Here is a written report of the last conference of the National Education Union (NEU), and everything regarding support for the TSOS campaign.
The last National Union of Teachers’ conference: all words and no action to Take the Stress Out of Studying!
The last ever National Union of Teachers’ (NUT) conference took place over the Easter weekend, 29th March to 3 April 2018. From next year the union is part of a new union formed with the Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL), which will be called the National Education Union (NEU).
The NEU will be the largest education union and the NUT has been the largest teachers’ union and certainly the most radical. This makes it one of the key arenas where we can forward the struggle to ‘Take the Stress Out of Studying’ (TSOS).
Several of the NUT branches (which are called divisions) passed a motion to go to conference to support TSOS. However, disappointingly, it was not prioritised by enough divisions for the motion to be taken at conference. Despite this the NUT continues to make all the right noises on student stress. They regularly note the terrible affects on students (and education workers!) mental health of the current education system. They support campaigns called ‘More than a Score’ and issue reports called ‘Exam Factories’.
I personally believe that all testing in schools is unnecessary. It is about labelling the students and making ‘winners’ and ‘losers’ for our unequal society not about learning, it also tells teachers nothing they do not know already. Teachers under the pressure of having to justify themselves to management and management having to justify the school to Ofsted and the government, value test outcomes far above any other measures of the students welfare or learning. The pressure passes from government to management to teacher to student. It is particularly disgusting in primary schools where children as young as 5 and 6 now can face up to 6 weeks testing out of a 39 week academic year. As a primary school teacher and a parent of primary school children myself, I consider this abuse. The acceptance of this as abuse is widely held by delegates at the NUT conference. Now the government is suggesting testing 4 year olds when they enter school, baseline testing!
But, despite a strong and vocal minority in conference, which calls for the union to take decisive action; firstly by boycotting all testing in primary schools, the conference voted to commit to little more than consulting its members and a campaign conference. That is essentially the same strategy the union has had for years. The most basic thing we can do to stop the abuse and regain our dignity as a union of education workers is to ballot to stop administering the abuse. The campaign to make that a reality will continue into the new union.
Assistant Divisional Secretary of Lewisham Division NEU (NUT), personal capacity