of something that will make the children go ‘WOW!' and work from there. Amazing Assemblies for Primary Schools is out now by Crown Publishing.



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Teachers need time to learn By Paul Howard, Education Consultant and NUT member

Continuing professional development is often one of the first casualties of external pressures on schools. In the face of continuous demands for improvement in narrowly defined outcomes, head teachers may find it increasingly difficult to justify the release of teachers on courses. But, understandable as this might seem at face value, the reality is that it creates a counter-productive system for us all. To sustain teachers’ involvement in CPD, the Union has designed a range of courses that aim to provide measurable, practical development. One such is the Early Career Teachers' course Adding Values & Enhancing Practice for members in the first three to four years of their career. Building on the Reclaiming Schools campaign, the course focuses on an exploration of shared values and our reasons for becoming a teacher, to establish our connection with a broader professional culture and the concepts of pedagogy, relationships and agency. Agency – a vested personal interest and the ability to act independently – has a prominent position in the Union’s CPD programme and is vital for the wellbeing of our profession. Teachers need to be both supported and challenged as active agents not only in the delivery of a curriculum, but also in the evolution of professional practice. A failure to

strengthen agency in teachers heightens the risk of our profession being reduced to a largely technical process, with teachers as mere technicians. Of course, CPD per se does not deliver greater agency. For instance, however extensive, a programme of in-service training grounded in a didactic, instructional approach would do nothing to foster professional engagement or personal responsibility. This is why the Union has gone to considerable lengths to develop courses in which participants interrogate aspects of their professional domain and explore alternatives to the dominant narratives within education. For any teacher looking to take ownership of their practice, signing up for an NUT CPD course is not only a step towards developing one's skills, but also a statement of commitment to the profession and its future.

Illustration: Dane Mark

To book your place on the NUT’s Adding Values & Enhancing Practice CPD course, or any other course in the upcoming schedule, please visit:

November / December 16 | the Teacher


Bring back craft On the last day of term, instead of having restless children vegetating as they watched DVDs, we decided to hold a craft day in school. We had mask-making, construction, beads, jigsaws and drawing. There was also reading for booklovers and designing bookmarks. Even though it was the final day of school, when you might have expected tears and tantrums, it was a huge success. Why? There was no dread of failure. The green pens weren’t waiting to pounce on the children’s work and decimate it. Everyone had the opportunity to achieve. Children began communicating again. Instead of agonising about their task, they conversed about their home life and their hobbies. Whilst their hands were busy, they were engaged. Even children usually labelled as ‘less able’ shone. They were able to make masks with ease or create colourful jewellery with their beads. They unleashed their creativity and practical skills. Most of all their learning had a purpose. They had a finished result to take home with them. So why not bring back craft all year round? If we don’t nurture it, where will our builders, our creators and fixers of the planet be? Dying of boredom perhaps? Name supplied

u ed for yo k s a e w e can Last issu eachers t w o h n tips o chools. s n i y l e ctiv act colle told us… u o y t a h Here’s w

“If you are in a large secondary school, don’t let teaching staff become atomised. We teachers are sometimes too fond of hanging out with our subject teams, discussing the finer points of Shakespeare or the egregious state of the Year 10s table tennis skills. Spend some time in the main staffroom and talk to new faces whenever you can, you can’t act collectively if you don’t know who anyone is!”

“To encourage collective action, make sure people are well informed and keep things positive. Always let people voice their concerns and try to provide support, reassurance and advice. Whether a teacher decides to act with the Union or not, some issues come and go, but you are going to be working with them every day in school – so always respect your colleague’s decision!

Name supplied

Name supplied

“Always talk to members individually about issues of concern before meeting collectively. It helps to ‘take the temperature’ and reassures people that they are not alone and isolated – a huge source of anxiety and therefore inaction. And make sure you liaise with other unions. Sharing views and making joint decisions shows solidarity and gives you greater strength.”

Next issue we’re looking for tips on how you can get pupils more active! Send your advice by 1 December to

Name supplied 44

November / December 16 | the Teacher

Coffee stains: iStockphoto

Pupils aged 11 to 16 are invited to get involved with the Bloodhound Project to create a foam rocket car and race against rival teams. The winners will join supersonic car engineers in South Africa to watch the jet car in action. Schools can receive five free rocket kits by visiting and joining their local Race HUB before 30 November. Once a race community has been established, schools present their special code (NUTRACE4LINE) to Rob Bennett via the chat feature in their local Race HUB to access their free kits.

versal are International charity Concern Uni their team of looking for retired teachers to join West Midlands volunteers to deliver projects in the ability and on health, the environment, sustain ed up for global poverty. With over 50 schools sign requests still learning workshops this year, and ortunities to coming in, there are plenty of opp bal citizens. inspire the next generation of glo to Email Jo.davies@concern-univers find out more.

f The lease o a e r e h ning and t re run ildren ween a o l s l k a o H brate lma Bo five ch To cele andbook, A ition where ory rH ster st uld mpet n o o c Horro m g r n i e the ies sho l writi specia 1 could hav ection. Stor petition -1 com l coll aged 7 specia ng and the a n i ore d ords lo 016. For m com/ printe w 0 0 0-8 ber 2 oks. be 50 Decem isit: almabo 1 n o closes ion please v on petiti at inform -story-com ter mons

Red Nose Day is back on 24 March 2017 and this year’s free school packs are bursting with fundraising tips, balloons, stic ke rs and posters. The mon ey raised by scho ols will be used to help fund projects that tack le poverty and injustice acro ss Africa and the UK. Order your free fu ndraising pack to day at: /resourcepack

A new mobile app has been launched that offers a timeline of Pan African history. It features international poets, a history on Pan Africanism, relevant books and organisation list and is suitable for years 7+. To download Pan Africanist’s Journey visit:

Nobody can accuse the DfE of being slow to make big decisions. A new curriculum, an expanded academies programme, the clear-out of universities from initial teacher training – they all seem to happen in the blink of a minister’s eye. 46

November / December 16 | the Teacher


f course, it’s what happens afterwards that’s the problem; the overlooking of obvious problems, the lack of communication and the dawning realisation that the big bold idea just isn’t going to work. So it has been with Baseline Assessment. Floated by Michael Wilshaw in 2013 and widely rejected at consultation in 2014, the scheme was nevertheless introduced to schools in September 2015, only to be dropped seven months later – cost uncalculated, apologies unmade. So why did Baseline fail? And what can its failure tell us about the future of assessment across the primary age range? Baseline was problematic from the beginning. It was based on the products of several diverse providers and could not pass even the lowest threshold of reliability. Yet it made claims to provide an accurate picture, gleaned from snapshot tests and quick observations, of children’s stages of development at the start of their formal schooling. These claims were questioned by most educational experts, and refuted by the teachers who had to carry out the assessments. From the outset Baseline was challenged by the NUT and a broad coalition of parents, teachers and educational experts. Opposition rallied around concepts of child development that are still strongly held in early years’ education.

In many areas, teachers held meetings, organised picnics and seminars, and helped raise awareness among parents of the problems of Baseline. In a show of professional unity the NUT and ATL worked together, alongside organisations from across the sector, to draw attention to Baseline’s dangers. Unioncommissioned research played a key role, with academics Alice Bradbury and Guy Roberts-Holmes producing an awardwinning exploration of Baseline’s effects.

Once the DfE’s own research uncovered many of the same problems, the game was up for Baseline. Another grand scheme unravelled under ministers’ eyes. No alternative to Baseline has been invented, and the Early Years Foundation Stage profile will remain in place until at least 2018/19. Does Baseline’s fate foretell what will happen to assessment at Key Stage 1 and Key Stage 2? In its basic design, KS1 and KS2 assessment is just as faulty as Baseline. It constrains learning and narrows the curriculum. The scores it produces can’t be relied on as a good measure of what children know and can do. These were problems plain for all to see in 2016. New Secretary of State Justine Greening has tried to deal with them by making minor changes, linked to a promise of more consultation. This will not satisfy teachers. They are more than willing to talk to Government but they do not want to have another '2016' experience, and they want to be assured that a better system is on its way. Around primary testing, just as with Baseline, a growing coalition of opponents is coming together. The More Than a Score campaign brings together unions, parents groups and many educators. In schools, the mood for action to change the failing system of assessment is strong. Educationalists are exposing the effects of primary assessment, and developing constructive alternatives. The tide is turning against crude systems of measurement. Teachers and parents will take heart from the Government’s Baseline U-turn. It will not be the only defeat for a testing programme which – for all the bravado of ministers – is not built to last.

November / December 16 | the Teacher




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Leading by example By Siobhan Collingwood, head teacher, Morecambe Bay Community Primary School I should start by saying that I love teaching and I love my school. I am the head teacher of a large primary school in a very disadvantaged community, which means that many of our children and their families face huge challenges on a daily basis such as mental health issues, sub-standard housing conditions and daily difficulties in making ends meet. Despite these challenges, most skip happily into school keen to learn, and are polite and enthusiastic about their school community. I’ve remained a member of the NUT following my appointment as head, as I am a teacher first and foremost. My job is hugely fulfilling and I never know what it will bring from one day to the next. Last year we launched a little toy dog to the edge of space on a helium balloon with a Go-Pro camera and tracking device. When he fell off on his return journey, the amazing footage thrilled and amazed the children in school before going viral on the internet. The search for the toy even became an international news story with the children, parents and staff being interviewed by the world's media. Just last month I watched children and parents staggering into school with their ‘around the world’ head teacher's challenge – papier-mâché globes, national flags and maps that had been lovingly made at home. What delights me

is the excitement on the faces of the children and parents, the pride they have in showing us the fruits of their work together. Through all the hardships that they face, their resilience, creativity and enthusiasm amazes me. But despite how hard children, parents and teachers try to enjoy learning, the challenges of the National Curriculum – with its ill thought-out assessment arrangements – brought my staff and I to the edge of despair last year. Coupled with the idiosyncratic demands made during our Ofsted inspections, it was enough to make me question whether I could keep doing the job I love. The only thing that kept me going at these times was the campaign that my staff and I became involved in, to raise awareness of this damage being done within primary education. My colleagues and I are all NUT members. We are a united body who support one another to work for the betterment of our school community. It is our unity of purpose and commitment that makes us strong and urges us to strive for better, each and every day. I hope head teachers from other schools will put as much trust in their teachers, and work alongside both them and their Union to stop the corrosion of our profession. After all, we are all in this together.

Teachers and head teachers can learn more about the Union’s campaign to change primary assessment at:


November / December 16 | the Teacher


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