If you agree these tests are wrong…

Louise Regan is a primary headteacher and Senior Vice-President of the National Union of Teachers.

This post first appeared on Louise’s Facebook page and has been shared hundreds of times.

I am a primary head teacher and have taught in primary schools for the past 26 years. I started teaching when SATs were first introduced and have never thought they were a good idea, but this year has been a disaster from start to finish.

Before I explain why that is I want to apologise. I want to say sorry to my staff and my children. I am sorry that I didn’t act sooner, that I wasn’t brave enough to stand up at the start of the year and say ‘no’. We all knew it was going to be bad but I really couldn’t have imagined it would be this bad.

The year has been chaotic from start to finish; the testing regime being just one part of that. From the Key Stage 1 SPAG test published on line for several months without the DfE noticing, to the terrible Year 6 tests which have left nearly half of our Year 6 pupils being told they are not good enough.

So to those young people moving on to secondary school I say to you ‘Well done’ for working hard and trying your best. Your school and your teachers have not failed you – this government has.

Over the past few days I have heard some terrible stories: head teachers sent home and told not to return; Year 6 teachers blamed for the results and told they can no longer teach in Year 6. These are people’s lives, people’s livelihoods: teachers went in to the profession to make a difference – we have a system set on destroying them.

To my staff and my children – again I am sorry – you are amazing – each and every one of you – you are individual, you are unique and no child should ever have to be tested on a standardised test because you are not standard.

No teacher should be made to feel they have failed when all they have done is work as hard as they can – often too hard to implement something which shouldn’t have been implemented.

So now a request to all of you – parents, teachers, head teachers, school staff:

If you agree that these tests are wrong and should go…

If you really believe, as I have heard many of you say, that this year must be the last year that we put our children through this…

Then please do not allow the 6 week holiday to numb your pain.

Please remember what this has done to our schools and our children and please do something: write to anyone and everyone, put pressure on politicians and let us all together build a campaign to make sure this doesn’t happen again.

Our children should leave primary school confident learners who are looking forward to secondary school, keen to learn and develop their skills but also people who have respect and understanding for those around them and who will grow in to well-grounded young people who can contribute positively to our society.

I, for one, cannot do this again I hope others join me to say enough is enough. Our children deserve so much more.

Louise Regan

Do something now:

Find out more about what the National Union of Teachers campaign on Primary Assessment

Get involved with the community Campaign groups Rescue our Schools and Let Kids be Kids

Sign the Let Kids be Kids petition to suspend the SATs

Nothing about us without us: why we need disabled teachers networks

Colleen Johnson is Vice-Chair of the NUT Advisory group on Disability Equality in Education and a joint Equalities Officer for Birmingham NUT.

Why do we need disabled teachers’ networks?

A disabled teachers’ network seeks to challenge barriers in teaching where they exist, for example, initially at entry to training and at entry to employment. It seems completely unacceptable that our great profession does not truly reflect society in general. We must correct this, not just because it’s fair and just but because such visibility is important for disabled youngsters, disabled parents – and society as a whole!

Evidence has shown that disabled teachers are less likely to be recruited, retained and promoted. This is discriminatory and it must be challenged at all levels.

What is a disabled teachers’ network?

A disabled teachers’ network is a group of disabled teachers who organise, campaign and support each other to challenge all of the above. Together we can share a better vision of the future ( yes, even in these challenging times).

It is important that members know their rights, take ownership of the social model of disability and share our difficulties and our successes around reasonable adjustments.

We know that disabled teachers ( with visible or invisible impairments) are reluctant to identify but we must get over that and trust our union.

What next?

After liaising with Vin Wynne who is a Senior organiser with responsibility for disability, I have drafted an initial plan for a Midlands regional network. This plan will be shared with the Midlands region who will contact members who disclose as disabled, or who have accessed support around physical/sensory or mental health impairment, or who have had their fitness to work questioned by their employer.

Once contact is made, we can begin to arrange a regional based event so we can share our vision and experience.

What I need from Midlands-based disabled teachers

It’s simple really:

Your name
Basic contact details
Expression of interest

What if I’m not in the Midlands?

Talk to your Divisional Secretary or Regional Secretary to find out what is happening in your area. If it’s nothing, start something up!

And check out the NUT website for information and advice

Remember “Nothing about us without us”

Colleen Johnson, Birmingham NUT

Matchfest: Women’s History Matters

Dr Louise Raw is a trade unionist, author and organiser of the annual Matchwomen’s Festival. Her book, Striking a Light, tells the true story of the Bryant & May Matchwomen’s strike of 1888.

Role models matter

It’s been well said that if you can’t see it, it’s much harder to be it, and psychological experiments have proved it- both Black and minority ethnic people and girls get an instant and measurable confidence boost when told about, or even simply shown images, of, women and BME men and women who have ‘made a difference’.

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I see this when I talk about the Matchwomen to schools – girls generally love the fact that young  (not to mention working-class and largely migrant heritage) women influenced millions of workers with their successful strike against one of Britain’s most powerful, well-connected and exploitative firms.

The Matchwomen were supposed to be powerless- but they used the ‘secret weapons’ of courage, resourcefulness and solidarity their hard lives had given them. They changed the course of British history, becoming the mothers of the modern labour movement and, by extension, the Labour Party.

As every teacher knows, ministers like Gove and Morgan are not in favour of a diverse and inclusive reading of history: David Starkey, the historian who has the government’s ear, has said that the history of Europe ‘is a history of white men’. This is not only demonstrably untrue; but dangerously so. Children, as well as adults, need to see their faces in the ‘mirror’ of their history and culture.

Screen Shot 2016-05-11 at 20.29.19That’s why I would like every child to know the story of the Matchwomen and the millions of men and women like them, who truly ‘made’ the history of this country, but have been pushed into the wings by the real minorities- Kings, Queens and ‘Great Individuals’ . Let’s put them back centre stage, where they belong.

The Matchwomen’s Festival

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Come and join us for the annual Matchwomen’s Festival which celebrates the remarkable achievement of these women and links their fight to our struggles today.

The Matchwomen’s festival has had amazing support from NUT members and branches since it began in 2013; I hope you’ll join us on Saturday 2nd July for our fourth annual shindig.

This year, on Saturday 2nd July, we have a really exciting line-up, and will be at Nambucca, a music venue a few minutes’ walk from Archway tube.

Dangerous Women

We love a dangerous woman at Matchfest and are delighted this year to have the incredible Shami Chakrabati, labelled the ‘most dangerous woman in Britain’ during her time with Liberty, as our lead speaker. Chakrabarti was also hailed by the Times as one of the ‘Makers of the 21st Century’, and has gone from Liberty to another relaxing, uncontroversial role, heading the independent inquiry for Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party…

Our other unmissable speakers:

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You’ve seen the movie, hear the real story! Sara Jackson, author of East London Suffragettes

International journalist, activist and author of bestselling political thrillers, Sunny Singh (‘Hotel Arcadia’).

Rachel Holmes on her superb biography of Eleanor Marx

Staying Mum: Esther Parry on Maternal Feminism

Nikki Dancey on the science behind sexism

GMB’s Nadine Houghton on organizing women today.

Nina Malik– on personal experience of surviving domestic violence, and the struggles of Asian women

Who made your shoes? The answer could surprise you. Nesta Holden on homework and women

Class War’s Lisa MacKenzie on fighting austerity- and getting nicked for it!

Historian Terry McCarthy on the betrayal of women war workers

We have an amazing line-up in the evening, with comedy, bands and poets: and we’re going though till 1am, so get your dancing shoes ready.

Children welcome

We love to see children at the Fest and will have a children’s corner for little ones. You can bring them for free (though please make sure you book them a kids’ free ticket) and they can stay until 8pm.

Evening Events

We’re going through till 1am so bring your dancing shoes: we’ve seen you in action at NUT conference, we know you can move!

*Swingerella* Raven Garcia* The Fireflys * Gaptooth * The Wimmin’s Institute

*Steve White and the Protest Family* Thee Faction*

Where’s it all happening?

Screen Shot 2016-05-11 at 18.00.23Venue: Nambucca, Holloway Road, London N7 6LB

Book tickets here

Follow us on Twitter @Matchwomen1888

Find us on Facebook

#matchfest 2016


Can you help with funding?

Matchfest is a completely independent, unfunded, and not-for-profit festival and relies on your donations to run.

You can donate in three ways:

1) By cheque payable to Matchwomen’s Festival: send to Dr L Raw, 6 Abbey Court, Holywell Hill, St Albans, Herts AL1 1HA

2) Donate via the option on the ticketing page https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/matchwomens-festival-2016-tickets-17654249335

3) Via Co-op account Matchwomen’s Festival sort code 089299 Account 65618220

Media Sponsor The Morning Star

 

Put Mary on the Green

Women’s history,and the women who made it, are routinely erased from our curriculum and our society. Susie Burrows calls for support for a campaign to erect a statue to Mary Wollenstonecraft in north London.

Mary Wollstonecraft (1759-97) was ‘the mother of feminism’. She lived and set up the first girls’ schools in Newington Green, London. Her other achievements include:

  • mary b&wAuthor of A Vindication of the Rights of Woman, the first book in English arguing for the equality of women and men
  • A pioneering activist for human rights
  • Radical thinker who inspired the suffragettes a century later
  • First female war correspondent, salaried journalist, early anti-slavery commentator
  • Radical thinker influencing Thomas Paine and Benjamin Franklin
  • Early children’s author and advocate for education
  • Published books on girls’ education and civil rights
  • Mother of Mary Shelley, author of Frankenstein
  •  The Mary on the Green Campaign calls for a memorial sculpture of Mary Wollstonecraft on Newington Green.

There is no significant memorial to her anywhere in the world. Of the 573 public statues of people in UK, only 15% are of women…

Help us to get Mary the recognition she deserves a permanent commemoration to her life and her work.

Download a poster to display here Mary Wollstonecraft

mwMotion for union branches and associations

This Association supports the campaign to put a statue of Mary Wollstonecraft on Newington Green, London. The Mary on the Green campaign is part of Newington Green Action Group. Mary Wollstonecraft has no significant memorial to her anywhere. She advocated votes for women 100 years before the suffragettes. She was an educational pioneer and the first woman to publicly  argue for education for girls. Aged 24, she set up a girls’ school in Newington Green. After publishing books on girls’ education and civil rights, she wrote ‘A Vindication of the Rights of Woman’ (1792) demanding ‘Justice for one half of the human race’. She is now known as the ‘Mother of Feminism’. She was a radical thinker who debated with Thomas Paine and Benjamin Franklin. One of the first female war correspondants and travel writers, she had a commitment to broader human rights and opposed the slave trade. She is the originator of the campaign for equality of access to education and the right to schooling. The Association agrees to give £100 to Mary on the Green. 
For more information contact  info@maryonthegreen.org
Susie Burrows is Joint Equalities Officer of Hackney NUT

Thoughts on the Memorandum

The National Union of Teachers’ Conference will debate a proposal from the Executive Working party for the reorganisation of executive seats in relation to gender & geographical distribution.

Kensington & Chelsea NUT Divisional Secretary, Melissa Hind, argues why it should be supported.

While there may have been increases in female representation on the National Executive, currently only 10 of the 37 seats (excluding the equalities seats) are held by women.  Further to this, of the 27 regions making up the current executive 17 have only male executive members with another two regions having more male executive members than female. This is in comparison to 5 regions with only female executive members and 3 regions with equal numbers of both.  Overall the current Executive is 27% female (again excluding the equalities seats), which – given that 76% of the NUT’s membership are female – is woefully inadequate and certainly not representative.

The National Union of Teachers is a union that actively promotes equality and has been responsible for piloting programmes and creating resources that address inequality. The ‘Breaking the Mould‘ set of resources looks specifically at addressing gender inequality. It is a brilliant resource and one that is used as an example of how progressive we are with our teaching. However, the same enthusiasm is often lost – or silenced – when we start looking at the gender disparity within our own union’s internal structures.

There is a school of thought that suggests the disparity between the numbers of male versus female executive members can be attributed to the fact that women just don’t want to be on the Executive. If this is the case, then we should be asking ourselves why.

Reasons such as workload and raising a family spring to mind, but we are now in the 21st Century and isn’t it time that more men – from both within the NUT but also partners and friends of NUT members – start supporting their female counterparts (in a way that women have been supporting men for years); empowering those who have previously not felt able to run in the executive elections to stand?

Many candidates that stand in executive elections have the support of internal groups within the NUT. If these groups want to continue to have a voice, but do not have women from within that are prepared to stand, then clearly they need to be doing more to support women activists. Having an executive comprised of at least 50% women provides the incentive necessary for groups pushing a particular viewpoint to actively encourage female voice.

Certainly in the first few election cycles you might find that some of the female candidates don’t have the breadth of experience that their male counterparts do, but until they are given the opportunity to gain the experience this will continue to be the case. If you are looking to elect at least one female out of a pool of 20,000 members (of which approximately 15,000 will be women) it is not ok to suggest that there are no women in that region up to the job or who want to stand: it is simply a matter of engaging them so they do.

There will be people who oppose the Memorandum because of other reasons such as the sizes of regions, the lack of accountability associated with being represented by two members or using a voting system also used by Eurovision.  All of these concerns are valid. However, there is scope within the Memorandum to review these at a later point, in situ, if they do indeed cause problems.

We have already seen this issue deliberated over by the Executive for two years with no solution and, if we continue to wait for the “perfect” proposal to be put forward, we will never make the changes necessary to begin to address the massive gender inequality seen on our current Executive.  There will always be reasons to stop the promotion of equality but it is time to stop making excuses and take action.

Melissa Hind is a teacher and the Divisional Secretary of Kensington & Chelsea

 

 

Their rightful place

There is a worrying lack of representation of women and Black and minority ethnic writers on the English curriculum. Teachers and students in several schools have started a campaign to get them properly represented.

English teacher, Olivia Eaton explains what you can do to help.

On World Book Day, students and teachers at our school, The Forest Academy, launched the Curriculum Campaign, an appeal to the Government to address the lack of female and ethnic minority writers on English GCSE and A Level set text lists and the curriculum as a whole. 

Following the introduction of changes to the curriculum in September 2015, English teachers at The Forest Academy noticed a distinct lack of female authors and authors from ethnic minority backgrounds to choose from when picking English Literature at GCSE and A Level set texts. 

Research shows that female writers are represented by an average of just 31% of texts across AQA, Edexcel and OCR’s 2015-2016 GCSE and A Level English Literature reading lists, despite women accounting for 51% of the UK’s population. In addition, texts by writers from black, Asian and ethnic minorities have been marginalised. Some courses only have 5% of texts represented by authors of these backgrounds, despite them accounting for 14% of the UK population. 

The Curriculum Campaign – supported by Beal High School, Association of School and College Leaders, Woodford Country High School for GirlsThe Palmer Catholic Academy and Wes Streeting MP – has launched a petition urging the Government to ensure the curriculum includes a proportionate number of texts by female and ethnic minority writers in English and across all subjects. We are campaigning as a whole school with students and teachers involved in every aspect of the campaign.

We are calling on NUT members to support our campaign and to help us build it more widely.

Please raise this as an issue in your association and, if possible, agree to:

  • send a message of support for the campaign which we can use publicly
  • circulate details of the petition and encourage members to sign
  • help build the campaign in your schools/area

You can contact us on hello@curriculumcampaign.com

Olivia Eaton is an English teacher and a member of Redbridge NUT

 

 

Stealing the Jewels from the Crown

The government is imposing massive cuts on sixth form colleges with disastrous effects on the educational provision for many of our young people.

Tania Ziegler, Sixth Form teacher, explains why so many sixth form teachers are ready to strike.

NUT members in Sixth Form Colleges are leading the way in the campaign against the cuts in education. Nearly 9 out of 10 members who voted said YES to strike action on Tuesday March 15th.

Unlike schools, the sector was not ring-fenced, and saw its funding cut by 14% in real terms by the Coalition. With another 8% of cuts happening in real terms over the next 4 years, it’s no wonder that one third of principals say their colleges may soon be financially unviable.

One third of young people at sixth form colleges come for the most disadvantaged parts of the country. Together with the scrapping of EMA, and the cut in funding for the third year of post 16 courses, it seems that hitting the most vulnerable is a key part of Tory policy. No surprises there.

Teaching staff face intolerable workloads due to rising class sizes and increased contact time. Working conditions have become dangerously cramped for both staff and students, squeezing nearly 30 people in to rooms designed for 18.

Subjects have been dropped in over 70% of colleges, including previously ‘safe’ maths and science courses.

Colleges are being bribed to convert to academy status with a promise of refunding VAT on successful completion.

All the more worrying is that the ‘Area Reviews’ being carried out for ‘efficiency’ have been shown to save no money and not improve standards, according to academic research carried out in Scotland where colleges have already suffered them. Further, support staff have lost jobs in forced mergers. We are standing up for them too.

The success of the sixth form sector is unparalleled in getting young people in to higher education, far ahead of independent schools, most of whom select their students. This Government are desperate to steal the jewels in the crown of state education to prop up their failing academy and free school experiment.

NUT members everywhere are called on to support their sixth form sisters and brothers in Tuesday’s national sixth form college strike. You can show your support by visiting picket lines at your local college, or using the hashtags #loveoursixthformcollege and #saveourcolleges on twitter.

 Tania Ziegler is a sixth form teacher in Winchester and the Sixth Form College Officer for the Hampshire Division

For more information on the campaign and actions you can take click here