Teachers back strike action on pay

By Sean Coughlan in Liverpool and Angela Harrison in Bournemouth
BBC News, education

image captionA series of local strikes are expected in the summer term and a one-day national strike in the autumn

The National Union of Teachers’ conference has backed plans for strike action against changes to teachers’ pay and pensions.

There were also chants of “Gove must go” as teachers began a no confidence motion against the education secretary.

NUT general secretary Christine Blower said the pay plans would be “disastrous for education”.

The Department for Education says it will “reward excellence”.

But the NUT’s annual conference in Liverpool rejected calls for more radical action, which could have disrupted plans for a joint campaign with the Nasuwt teachers’ union.

‘No confidence’

Instead they backed the proposal for a series of rolling local strikes, beginning on 27 June, with a one-day national strike in the autumn.

The Nasuwt will debate the plans on Sunday at their conference in Bournemouth.

The NUT conference began a motion of no confidence in Michael Gove - which was adjourned before it could be put to a vote.

But successive speakers launched attacks on the education secretary, with delegates clapping and chanting “Gove must go”.

Oliver Fayers, from Camden, accused the secretary of state of “failing at his job, failing teachers and failing children”.

History teacher Una Doyle said the proposed changes to the curriculum reflected a “naked ideological attack”.

The union said plans to change teachers’ pay were part of a wider strategy.

Ms Blower argued that the extension of performance pay was about introducing a “market in teachers’ pay” and a bid to “dismantle the national pay system”.

She told the conference that the annual increments that are set to be scrapped were not payments for “time serving” but reflected the rising “expertise and experience” of teachers.

A Department for Education spokesman said: "Industrial action will simply disrupt pupils' education, hugely inconvenience parents and damage the profession's reputation in the eyes of the public at time when our reforms are improving standards in schools across the country."

Ofsted scrutiny

Earlier on Saturday, the NUT’s conference called for the resignation of Ofsted chief Sir Michael Wilshaw over claims the inspection system is demoralising teachers.

And the NASUWT union, meeting in Bournemouth, called for changes to the schools inspection body or, if that fails, to campaign for its abolition.

Teachers at the NUT conference also called on the union to find legal ways that would allow teachers to boycott inspections.

Delegates heard claims Ofsted was not an inspectorate but a politically-motivated "surveillance operation".

Roy Bowser, representing the union in Barnsley, said: "Mr Wilshaw you are Big Brother."

Mr Bowser accused Sir Michael of behaving like the education secretary's "junior minister" who oversaw an inspection regime that was "intrusive and invasive".

The general secretary of the NASUWT Chris Keates said teachers understood the need for inspection, but believed it had become too "high stakes" because a bad Ofsted rating could lead to a school being taken over or turned in to an academy.

"It's creating a climate of fear in schools and doing nothing to raise school standards."

An Ofsted spokeswoman said: "Sir Michael has said from the outset any provision that is less than good is not acceptable.

"That's a tough message, especially for those schools and colleges that have been coasting. It's inevitable that when you challenge the system to do better, you will get some pushback."

She added that Ofsted was an independent body and "was not about furthering any political agenda".

"Ofsted does not have a preferred model for schools. Ofsted's overall objective is to ensure that all children, regardless of the postcode they come from and regardless of whether they attend an academy, free school or maintained school, have access to a good quality education," she said.

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