Report of the last NEU/NUT conference

Hey everyone,

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.

Duncan Morrison,
Assistant Divisional Secretary of Lewisham Division NEU (NUT), personal capacity

Here is the text of the speech made by Gary McVeigh-Haye at the NEU/NUT Conference on 30 March, speaking on a motion about the crisis in young peoples’ mental health:

MOTION 20 – AMENDMENT 1 – Crisis in Young People’s Mental Health

Conference, President. I have been flown in a plane, but I’m not qualified to fly a plane. I’ve been treated by a dentist, but I’m not qualified to perform dentistry. I have received counselling for mental health problems, but I’m no more qualified to offer focussed and wholly appropriate counselling than I am to perform the former two tasks. So why would the Government so undervalue the cost of providing properly trained individuals to fulfil their ambition of having a mental health first aider in every school by 2020?

In the first year of the programme the Youth MHFA organisation has provided 100 one day training courses to around 1200 individuals. The cost of funding an individual is around £200. Conference I would suggest that to train staff to an adequate level in order to enable them to support children with mental health issues would actually cost way in excess of this amount. Furthermore, the idea of bundling around 120 staff at a time onto a one day course is never going to offer sufficient detail of training to enable those staff to fully deal with this ever escalating crisis of mental health issues in children from primary age up to university students.

Put simply, in their usual haphazard way, this Government is applying a sticking plaster to fix a gapping wound.

Conference, in order to even begin to deal with this crisis in young people’s mental health it’s not enough to look at the cure, we need to look at the roots of the problem and in doing so seek prevention.

Recently, I actually attended a very rare event for teachers. I attended CPD course that genuinely made me think. The session was based on the concept of load theory. Many of you will know that this theory is based on the capacity of the working memory and the limited information that our working memory can process. Even though there have been many creditable studies into the concept of load theory and the dangers of overloading young peoples working memories This Easter holidays children across the country are being bombarded with revision timetables, this ceaseless attack coming from all directions. Even yesterday Barnaby Lenon, Chairman of the Independent Schools Council, published advice arguing that GCSE students should be revising for seven hours a day over the Easter holidays. No wonder these still developing young minds are going into meltdown at the prospect of page after page of information pushing their working memory beyond capacity.

Conference, in 1986 the barbaric practice of corporal punishment was quite rightly banned from our schools. Why now, in the twenty first century, are we allowing a form of cognitive corporal punishment to pervade into our classrooms?

The Guardian recently published figures that show that whilst 16 million people in the UK show some form of mental illness, ¾ of these illnesses originate in childhood. Additionally, 73% of children with mental health problems are not receiving proper treatment for their conditions. Furthermore, it takes an average of 10 years for children to receive adequate treatment, and because of this we are send increasing numbers of children into adult life bereft of the personal capacity to cope with this increasingly complex world.

Conference, as teachers we implement wave one intervention in learning every day. At the frontline we also deliver wave one intervention for our children’s mental wellbeing. But now the Government must put its money where it’s mouth is and properly fund properly trained professionals to look after our children’s mental health. To paraphrase something Kevin Courtney said a couple of years ago, we know the cost of fully funding children’s mental health services, we do not know the price we will pay if we don’t properly fund this provision.

Advice to revise 7 hours a day for GCSEs over Easter ‘unbelievable’

Head of an independent school organisation has recommended that pupils study *7 hours a day* over the Easter holiday period, putting massive stress on pupils and perpetuating the idea that they shouldn’t have the genuine time off for rest and relaxation.

Worth having a read: https://www.theguardian.com/education/2018/mar/30/advice-to-revise-7-hours-a-day-for-gcses-over-easter-unbelievable

This is on top of the stress that pupils already face through exams and day-to-day work. And it must not continue! How are you enjoying your learning if you’re expected to have no rest?!!

Please leave a comment if you wish and we will have a discussion about how to fight this stress.

 

In solidarity, Joe Booth,     JoePLBooth@gmail.com

Speaking to the council about stress in studying

Last week, Joe Booth (young activist in Hackney) gave a speech to Hackney Council’s Health & Wellbeing board about youth mental health and cuts to Special Needs support services.

Here’s what he said:

My name is Joe Booth. I’m a 16-year-old autistic student at Mossbourne Community Academy. And I’m so concerned about school kids’ mental health that I have launched a campaign about it. The campaign is called Take The Stress Out Of Studying. TSOS for short. It has a website (tsos.blog), it has supporters around the country and has a petition signed by over 120 people. 

I want to make 3 points: *Firstly, the extent of stress and mental health problems amongst students. *Secondly, how school conditions contribute to this. *And thirdly, how important special education needs support is in dealing with this.

Firstly, one of the main things that prompted me to start this campaign was the suicide of my 16-year-old family friend last year. But lots of school-age kids experience mental health problems, and I myself have been taking daily anti-depressants since November. I know of students who have eating disorders, insomnia, distress, anxiety and other mental health problems. 

Secondly, school contributes to these mental health problems. For example, I’ve submitted a list of 5 concerns to the Vice Principal of my school. And what they are are: *Students are given so much homework that we have to spend hours every night doing it. We’re given at least 10 pieces of homework a week. Students stay up doing homework until midnight, 1am or even 2am. *Students are frequently kept in detention, often for trivial reasons. Students are often anxious about asking teachers for help with homework because they may detain them. Detentions until 6pm result in demoralisation and overwork. As a result, we become tired and stressed, and our family and leisure time is disrupted. *The academy is too strict and unsympathetic with us. Students are anxious about admitting to teachers if they have forgotten to bring equipment, or cannot complete or do homework, because the teachers will shout at them or detain them. As a result, students suffer anxiety about being sanctioned by teachers and can struggle to sleep. *Students have told teachers that they feel unwell (mentally or physically) and teachers have told them to ‘pull themselves together and keep learning’. As a result, students do not get the help they need with their health issues and become more unwell. *Special Needs students have become distressed and angry due to detentions and examination pressure. Sometimes, learning support staff have increased the lengths of their sanctions as a form of punishment instead of trying to understand what’s making them distressed and showing sympathy. As a result, Special Needs students are not getting the learning support they need, and are becoming excessively distressed.

Thirdly, particularly for students with Special Needs the extra support we need is crucial in helping us to deal with these stresses. E.g. through my Education Health & Care Plan (EHCP), I get a Teaching Assistant (TA) who can explain things to me so I don’t get distressed and somebody who I can talk to when I get upset. And I get Speech & Language Therapy which over the years, have helped me navigate social interaction and make friends. Any cut to Special Education Needs support in Hackney will lead to worsening students’ mental health. We should be improving the school environment for all our kids, especially all with special needs, not making it worse. We should be increasing support, not reducing it. 

To summarise, there is a real crisis in young people’s mental health. Conditions in schools are contributing to this crisis and we need the council and the government to increase support to kids with Special Needs, not taking it away.

 

Thanks for reading

How school systems are designed to maintain class orthodoxy in society

Hey everyone,

Here’s an interesting article about education systems and how they’re designed to maintain orthodoxy to the current establishment run by the bosses and Upper Classes of society.

Focuses more on America but it’s worth having a read. We could use it to focus on the stress in studying in the USA but also as a whole worldwide.

https://jacobinmag.com/2018/03/school-authority-punishment-police-citizenship

 

In solidarity, Joe Booth                                                                                                                         JoePLBooth@gmail.com

 

GCSE English Literature petition being debated in parliament

Good news:

Due to over 160 thousand signatures of the Change the GCSE English Literature exam from closed book to open book on https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/200299, the Petitions Committee (the group of MPs who oversee the petitions system) have agreed to schedule a debate on this petition.

This is all good news! Odds are: the more we put pressure on the government to carry out demands to oversee our welfare, respond to our demands, and take us – the oppressed – very seriously, the more likely they are to do it. There’s a traditional saying amongst all movements when we demand for them to become a mass movement for the many not for the few: when we’re together we have power.

If you have any ideas on what to do next to campaign for this demand (e.g. a demonstration at the Department for Education), please leave a comment and we will start a mass movement.

Thank you for your time, hopefully this has helped with the movement to take the stress out of studying

In solidarity, Joe Booth