Education

Moderate teaching union votes for industrial action over academy plan

The government wants to turn every school in England into an academy independent of local authority control. Image: StockSnap at Pixabay.com Creative Commons CC0 licence.

The government wants to turn every school in England into an academy independent of local authority control. Image: StockSnap at Pixabay.com Creative Commons CC0 licence.

The prospect of industrial action over the government’s Educational Excellence Everywhere White Paper drew a step closer today, as members of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers voted to condemn it.

The ATL is considered one of the country’s most moderate unions.

At an ATL conference held in Liverpool today, the new measures were labelled an ‘attack on democracy’ according to an emergency motion.

The motion was carried unanimously.

Under the new plans, 17,000 schools are to be stripped from local authority control, meaning they must become an academy by 2020 or be committed to achieving academy status by 2022.

Former ATL president Mark Baker proposed the motion.

He said the Government failed to provide evidence supporting academisation.

And that the policies were generating:

Embarrassment and ridicule worthy of General Melchett of Blackadder fame.

Before adding:

We are a profession of lions led by donkeys.

In a passionate speech, Mr Baker said that he thought the government’s white paper is a way to cover up for failed policies.

Education does not thrive without resources. Education does not thrive when schools are bullied, threatened and now compelled into becoming academies.

Education does not thrive when its workforce are denigrated, criticised and scapegoated, paid for on the cheap. And education does not thrive when our children and young people are being tested to destruction.

The Government’s policies have failed and with this White Paper they seek to cover their own tracks.

ATL General Secretary, and fellow speaker, Mary Bousted called the plan ‘madness’.

She also backed calls for a co-ordinated response.

Alone we can do something. Together we can do great things.

We must fight together to protect our profession, for the sake of the children and young people whose education depends on us.

Dr Mary Bousted, General Secretary of the ATL. Image: Policy Exchange (Flickr: Dr Mary Bousted, General Secretary, ATL) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons.

Dr Mary Bousted, General Secretary of the ATL. Image: Policy Exchange, Flikr [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons.

Dr Bousted’s speech centered around one ‘big whopper’ that she thinks undermines the government’s academisation project.

It asks us to believe six impossible things… including the big whopper – that the forced academisation of all schools will improve educational standards.

YouGov research asked 8,000 teachers their thoughts on academisation.

The data revealed that 48% think turning more schools into academies will make standards worse,  17% said it will make standards better, while 28% say this will not change standards.

Some teachers are still undecided on whether to support proposed strike action.

Susanna teaches at a school in Northumberland, that is currently undergoing the process of academisation due to recently being placed in ‘special measures’ by OFSTED.

Special measures is a status applied to schools who fall short of acceptable standards.

She subscribes to Edapt, the self-described ‘teachers union alternative’.

Edapt are known for their stance of being ‘free from politics and industrial action’.

Susanna has not yet made up her mind about whether she supports the academisation plans.

She admits she is still weighing up the pros and cons.

She says that while schools may receive initial benefits, there is no evidence that academisation will improve educational standards.

The ATL joins both the NUT (National Union of Teachers) and NASUWT (National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers) in using their spring conference to oppose academisation, raising the prospect of possible strike action.

Last month, Education Secretary Nicky Morgan defended the academisation plans as she addressed the NASWUT conference, in Birmingham.

Education Secretary Nicky Morgan

In a speech, she told delegates:

Teachers are the pinnacle of the community, charged with the greatest of responsibilities, moulding the next generation.

It isn’t for me or officials in Whitehall or Ofsted to decide how best to teach or run schools, it’s for you, the teachers who know better than anyone what works in the classroom.

After being initially welcomed onto the sage, Ms Morgan was heckled with the word ‘rubbish’ and one delegate was even heard telling her to ‘get off’.

In response to the ATL’s proposed strike action, a Department for Education spokesman said:

It’s disappointing that the ATL would rather play politics with our children’s future than work constructively with us to deliver our vision for educational excellence everywhere.

Industrial action holds back children’s education, disrupts parents’ lives and ultimately damages the reputation of the profession.

We make no apology for our reforms, which have resulted in a record number of children now being taught in good or outstanding schools – 1.4 million more than in 2010.

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