A Daily news digest by Jasper van Santen

Education and Unions in the UK- Telegraph

In News, Really?!? on April 11, 2012 at 08:06

The NUT and other teaching unions show their true colors –Telegraph

These unions have lost the plot.

Two unions have now called strike action over the Government’s freeze of teachers’ pay and the requirement for teachers to pay higher contributions towards their pensions. Both of these changes are entirely reasonable. On one estimate, a private sector worker needs to build up a pension pot of £300,000 in order to obtain the average teachers’ pension. It used to be said that public sector workers’ higher retirement benefits were a compensation for lower pay, but nowadays public sector pay has more than caught up with the private sector, as Lord Hutton’s review found. A teacher on the average salary will now have to pay a mere £10 a month more towards their pension. Most private sector workers will be amazed that teachers will strike over such a slight change to what are very generous terms and conditions.

They will also be surprised by the NUT’s vehement opposition to the basic idea that schools should measure the performance of their teachers and expect improvement. For the union this is (again) a cause of “stress” which “leaves teachers feeling overwhelmed by the constant pressure”, as one of this year’s conference motions put it. Inspectors sometimes dropped in on classrooms “unannounced”, complained a motion, when clearly this is the best way that inspections can capture the true performance of the teacher. This is not all. As Damian Hinds MP pointed out yesterday, the teaching unions argue against the testing of children, at all ages, just as much as they do against the testing of teachers.

Schools such as David Young Community Academy in Leeds have drawn up their own training framework, grounded in a practical understanding of what works in teaching day-to-day and based on a passionate commitment to improvement. This vision of good education seems to be the polar opposite of that of the NUT.

The question for the Government is how to respond to the unions’ demands. So far it has sought compromise. For example, most schools still operate under national terms and conditions (and the regional pay-setting proposed by the Chancellor is not a fantastic improvement) and a national curriculum, which the Department of Education is refreshing this year. These ideas are entirely consistent with the NUT’s worldview – nationalised, top-down, one-size-fits-all. That should give ministers pause for thought. There is still time in this parliament to do something radical. One idea would be to go beyond regional pay, and implement local pay-setting in every school, as if every school were an academy. It would not be supported by the unions – but that should hardly be ministers’ first concern.

The NUT’s formal motion in favour of long summer holidays ended as follows: there is a “misconception that more teaching automatically leads to more learning”. It has come to something when a teaching union questions the value of teaching itself. The unions’ ideas on education are dangerous, damaging and unrepresentative of the good practice in many state schools. When they sit down with the unions in future, ministers can afford to be a little tougher in their negotiations.


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