A 10-point plan education renewal post-Covid

Written by: Pete Henshaw | Published:
Image: Adobe Stock

The NASUWT has put forward a 10-point plan for education renewal. Its annual conference has also called for Black history to be embedded as part of a decolonised curriculum, more protection for creative subjects post-Covid, and has issued a warning about pupil behaviour. Pete Henshaw reports

A 10-point renewal plan

A 10-point plan for a teacher-led “education renewal” post-Covid has been put forward.

The government is being urged to take on board the strategy, which was outlined during the NASUWT’s annual conference last week.

During the four-day event, teachers reported concerns about schools that are cutting back on creative and practical subjects as part of their response to lost learning time caused by the pandemic.

Elsewhere during the event, which took place online, the union also called for the full decolonization of the national curriculum.

The 10-point plan was unveiled by Dr Patrick Roach, the NASUWT general secretary, during his address to the virtual conference.

The plan includes a longer term reduction in class sizes, a reduction in excessive teacher workload and working hours, and a “substantial pay award” for teachers among other principles.

Education renewal: The NASUWT’s 10-point plan

  • Recruit more teachers and support staff and other children’s service professionals.
  • Retain and recognise teachers who have dedicated their lives to the job.
  • End excessive workload and let teachers teach.
  • Reduce class size.
  • End the long working hours of teachers which continue to drain teaching quality
  • Guarantee every teacher time for professional development as a contractual entitlement throughout their careers.
  • A substantial pay award for teachers to end the real terms decline in teachers’ pay over the last decade
  • Scrapping the link between performance and teachers’ pay.
  • Stronger regulation including national statutory pay and conditions entitlements for all teachers, supply teachers and headteachers.
  • Robust enforcement of employment, health and safety and equalities legislation to hold employers properly to account.

In his address, Dr Roach warned ministers that teachers were “running on empty”. He said: “Ministers cannot stand by and insist that the profession must simply soldier on. Teachers’ commitment and resilience have been tested to the limit over the last year.

“We need a plan for education renewal and a recovery, a renewal, that is teacher-led, too.

“Government needs to create the best opportunities that enable teachers to secure children’s learning and development by creating the conditions that let teachers teach, backed by enhanced pastoral support in every school as part of a guaranteed entitlement for every child to access mental health services, timely behaviour support and counselling services in every school, building on the fantastic work that is already happening across the country.”

Dr Roach said that teachers must not be “coerced” into working longer hours or delivering summer schools or other “short-term fixes”.

He continued: “Instead, we want government to work with us. To come forward with a credible plan to recruit more teachers and support staff and other children’s service professionals.

“A plan to retain teachers who have dedicated themselves to the job; a plan to let teachers teach and to reduce class size. We need a plan to end the long working hours of teachers which continues to drain teaching quality together with guaranteed time for every teacher to professional development as a contractual entitlement throughout their careers.

“Teachers don’t need more warm words, exhortation and empty promises – they need action and a bold agenda.”

Black Lives Matter

Black history should be “fully embedded and taught” across the curriculum, the NASUWT has said.

A motion backed by the union’s members during its annual conference says that curriculum frameworks should “reflect, respect and value the contributions made by all communities in building the United Kingdom”.

It stated: “Conference believes that black history is a part of British history and thus should be fully embedded and taught across the curriculum. Education should equip all children and young people to understand and respect their own and each other’s histories, cultures and traditions, and promote critical thinking.”

In moving the motion, Michelle Codrington-Rogers , a citizenship teacher from Oxford and a former NASUWT president, said that the #BlackLivesMatter movement has re-ignited the debate about what we teach in schools.

She said: “As teachers, many of us realised that what we had been teaching for years was not reaching all of our students in a way that they were able to see themselves. Their heritage and cultural is absent from our curriculum. From primary to university, as the education sector we were forced to review and reflect what we deliver in our classrooms.

“It always comes back to education and in this case, we have to carry our share of the load we have a responsibility to be inclusive for all our students and this starts with us ensuring there is black visibility for our children and young people. Not just black children, but all children. It is crucial that black history is all of our history.”

The motion calls on the union to work with campaigners to push for inclusive curriculum frameworks and entitlements, to publish materials and resources on decolonising the curriculum, to lobby government and to engage with teacher training providers to “embed anti-racist teaching”.

Pupil behaviour

Three-quarters of teachers report not having received any training on managing pupil misbehaviour during remote education.

Meanwhile, back in the classroom, four in 10 teachers have been subjected to verbal abuse from those they teach.

The findings from the NASUWT’s Big Question survey earlier this year have led to calls for better training.

The survey involved almost 5,000 members of the NASUWT and found that 38 per cent have been subjected to verbal abuse in the past year. Six per cent said they had been subjected to physical violence by pupils.

Furthermore, 42 per cent said that their school failed to deal with abuse from pupils in a manner they considered satisfactory.

Three-quarters of teachers said they had not been given any training by their school on managing pupil behaviour during remote lessons.

A motion before the union’s annual conference stated: “Conference condemns those school and college employers that fail to take seriously the problem of unacceptable pupil or student behaviour and who claim that such behaviour is part of the job.

“Conference is concerned that many school and college leaders do not receive adequate training in how to deal with challenging pupil or student behaviour, leaving teachers with no access to appropriate support.”

The motion instructs the NASUWT to publish further guidance for teachers and school leaders in this area and to lobby schools and government “to ensure that teachers and school and college leaders receive appropriate training on behaviour management issues”.

Dr Roach said: “The NASUWT is unequivocal that no teacher should be expected to put up with any form of verbal or physical abuse, whether in the classroom or online.

“The union is continuing to take steps, up to and including industrial action and refusal to teach ballots, where members report to us that serious pupil indiscipline or abuse is going unchallenged by their school.

“Schools have a duty of care to their staff and it is about time that all schools took that responsibility seriously.”

Creative curriculum call

NASUWT members have raised concerns that some schools are cutting back on creative and practical subjects in order to focus on academic “catch-up”.

A motion approved by delegates stated: “Conference notes with concern that (some) schools have sought to respond to lost learning time by removing or reducing access to artistic, creative and practical subjects.

“Conference restates its belief that these subjects form part of children and young people’s entitlement to a broad, balanced, engaging and relevant curriculum.”

The conference voted to “continue to challenge schools that remove or reduce pupils’ access to these subjects” and to lobby government “to take effective action to intervene in those schools that intend to remove these subjects from their learning offers or to restrict pupils’ access to them”.

Dr Roach added: “Creative and practical subjects were already being reduced or removed in some schools prior to the Covid-19 pandemic, but this risk is even greater now.

“Children and young people must not be deprived of their entitlement to a broad and balanced curriculum.”

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