We all face a Government that has an obsession with imposing a market-based ideology in education. This is apparent in their rapid academisation programme that drew criticism recently from the Education Select Committee. The cross-party group of MPs could find no proof that academies improve school standards and they raised serious concerns about the lack of accountability of academies both democratically and financially. Under the Tory-led coalition, there is too little compulsion on academies to raise the standards of education overall or for disadvantaged children.
Worse still is Michael Gove’s Free Schools initiative which has led to the creation of inadequate schools with unqualified teaching staff. Ofsted inspections are revealing their poor performance. Their financial sustainability is often questionable too and where they do hit problems it is the taxpayer that is left picking up the bill.
The current Government has subjected teachers to a controversial new system of performance-related pay. More than a quarter of teachers have been denied a salary increase – 90% of whom were not warned in advance. The new regime is seen as a lottery as exam results do not accurately reflect the performance of teachers. Teachers have also seen rising workloads. A leaked briefing paper suggests that the main cause of high teacher workloads is the pace and scale of changes in Government policy.
For UNISON members in schools, the Con-Dem Government’s abolition of the School Support Staff Negotiating Body (SSSNB) took away the opportunity for fair rates of pay that reflect the work that support staff do. Meanwhile, headteachers in some academies have seen their pay rise by more than 50%.
Recent commitments by Labour that an incoming-Government would protect real terms spending on education and re-introduce a SSSNB will be welcome news to UNISON members in schools.
There is an urgent need to improve the morale of teaching and support staff in our schools and to move away from policies that threaten growing privatisation and fragmentation in our education system.