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Wednesday, 3 April, 2002, 15:12 GMT 16:12 UK
Teachers united in workload demand
NASUWT delegates in Scarborough
Delegates voted unanimously in favour of the motion

The possibility of industrial action in schools in England and Wales this autumn has moved a step closer.

All three of the main unions representing classroom teachers have now adopted a joint resolution threatening action if the government does not fully fund the outcome of its review into cutting their workload.

NASUWT cartoon on workload
Union members say they have had enough
The National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers passed the resolution unanimously at its annual conference on Wednesday.

The same resolution, which demands a 35-hour working week, has been passed already by the other main unions, the National Union of Teachers and the smaller Association of Teachers and Lecturers.

Between them the three represent about half a million classroom teachers.

Proposing the resolution at the NASUWT conference, executive member Mick Carney said there had been "a massive growth in political maturity" among the unions.

The government had to get the message that they were united on the issue.

'Professional time'

There have been signs this week that the government is moving towards offering teachers guaranteed "professional time" - space within the week for lesson preparation and marking.

Although union leaders welcomed this, they said it was irrelevant without an overall limit on the hours worked.

Mick Carney
Mick Carney: "Breakthrough or bust"
Mr Carney, a science teacher, ridiculed the view of the Education Secretary, Estelle Morris, that the two could be separated.

"I have 11-year-old students who can demonstrate how ludicrous that leap of logic is," he said.

The review of workload by the independent body that advises ministers on pay and conditions is due to report by the end of April.

So, Mr Carney said, after years of growing complaints from teachers about the amount they had to do, the next school term was "the last chance saloon".

"It's breakthrough or bust," he said.

"The outcomes must be seen clearly in the classrooms of our schools" - otherwise the industrial action called for in the resolution would have to happen.

Sue Rogers had a simpler message for the education secretary: "Get real, Estelle."


But the union's general secretary, Nigel de Gruchy, is keen to play down the threat of industrial action, however.

Nigel de Gruchy
Mr de Gruchy has sounded a note of caution
Talking to journalists after the vote, he said talks with the government were about to start and it was not a good negotiating position to adopt.

In a dig at the militancy of the National Union of Teachers conference, which has just ended, he added: "Avoiding talk of industrial action is playing our hand more intelligently than perhaps some people have."

The government recognised that excessive workload was a serious problem in recruiting and retaining teachers and there was a mutual interest in tackling it.


Tony Hardman said the pressure had to be kept up on the government to come up with the necessary funding.

"This is not a cheap option," he said.

Sue Rogers
Sue Rogers had a simple message
"There is no doubt about our resolve and determination to win this battle."

Ian Kennedy, who represents the NASUWT in Cornwall, said the problem was most acute in primary schools.

One tenth of the county's primary head teachers were off work due to stress, he said.

The response of the union's members there to the resolution had been that they could not possibly get all their work done in 35 hours.

"If they have got that mindset we need to change it for them," he said.


The Department for Education said the threat of action was "totally irresponsible" and stressed the government would not be "bounced" by the situation.

"Industrial action will do nothing other than damage children's education - and the reputation of teachers," a spokesperson said.

"We have come so far through constructive engagement with the teaching unions to improve pay and tackle workload. We should build on that trust, not destroy it."

Roger Kirk, NASUWT Executive
"Teachers would spend approximately two and a half hours in the classroom"
See also:

01 Apr 02 | UK Education
30 Mar 02 | UK Education
26 Mar 02 | UK Education
26 Mar 02 | UK Education
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