Press Releases - England
1 April 2013
Commenting on the priority motion, Christine Blower, General Secretary of the National Union of Teachers, the largest teachers’ union, said:
“It is quite unacceptable for Ministers at the Department for Education to be considering banning children of immigrants deemed ‘illegal’ from schools. We have heard politicians talk of immigrants as ‘health tourists’. This is unacceptable. The Government must not create conditions that imply that the children of immigrants are ‘education tourists’. The UK has obligations under the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child which the Government must ensure we observe.
“The Government must give reassurances that it will not promote reactionary plans such as this. Even the knowledge that it is being discussed could lead to the victimisation of some of the most vulnerable people in society.
“The NUT is determined to support campaigns against racism and Islamophobia. Our schools need to continue to be harmonious, inclusive and respectful of the backgrounds of all the children and young people attending them.”
1 April 2013
Commenting after the debate on Motion 47, Christine Blower, General Secretary of the National Union of Teachers, the largest teachers’ union, said:
“It is vital that the Union’s structures reflect the diversity of our membership. We have made huge strides in involving under-represented groups within the Union.
“We cannot be complacent, however. There is much work yet to be done and this motion gives the Executive a clear programme of action.
“There is much national and international good practice and experience in the participation and involvement of under-represented groups within organisations from which we can learn. Working on these issues is part of the NUT’s commitment to fighting racism in all its forms, at all levels of society, twinned with our commitment to promote equality and justice.”
1 April 2013
Commenting after the debate on Motion 46, Christine Blower, General Secretary of the National Union of Teachers, the largest teachers’ union, said:
“Thousands of teachers qualify as disabled under the legal definition in the Equality Act, although data showing how this group of teachers fare is scarce. The Department for Education is not monitoring outcomes for disabled teachers. Many teachers with mental health conditions are not confident about disclosing their health condition because of fear of discrimination and the persistent stigma about mental health. A significant number of teachers develop mental health conditions with teaching consistently found to be one of the most stressful professions.
“The reduction of Human Resources support from local authorities to schools has compounded the problem of how to interpret the Equality Act in schools. There is no guidance for schools from the Department for Education about how to promote disability equality proactively or how to make adjustments for staff as required by law.
“As role models for the next generation, there is an opportunity for teachers to promote a more ethical and supportive society which values individual talent and a variety of skills and aptitudes. The Department for Education should ensure its policies and reforms support inclusive schools and recognise the value of all disabled teachers in the workforce.”
1 April 2013
Commenting after the debate on Motion 43, Christine Blower, General Secretary of the National Union of Teachers, the largest teachers’ union, said:
“Teachers really do feel passionately about Michael Gove’s changes to the Primary Curriculum. Many are in despair at the total lack of understanding demonstrated by the Secretary of State about how young children learn.
“Rote learning – a succession of facts and figures – is not only inappropriate but will also be quite meaningless to children. What they will be trained to do is remember lists of name, places and numbers. What they will not learn is how to think critically or to use any creativity. The YouGov survey commissioned by the NUT shows that parents believe overwhelmingly that there should be room for fun and learning through play in the Primary Curriculum. If the proposed National Curriculum comes into being that will be not be possible.
“The hoops that young children will have to jump through, such as the Year One Phonics Check and the Year Six spelling, grammar and punctuation tests, will leave many children feeling a failure. For those pupils who can take it in their stride, their experience of school and learning will be a much diminished one.
“Primary school teachers are desperately concerned about what the school day will come to mean for their pupils. The proposed Primary Curriculum will set education back generations. We need to ensure that children are given a love of learning, reading, writing and maths but this is not the right way to go about it’.”
1 April 2013
NUT Research Shows Primary School Place Shortages Worsen While Resources Being Wasted on Free Schools are Adding to Surplus Secondary Places
The National Union of Teachers (NUT) believes that the Secretary of State for Education, Michael Gove, is failing in his duty to ensure the provision of sufficient primary school places across the country.
The NUT’s claims are based on new research (1) it has conducted which examines the location of mainstream free schools approved to open in the current school year (Wave 2 free schools) or the forthcoming school year (Wave 3 free schools opening from September 2013). The research examines the location and phases of these new free schools in light of Government data on school place capacity up to 2016/17.
The research reveals that the Secretary of State has approved 28 secondary free schools and one primary free school to open in the current or forthcoming school year in 24 local authorities (LAs) in England where there is projected to be a more than 10% surplus of places in the phase provided by the free school by the year 2016/17 (2). This means that 20% of the 145 mainstream free schools approved in Waves 2 and 3 of the free school programme are adding to significant excess capacity locally.
In the case of the 28 secondary schools adding to significant numbers of surplus places by 2016/17, the projected excess ranges from 10.5% in Warrington to 28.2% in Suffolk. In Suffolk, three secondary free schools – Beccles, Saxmundham and IES Breckland – opened in September 2012. The capital spending alone on these schools has so far totalled £3.67 million (3).
Furthermore, 13 of the local authority areas gaining new and excessive surplus secondary places as a result of 15 new secondary free schools opening are at the same time forecast to be hit by a shortage of primary places by 2016/17.
The NUT’s research reveals that:
- Suffolk was projected to have a 28.2% surplus of secondary places by 2016/17 yet three secondary free schools which opened in September 2012 will now add to that surplus capacity. At the same time the County is projected to have a shortfall of primary places by 2016/17 of 1.9% yet no new provision of primary places has been approved. In an earlier round of free school approvals (Wave 1) the Stour Valley Community School, another secondary, opened in September 2011. The DfE has said that the total refurbishment development costs for this 540-place school total £4.98 million. (4)
- While funds are being channelled directly to open these unnecessary secondary free schools, delays to the priority school building programme, which replaced the axed Building Schools for the Future school capital programme, mean that the County Council has had to allocate £1.1 million from its own funds to keep open two school buildings which are in a serious state of disrepair. (5)
- Kingston Upon Hull has a surplus of secondary places that stands at 28.1% in the current school year, resulting in many of its secondary schools being seriously undersubscribed. The projected surplus is to set to remain high – at 27.9% by 2016/17 – by which date the local authority will also face a shortfall of primary provision of 1.4%. Yet a new 600-place secondary free school – The Boulevard Academy – is due to open in September 2013, further exacerbating the secondary surplus. Building contractors BAM have been awarded an £8 million contract to build the new school.
- In Central Bedfordshire, where a secondary free school – the Kimberley 16-19 STEM College – is due to open in September 2013, the secondary surplus is projected to be 24.1% by 2016/17. At the same time the local authority is set to have a 42.8% shortfall in its primary place provision by this date. The Barnfield Fernwood primary free school had been due to open in September but was cancelled earlier in the year.
- Likewise, in Bedford, the local authority is projected to have a 38.2% shortfall in primary places by 2016/17 yet the Bedford Free School – a secondary that opened in September 2012 despite opposition from the local authority – will add to the projected 25.4% surplus in secondary place provision by 2016/17.
- The one primary free school identified in the NUT’s research as adding to a more than 10% surplus of provision is the Barrow 1618 Church of England Free School. This new primary opened in September 2012 in Shropshire, where the surplus of primary places is projected to stand at 11.5% by 2016/17.
Commenting on the research, Christine Blower, General Secretary of the National Union of Teachers, the largest teachers’ union, said:
“Instead of local authorities being funded to address the primary place shortage that is gripping many parts of the country, some councils are instead facing a growing and excessive surplus of unnecessary secondary school places because the Secretary of State has approved new secondary free schools in local areas in which there is demonstrably no need.
“In pursuing his ideologically-driven, costly and wasteful free school programme from Westminster, the Education Secretary has failed to provide the support to local authorities that would enable them to provide new primary school places in areas of genuine need. Michael Gove is failing in his duty to parents, pupils and the taxpayer.”
1 April 2013
Impact assessments of new free schools on other schools must be released
The National Union of Teachers is delighted that the Information Commissioner has upheld the Union’s view that it is in the public interest for the Department for Education to release the impact assessments which the Secretary of State must consider about the impact of new free schools on neighbouring schools. Our initial request for this information was in October 2011. This is a victory for the NUT’s campaign for openness and transparency.
These assessments must be made under Section 9 of the Academies Act 2010. The Information Commissioner’s decision effectively puts these assessments into the public domain. The NUT believes that it is vital for the public to understand what criteria are being used to make these decisions, given that free schools clearly impact on local schools and that millions of pounds of taxpayers’ money are being spent.
The Department had argued that disclosure could inhibit the free and frank provision of advice or would otherwise prejudice the effective conduct of public affairs. However, the Information Commissioner agreed with the NUT’s arguments that the public interest requires disclosure.
This decision follows a decision by the Information Tribunal earlier this year, confirming a decision of the Information Commissioner, that the names and locations of groups who have applied for free schools should be disclosed.
New free schools could take away the pupils and resources of neighbouring schools and lead to wasted expenditure. NUT research shows that many free schools are being set up in areas that already have surplus school places locally. Decisions on the opening of new schools should be made by local authorities in open town hall meetings, with the participation of the local community, not in secret by officials in Whitehall.
Christine Blower, General Secretary of the National Union of Teachers, the largest teachers’ union, said:
“The NUT welcomes the Information Commissioner’s decision to uphold the Union’s conviction that public disclosure of the information considered by the Secretary of State, when approving the opening of a new free school, is in the public interest. Parents will finally be able to see the basis on which these decisions have been made. It is beyond doubt that many free schools have been approved to open in areas where there is palpably no need for new school places of the type provided by the new free school. This waste of public money is a disgrace, particularly because it diverts much-needed capital and revenue funding away from schools that most need it.”
1 April 2013
Commenting after the debate on Motion 42, Christine Blower, General Secretary of the National Union of Teachers, the largest teachers’ union, said:
“The impact banding is having on the ability of schools to deliver education services is very worrying. Teachers are feeling totally undermined by the Welsh Government’s approach, while that vital community engagement with parents is increasingly harder to come by.
“The huge number of problems that banding is already causing at a secondary level doesn’t bear thinking about. At primary level snap judgments will be even less evidence-based.
“NUT Cymru will continue to press Assembly Members from all political parties in Wales to review this system at a secondary level, and to oppose its introduction at primary.”
NUT Cymru Secretary, David Evans, added:
“The strength of feeling on this issue cannot be underestimated. Teachers have already noticed the significant detrimental impact banding is having on teachers, with a loss in morale for some secondary schools. Teachers are feeling thoroughly disillusioned with the Welsh Government’s decision to take a full year of their hard work and dedication and simply score it in a single digit from 1–5.”
1 April 2013
The Welsh Government’s Literacy and Numeracy Framework (LNF) threatens to increase workload, stress for pupils, will compound failure and will undermine the very professionalism underpinning the teaching sector. A motion to the NUT Annual Conference has called for a review of the LNF to address these concerns as a matter of urgency.
Commenting after the debate on Motion 41, Christine Blower, General Secretary of the National Union of Teachers, the largest teachers’ union, said:
“The NUT has high expectations and aspirations for all pupils. No one is more dedicated to supporting literacy and numeracy standards than teachers supporting pupils in classrooms across Wales. It is directly as a result of that commitment that our members have been unable to sit back and ignore the major problems that will arise as a result of this framework.
“There appears little attention paid to child development in the preparation of the LNF. Somewhere along the line the focus has shifted from what pupils can achieve to what black-and-white targets the Government want to reach, however unrealistic they may be. Unless we get back to putting the child at the centre of the focus there is a real risk that a generation of learners could find their education compromised.
“The NUT will seek to campaign for an immediate review of the LNF and will be making representations direct to the Welsh Government for that to take place. Hopefully they will see the benefit of listening to those individuals with frontline knowledge and experience.”
NUT Cymru Secretary, David Evans, added:
“We cannot be clearer that this is not a concern with raising literacy and numeracy standards. Everyone shares the ambition to ensure the highest levels of literacy and numeracy in our schools. However, if the Welsh Government continues to consistently and dramatically overburden teachers to the point they simply can’t teach students then literacy and numeracy standards will fall. One of the main reasons teachers have raised concerns about the LNF is because they fear it will lead to a decline in standards.”
1 April 2013
Commenting after the debate on Motion 40, Christine Blower, General Secretary of the National Union of Teachers, the largest teachers’ union, said:
“We need to ensure that there is backing for consortium working but based on the notion of support for teachers, rather than simply challenge and monitoring. Any consortium that does not show the right balance between support and challenge will simply not deliver improvements for the system.
“The NUT naturally expects a full and honest dialogue with consortium and local authorities. This includes discussions about terms and conditions of service. Where we feel there are problems with consortia working we will take these up with local government and the Welsh Government. Our members will have the full backing of the Union in raising issues they fear are likely to be damaging to schools and teachers.”
NUT Cymru Secretary, David Evans, added:
“Members in Wales had raised their concerns about a number of issues relating to the way regional consortia have been developed. The variations in the management and governance structures being adopted; the heavy emphasis on monitoring and challenge above support; the over-reliance on ‘system leaders’ at the expense of subject specialists and the absence of any financial savings for Wales’ already under-funded schools, have all been the focus of debate amongst teachers in Wales.
“We all want to see the system work but clearly there is a lot of ‘bedding in’ to do, and in some cases a change of approach required. The support this motion has received will give NUT Cymru the backing it needs in making the case for a better system in future.”
31 March 2013
Commenting after the debate on Motion 20, Christine Blower, General Secretary of the National Union of Teachers, the largest teachers’ union, said:
“Sex and Relationships Education (SRE) should be a statutory part of the national curriculum. It is a vital component of a balanced and relevant curriculum and needs to be given the status and resources to allow appropriate professional development for staff.
“Much good and sensitive work is already taking place in the area of SRE. However, there is still some way to go to make sure all staff receive the training and resources they need.
“Schools do need, of course, to be confident that their approach is correct and evidence-based when teaching about relationships and that is why training for teachers is so important.
“It is important for all children and young people to learn, in an age appropriate manner, about respect for their own and other people’s bodies and emotions. This is all the more important given the rising levels of pornography which is very much in the public domain. There also continues to be a high rate of sexual harassment and homophobic bullying in society at large, despite efforts in schools to address and reduce it.
“If schools do not have the time and are not encouraged to invest in this area of the curriculum, then some pupils will be left to struggle with issues that can seem insurmountable and they will miss the chance to acquire vital life skills.
“Quite simply, space has to be made for personal, social and health education within and across the curriculum, and sufficient training and necessary specialist staff made available. If this does not happen in schools, a golden opportunity is missed to provide young people with some of the tools they need to lead safe, healthy and happy lives.”
31 March 2013
Commenting after the debate on Motion 19, Christine Blower, General Secretary of the National Union of Teachers, the largest teachers’ union, said:
“We need school evaluation which supports, not punishes, schools. Ofsted should be abolished and replaced by an independent Her Majesty’s Inspectorate (HMI). The current system of contracted inspections should be abolished. Instead, HMI would carry out the external part of school evaluation.
“Ofsted claims that its self-evaluation form encapsulates the principles of school self-evaluation. It doesn’t. In Scotland, evidence-gathering is subordinate to the establishment of a relationship between the Scottish HMIe and school communities. In England, by contrast, schools greet the prospect of inspections with both fear and weariness.
“All the evidence shows that many staff, including school leaders who could have continued making a valuable contribution to their schools, decide prematurely that they cannot endure further inspections.”
31 March 2013
Commenting after the debate on Motion 18, Christine Blower, General Secretary of the National Union of Teachers, the largest teachers’ union, said:
“Ofsted and its Chief Inspector have failed. Sir Michael Wilshaw’s use of negative rhetoric about schools and teachers is deplorable. The purpose of a school evaluation system should be to enable schools to ‘know themselves’ honestly in order to support their development and effectiveness. The current inspection system creates precisely the opposite set of conditions. Openness and confidence about owning the processes of school evaluation have been replaced by the paramount need to put on a performance for the inspectors. Ownership of institutional evaluation has been replaced by fear of it.
“The importance of involving teachers in the development and refinement of self-evaluation and external evaluation cannot be overstated. Such an approach is critical to ensuring that schools engage fully with the process of improvement. The evidence from other countries shows that where teachers ‘own’ assessment and evaluation, standards go up, not down.
“It is high time this process which drives many good teachers and head teachers out of the profession ends. While teachers understand the need for accountability, school evaluation is at its most effective when school communities understand its purpose and relevance. Overwhelming evidence from research and practice demonstrates that evaluation by schools themselves must be at the centre of school inspection and support. Trust must replace fear. We need a complete change from this destructive system and its leadership.
“The attrition of dedicated and committed staff by the current Ofsted approach and its Chief Inspector has to stop.”
31 March 2013
Commenting after the debate on Motion 17, Christine Blower, General Secretary of the National Union of Teachers, the largest teachers’ union, said:
“The NUT-commissioned YouGov survey of parents’ views on education shows that the overwhelming majority do not want their children to attend schools which do not require its teachers to have professional teaching qualifications. The survey also showed that the vast majority of parents believe that employing non-qualified teaching staff in free schools was designed to save money, not improve standards. Parents are right and this is exactly why Michael Gove is interested in the idea.
“One of the main factors that makes a real difference to pupils’ educational attainment is their teacher. The process of gaining teaching qualifications is about learning how to teach. It is also about understanding how learners learn and what is appropriate at what age. This is an entirely different matter from simply being good at geography or economics. If a teacher has had no training, how will they cope with a class where students do not immediately understand the lesson no matter how clearly the person feels they have delivered it? How will an unqualified person cope with the issue of behaviour or with pupils who have special educational needs? The list goes on.
“Teaching is a profession and as such needs in depth training and learning in the same way as other professions such as engineering or medicine. Having an interest or knowledge in a subject would not qualify you to build bridges or treat patients and the same is true of teaching. Michael Gove is failing parents and pupils with his notion that qualified teacher status is not necessary. Internationally all jurisdictions are looking for more highly qualified teachers not abolishing qualifications.”
31 March 2013
Commenting after the priority motion debate, Christine Blower, General Secretary of the National Union of Teachers, the largest teachers’ union, said:
“Michael Gove’s changes to the National Curriculum are desperately ill thought out. They will lead to many students becoming totally disengaged from education. Further, they will disadvantage pupils with special educational needs and English as a second language.
“Teachers are genuinely fearful that pupils will be forced to learn in a way that is inappropriate. Rote learning is the antithesis of experiential learning, learning through doing. It doesn’t promote the critical thinking and problem solving skills that are essential for good quality learning. The YouGov survey commissioned by the NUT showed that the vast majority of parents of primary school pupils felt there should be time for play and fun as well as reading for pleasure in the curriculum. There will be little or no time for this in the proposed new curriculum.
“The emphasis on a narrow range of academic subjects will lead to a narrowing of the subjects offered to pupils and will reduce the status of vocational subjects. Michael Gove often talks about emulating good practice elsewhere, often citing Singapore. Some of the examples from the curriculum in Singapore include that pupils should learn to ‘appreciate the beauty of the world’, ‘have a zest for life’, ‘be confident’, ‘think independently and critically’, ‘ask questions’ and ‘use initiative’. A far cry from learning lists of Kings and Queens.
“We need a curriculum that makes learning the vibrant and exciting experience it should be. Such a curriculum should be mandatory in all schools. Many children will be left feeling a failure by a curriculum that will not recognise vocational subjects and contains an excessive amount of inappropriate testing.
“Michael Gove needs to listen to those who understand education and start taking advice on what will really work for all pupils. He should also listen to other stakeholders such as the CBI which has recently warned against memorisation and recall being valued over understanding and enquiry, and transmission of information over the pursuit of knowledge in its fullest sense. This proposed National Curriculum will set education back generations.”
31 March 2013
A survey of 2,159 NUT members shows that the majority of teachers do not agree with the proposals for the National Curriculum as set out by the Secretary of State, Michael Gove.
Two thirds of teachers felt that there is far too much emphasis on ‘facts’ rather than skills. The fear that many teachers have is that this will lead to rote learning and will squeeze out creativity and critical thinking. Clearly pupils need to learn facts but rote learning must not displace experiential learning. One teacher responded saying “this must not be the future for the children of England”. Another pointed out that “learning facts and figures is a very small part of the learning journey”. Only 8% believed that the proposal gave teachers more freedom.
A NUT-commissioned YouGov survey showed 85% of parents believe that the curriculum in secondary schools should provide a broad and balanced range of experiences and areas of knowledge which embrace both vocational and academic subjects. The results of this survey on the National Curriculum will make for disappointing reading for the Secretary of State as it shows 72% of teachers do not believe that the new proposals for the curriculum will ensure that student’s entitlement to a broad and balanced curriculum will be met. One teacher wrote, “I want to create a society of critical thinkers who can interpret the world around them and innovate it to make life better. I do not want to create a society of robots who just know stuff!”.
Again, the vast majority (71%) of respondents did not agree that that the proposals would meet the needs of pupils with English as an additional language, special educational needs or disabilities. “It is evident that these proposals were written by people who had privileged upbringings and to whom learning came naturally and easily. I really fear for children who find learning challenging or schools an intimidating place,” wrote one teacher.
Commenting on the survey, Christine Blower, General Secretary of the National Union of Teachers, the largest teachers’ union, said: “This really is quite a damning view of the Government’s education policies. The National Curriculum, like so many of Michael Gove’s proposals, appears to have been written with no understanding of how children and young people learn and lacking in relevance to the 21st Century.
“It is clear from this survey that while teachers feel the current National Curriculum could be improved, they strongly feel that politicians are not listening to the profession and that these rushed changes will be of no real benefit to students. Teachers really are at their wits end with a Government which cares little for the consequences of these ill-thought out changes. Michael Gove really must be stopped for the sake of education and the pupils who will suffer under this curriculum.”