Select Committee on Education and Skills Minutes of Evidence

Memorandum from NASUWT (TU 02)

  The main concerns of NASUWT in relation to teachers and the education service are as follows:


  This has been a serious problem for more than 10 years. The Government acknowledged the problem when it issued Circular 2/98 (Reducing the Bureaucratic Burden Upon Teachers) in June of that year.

  The Circular led to some temporary short-term improvements. These were soon overwhelmed by the continuing tide of Government initiatives. NASUWT argued that more effective remedies were needed, particularly in relation to the teacher's contract.

  NASUWT is pleased to note that very recent developments culminating in the Secretary of State's letter of remit to the School Teachers' Review Body in respect of the Supplementary Report on Teacher Workload, gives teachers genuine cause for optimism that some effective remedies are just around the corner.


  Again, NASUWT long ago drew the attention of the Nation to this escalating problem. It was not that long ago that NASUWT was the lone voice calling for action to deal with an extremely serious problem.

  NASUWT is pleased to note that over the last couple of years there has been a marked shift in Government and informed public opinion. The problem of serious misbehaviour on the part of a small but growing minority of youngsters was something that had to be treated far more seriously than it had in the past.

  Unfortunately, during the early part of the Government's first term of office, between 1997 and 2001, the problem was made worse by some aspects the Government's policy on inclusivity, which was simply unrealistic.

  NASUWT has been pleased to note that the Government is now taking a more realistic approach and is also providing additional resources to help deal with the problem.

  While there remain differences in detail, the NASUWT is now more optimistic that progress on this issue should become possible in the course of the relatively near future.


  Teachers' pay has, for most years, been a matter of contention. However, again, the NASUWT is pleased to note that in recent years some progress has been made.

  The potential for more progress exists but is crucially dependent upon one or two particularly important matters which might appear esoteric to the outside world. The operation of the Upper Pay Spine for the post-threshold teachers is absolutely crucial if the momentum for progress is to be maintained.


  NASUWT has always accepted the need for some process of external inspection. The Association found the earlier models of OFSTED oppressive and extremely damaging to teacher morale.

  When the oppressive OFSTED regime was backed up by various measures amounting to management by public humiliation, the situation was made worse.

  The NASUWT is pleased to note that progress has been made in modifying the worst aspects of the original OFSTED regime.

  However, the Association is firmly of the view that teaching is a profession which is now held monumentally over-accountable. In addition to OFSTED there are numerous other ways in which teachers are held accountable. One bureaucratic system has been piled on top of another. It is one of the factors which has generated the excessive workload problem. While some moves back towards commonsense have appeared in recent times, embodied in the principle of "intervention in inverse proportion to success", much more needs to be put into practice on the ground, reducing the ways in which teachers are held accountable to a much more simplified, slimline system.


  The excessive accountability, which has now been built into the education system, not only produces the workload problem but also badly affects morale insofar as so much of the work is being imposed from on high. There is no sense of ownership amongst teachers. There is also a strong belief that much of the work is both unnecessary and ill advised. Like many people, teachers are prepared to work hard but prefer to do so in support of work they perceive as central to their professional task of teaching and conversely deeply resent imposed measures which are viewed as bureaucratic and unnecessary.


  The Bill currently before Parliament gives more cause for concern to teachers. While there are some aspects which teachers regard as positive, overall the Bill appears to be largely unnecessary and the source of yet more change for which it is difficult to see the justification.

Nigel de Gruchy

December 2001

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