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Unions 2000 Wednesday, 26 April, 2000, 12:17 GMT 13:17 UK
Teachers to act against workload
Big complaint: photocopying chore
By Alison Stenlake at the NASUWT annual conference in Llandudno

Teachers have agreed to a ballot for industrial action - short of strikes - to cut their workloads.

Delegates at the annual conference of the National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers (NASUWT) described how they were fed up with too much paperwork and red tape.

They voted overwhelmingly to sanction a ballot to decide whether action should go ahead to ease the bureaucracy burden on teachers, which they say will be made much worse by the implementation of performance-related pay.
Mick Carney
Mick Carney defended the union's stand against excessive workload
The action would start by members strictly adhering to government anti-bureaucracy guidance.

This includes a list of tasks which the government says teachers should not carry out, such as chasing pupil absences, bulk photocopying, administering exams, stocktaking, and classroom displays.

Sex guidelines may be target

Other possible measures included ignoring new government guidelines on sex education.

If these failed to cut teachers' working hours to a reasonable level from the average of up to 52 hours a week they were currently estimated to work, the union's action would be stepped up to fix a limit on working hours.

Birmingham teacher Lesley Connolly said: "After several years of the NASUWT highlighting this issue, why are teachers still working on average more than 50 hours a week?

"Why are they working weekends and holidays. Why are so many looking for a way out of the profession? Why is recruitment so low and the drop-out rate so high?

"The infamous open-ended teachers' contract is the root of the workload problem and that is what must be challenged."

Calls for stronger action

During a debate on a motion covering both teachers' workloads and performance-related pay, some delegates said the NASUWT leadership should take a stronger stance against the pay reforms - in a similar way to that demonstrated by the National Union of Teachers.

The NUT voted on Tuesday in favour of a ballot of all members on a one-day strike on the issue.

Derby teacher Dave Wilkinson said the supposed victories achieved during negotiations were "myths".

"We should be more radical on the Green Paper. The NUT has proved to be more governed by principle than we are. We have encouraged members to apply to join a flawed and divisive structure."

But the NASUWT has maintained that its stance of "constructive engagement" over the Green Paper is the right one.

Amendments to a motion from the union's leadership acknowledging the government's "flexibility" were heavily defeated.

NASUWT honorary treasurer Mick Carney, who proposed the original motion, said the NUT had misled teachers with "propaganda" about the reforms.

And Mike Heaney, of the South Derbyshire association, said: "Many teachers perceive us to be doing very little, while the other teaching union is making noise elsewhere."

But he said this "noise" would come to very little.

Pay rise

Delegates agreed that while the union should seek to change the system - including the main sticking point of linking teachers' pay to pupil progress - it should offer "full support and advice" to members wishing to apply to pass through the "threshold" onto a new, higher pay scale.

Those who succeed in an appraisal-based test to go through the threshold will get an immediate pay rise of 2,000.

One headteacher, Daphne O'Kane who runs a special school in the London borough of Bromley, said she was instructing all of her staff to apply for the threshold payment, and expected all to get through.

"This is one bit of workload I'm delighted to embrace," she told the conference. "And I've no patience with any head who says otherwise."

Speaking to journalists after the debate, NASUWT general secretary Nigel de Gruchy stressed that members' action to reduce bureaucracy would not affect pupils' education.

"There will not be chaos in the classroom. Not a single second of education will be lost. It will be good for youngsters and good for our members as well," he said.

He repeated his condemnation of the NUT's response to peformance-related pay, saying that threatening industrial action while advising members on how to apply for it was "dishonourable" and brought the teaching profession into disrepute.

Delegate Geraint Davies
"We will refuse to be pen pushers."
See also:

25 Apr 00 | Unions 2000
24 Apr 00 | Unions 2000
12 Apr 00 | Education
12 Apr 00 | Education
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