Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Supply teachers

Supply teachers have always seemed to me to be the SAS of the teaching profession, parachuted in when there are gaps in the front line, taking classes where the teacher is over-stressed and finding out in five minutes *why* the teacher is over-stressed!

Conference Motions should have gone out last term and should be available on thehttp://teachers.org.uk website soon.

There is a resolution on supply and agency teachers on the agenda in the name of the executive. It has some pious objectives:
"1) Mount a campaign to build awareness of routes to permanent status for casually employed teachers.
2) Develop campaigning and negotiating strategies to encourage the re-establishment of local authority-wide supply pools.
3) Develop strategies to protect teachers who are not directly employed by local authorities or schools in order that they may access equal rights to pay, pension and other benefits.
4) Build a campaign to promote the employment of supply teachers to provide cover in schools.
We need to find ways of translating these fine sentiments into positive help for our supply and agency colleagues here and now.

Parents must be concerned that their children are not being taught by qualified teachers and their support could be very useful in putting on pressure to ensure "a qualified teacher for every child".

Jack London's book, "The Iron Heel"

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Bush's punishment by Muntadar al-Zaidi

I can see why people think Muntadar al-Zaidi is a hero when
the puppet government in Iraq are such pussies. The brave
security services are beating up a defenceless man in
custody. And they do it to grovel to the American occupying

Since the war millions of Iraqis are still waiting for the
electricity and water supplies to be restored to normal. It
is hardly surprising they experience frustration and any
sign of resistance to Bush is welcomed.

The politicians stay well away from Iraqis, keeping
themselves locked up in what Rajiv Chandrasekaran called "The
Emerald Palace" of the Green Zone. So it was only because
Bush wanted the media to see him on his farewell tour that
Muntadar had a chance to strike a small blow on behalf of
the women and children whose blood is on Bush's hands.

I don't condone throwing shoes but compared to bombing
civilians, the massacre at Fallujah, torture at Abu Ghraib
and Guantanamo, Bush's punishment is mild.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Jewish school-leavers refuse to support oppression in Palestine

Name: Udi Nir
Age: 19
Location: Tel-Aviv
Why I am one of the Shministim:
“I will not lend my own hand to the occupation and to acts that contradict my most basic values: human rights, democracy and the personal responsibility each and every human being bears towards fellow human beings.”
Sentence: Aug. 21st - Sept. 7th 2008 (18 days)

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Torture counterproductive in Iraq

Democracy Now! interviewed a former special intelligence operations officer who led an interrogations team in Iraq two years ago. His nonviolent interrogation methods led Special Forces to Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the head of al-Qaeda in Iraq. He has written a new book, "How to Break a Terrorist: The US Interrogators Who Used Brains, Not Brutality, to Take Down the Deadliest Man in Iraq."

The publication date for the book was delayed for six weeks due to the Pentagon’s vetting of it. The soldier wrote it under the pseudonym, Matthew Alexander, for security reasons. He says the US military’s use of torture is responsible for the deaths of thousands of US soldiers by inspiring foreign fighters to kill Americans.

Click here to read more

Thursday, November 06, 2008

McCain has had his chips

Millions of Americans genuinely voted for change. McCain represented more of the same and Obama represented the audacity of hope.

The Democrats and Republicans are essentially one party and we can hardly celebrate the victory of one capitalist party over another. The Democrats are the worst kind of manipulative machine politicians.

A simple example is the response to the story of Obama's aunt.

The use by muckrakers of the corporate media of the fact that Obama's "half aunt" was classed as an illegal immigrant was an ideal opportunity to point out the plight of the illegals in the US. After all when the illegals staged a one day strike on May Day 2006 many everyday services in the USA ground to a halt. The prejudice against illegals is nonsensical.

Instead we were told that Obama was "of course concerned that the law should be complied with". Would he have told Rosa Parks, would he have told all those who broke the law to achieve civil rights the same thing? If he is prepared to make concessions like this before the election what other compromises will he be prepared to make in the future?

Many in America see Obama as a fresh hope after eight years of Republican rule but their disappointment will be so much the greater if the new boss turns out to be the same as the old boss.

Initially people who supported Obama will make excuses - he couldn't help the poor because of the economic crisis. He is intent on managing capitalism and helping the poor and disadvantaged. Socialists might be tempted to say "I've told you before you can't do that!"

And every government which has tried - sincerely or otherwise - to do so has been blown off course like Wilson in 1966. The corporations will not relinquish their power without a fight - and usually a fight to the finish with no holds barred.

John Pilger commented on the election of Obama, "Well, it comes down to, I suppose, asking an Afghan child how they feel when their family has been destroyed by a 500-pound bunker-busting bomb dropped by the United States and dropped by President Obama, as he continues that war. I think that’s the reality that we really have to begin to discuss now, having celebrated, and rightly celebrated, the ascent of the first African American president of the United States. "

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Change big donors can believe in

Democracy Now's Amy Goodman reports that "Regardless of who the winner is, the next president will enter the White House with a long list of major donors to thank. "

And the media do not report on this.

Researcher Bill Buzenberg explains:

“Every local television station I have been to, I say, ‘How do you do in election years?’ They say, ‘We buy new cameras, new sets.’ It is a huge benefit to them. The commercial broadcasters are cleaning up this year like never before, and you’ll never hear them questioning the system that allows so much money to come back to them.”

Click here for details

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Crawley Socialist Party

The Crawley Socialist Party were out today campaigning against the fuel and food price rises and for a new workers' party. The public response was good. Theres a lot of anger from working people who cannot afford the excessive price rises and recognise the profits of the fat cats are to blame.

http://crawleysocialistparty.blogspot.com is their brand new blog.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Arrest of journalist - BBC does not protest

Democracy Now! Host Amy Goodman was arrested while questioning police about the unlawful detention of Producers Sharif Abdel Kouddous and Nicole Salazar, who were arrested while they carried out their journalistic duties in covering street demonstrations at the Republican National Convention.

Democracy Now! is a radio and TV show available on the internet at HTTP://democracynow.org. It aims to represent the “silenced majority” in American society. To their shame, BBC journalists have failed to raise the issue of Amy Goodman's arrest or to protest.

Sheer self-preservation would suggest that journalists should oppose the targeting of journalists by the police in the United States. Democracy Now has been a thorn in their side because of their refusal to use “embedded” journalists who simply reproduce the government line.

As Amy Goodman says “journalism is telling a story somebody doesn't want told. Anything else is advertising.”

It is in the interests of all workers in the media (and out of it!) to protest the arrest of journalists who seek to undermine the lies of the corporate media.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Ali Piper's website

Ali Piper's website is http://www.alipiper.co.uk and it is currently under construction so watch this space.

The grey gerbil shown in the photograph is actually a microphone.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Letters to Lara

There is some renewed interest in the Letters to Lara project. Of course teachers can choose another iconic computer game hero in place of Lara and get the same interesting response.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Two Caravans by Marina Lewycka

This book tells the stories of a group of immigrant workers in the UK. The book switches point of view between the characters in a way which creates an original and exciting type of narrative.

As the novel develops it becomes the love story between Irina and Andriy. She is a devotee of the Orange revolution and westernisation in the Ukraine which she saw as a liberation from Russian domination. Andriy is the son of a miner who fought against the capitalist restoration and the consequent destruction of the mining industry.

Andriy is traumatised by a mining accident in which his father was buried underground. As the narrative develops it becomes clear that after the mines closed miners were forced to go underground without any safety precautions to get coal to use and sell. His grief turns into an anger against the “mobilfonmen” the spivs who have taken over the Ukraine and have their counterparts in the UK.

Irina's romanticism is gently mocked: 'English men are supposed to be incredibly romantic. There is a famous folk-legend of a man who braves death and climbs in through his lady's bedroom window just to bring her a box of chocolates.'

And the style of narration is an ideal way of showing how the two lovers misunderstand each other.

It would not be everybody’s choice to read a description of the appalling conditions of immigrant labour in the UK or the politics of the Ukraine but Marina Lewycka turns it into a tragic and comic narrative which is a good read.

And I leave the last word to Andriy “If I were a warrior, I would not be defending some stupid old stones but the flesh and blood of living people. In Donbas too the mobilfonmen have taken over, and people have become disposable, their precious lives thrown away through avoidable accidents and preventable disease, their misery blunted by vodka. This is the future his country has prepared for him - to be expendable. No he will not accept it."

The ISBN for this book is 978-0-670-91637-5. Get it from your library.

Monday, June 23, 2008


Angela and I were pleased to take part in the Midnight Walk in Horsham for St Catherine's hospice. FYI Hospices work with the terminally ill. They make it easier for people in a way hospitals are not equipped to do. I was a marshal because this is a women-only event

And I still wonder why the government has no money for this when they have billions for war.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

42 days for not committing any crime.

If you favour locking up people who have committed no crime for 42 days then why stop there?

Solzhenitsyn tells the story of a prisoner who got off the truck and told the guard he had been sentenced to ten years. When asked what for he answered "nothing". The guard hit him and shouted "Liar! The penalty for nothing is five years!"

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Linda Taaffe speaks out

Linda Taaffe writes in classroom teacher Linda was on the National Executive for years but the tired old left thought she was a bit too outspoken. To use a suspect sexist term, she had more balls than the lot of them put together!

In Central Hall Westminster at the April 24th strike rally in front of two thousand teachers, with many more thousands locked outside, wild cheering and applause greeted any platform speaker even hinting at further joint action.

It seemed that the NUT was on a roll. After years of trying, the Left on the NUT National Executive apparently had won a small majority in the elections. Also by a quirk of fate a left general secretary took the helm, joining an already established left treasurer. We then got the news that UNISON were going to ballot, and others were lining up to join those that had already shown willing.

At the same time discontent is being fuelled by more rising prices. Our case is strengthened daily. And to cap it all the government has come under real pressure. With the massacre in the local elections, now Nantwich & Crewe, and Gordon Brown's poll ratings at absolute rock bottom what a chance to extract another u-turn on public sector pay to add to the 10p tax fiasco.

Trade unions rarely get a favourable combination of circumstances to pursue a strike. It is never the right moment. But given some other situations this was a golden opportunity. Incredibly some, or rather quite a few, including those calling themselves Left, have voted against calling action now. They have let teachers down. They have let the government off the hook. They have quite possibly caused a negative impact on the rank and file of other unions.

We recognise that there might be complicating factors, but the overriding factor here was a chance for the coordinated action that the whole of the trade union movement has been campaigning on for such a long time. Shame on those who have shown such a lack of judgment that they voted against a strike in July.

Leadership is all about judgment. Of course we all want the same thing in the end, but timing is everything in politics. Now it seems we have a situation where some 'on the left' have joined with others on the right with similar 'honestly held views' to effectively kick our pay battle into the long grass for now.

Experience in the Left Caucus on the National Executive has shown me that there are some whose views are barely 'Left' at all. There are others on the Left like myself, Martin Powell Davies and others especially in the Socialist Party, who faced a somewhat different, quite unsympathetic reaction to our 'honestly held views'. Martin stood for General Secretary because we reckoned that the views of the candidate backed by others on the Left would fall short. Were we right? As an Executive member I spoke out against some of the methods of many in the Left Caucus who believed that those in the then majority of the Executive really wanted the same thing as us and would see the error of their lackadaisical ways and be won over by our more energetic campaigning.

Unfortunately, the result of this vote could demobilise teachers. It certainly gives the government time to re-group. It may well be that the relentless pressure of events can bring action to the fore again. I certainly hope so. The Div. Secs on June 17th might have much to say. Hopefully Divisonal Secretaries who wanted to see united action in July will not go shy in taking up the arguments of those on the left as well as those on the right.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Early Years News

From Early Year News

Angela Ahern writes:

I attended Early Education's Annual Conference in Sheffield at the weekend. The theme was "Trusting children's thinking: reflecting on Dispositions for Learning". The keynote speakers were Professor Cathy Nutbrown : School of Education, University of Sheffield and Mick Waters : Director of Curriculum, QCA.
Cathy Nutbrown's talk was entitled "Respectful educators, capable learners". Cathy is an interesting and stimulating speaker, quoting Christian Schiller, Alec Clegg and Robin Tanner, amongst others. She expressed her view that education should be through the Arts, encouraging creativity and expression. Art - in terms of music, dancing, painting should be seen as a pedagogy. "Creative children need creative adults with wide eyes and open minds". Creative education in this sense is an "orienteering expedition, not a route march", with adults as "orienteering guides", providing tools and resources for the journey and opportunities to be a pioneer. Creative assessment is seen as a series of checkpoints on the learning journey.
Cathy quoted from an essay by Fulgham (1990) entitled "All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten", "live a balanced life - learn some and think some and draw and paint and sing and dance - every day -some". Put things back where you found them and clean up your own mess - have milk and cookies at 3.00pm followed by a nap - hold hands and watch out for traffic - what else do we need to know?

Mick Waters from QCA has been described as the "Mick Jagger of the education world", so the audience weren't too sure what to expect, and he did not disappoint. Mick had separately also decided to quote Fulgham, so had to find another poem to illustrate his point, which was essentially that it is vital that educators do not lose their playful joyful spirit! Mick advocated applying the principles of early years education in secondary schools. He commented that to some "education is seen as a cold shower - unpleasant and hateful but good for you". He made the point that the curriculum should fit the learners, not the other way around.
Mick had helpfully made a list of childhood essentials, "make, do and mend........
*a collection
*tending plants
*taking things to bits
*caring for creatures
*enjoying the weather
*an adventure
*being in a club
*making something to use at home or at school
He posed the question, "is there anything living in your classroom?"
For further information on Mick's view of the early years curriculum, see the QCA website.

The conference heard from Felicity Thomas and Stephanie Harding from Earlham Early Years Centre, Norfolk in the afternoon, who have developed their own way of planning and assessing young children through focusing on their dispositions for learning, such as curiosity, persistence, co-operation, being rich and flexible in communication and playfulness.

The conference closing address was given by Margaret Edgington, who is the Vice President of Early Education. She stressed that those of us who work in the early years need to be firm about what are our non-negotiables, such as a curriculum that encourages an orienteering approach rather than a route march through targets, and to stand by and defend these - to both the Government and Ofsted - where applicable. She urged us to trust our own thinking - we are the connoisseurs of young children's learning and we need to exert our spirit strongly!

Next years conference will be held in Swansea and is entitled "Childhood Regained".
Look forward to seeing you there!

Monday, May 12, 2008

Peace march from Brighton or Seaford

This is a chance to get some fresh air and exercise, even if you think the United Nations has a rather poor record in securing world peace (Korea!) the sentiment is right. I will probably start from Seaford rather than Brighton.

The walk will start at the entrance to Brighton pier at 8.30am with a send-off from Brighton's Mayor for Peace. We aim to end up at Beachy Head for the Plaque install at 6.30pm attended by Eastbourne's Mayor for Peace. The Mayor of Seaford (Also a Mayors for Peace town) will meet us at around 1.30-2pm at the Seaford Museum.

We shall carry the plaque on a bespoke carriage all the way except for the Ouse crossing at Newhaven where we plan to have a lift to bring us from the western to the eastern bank thus saving us the extra two miles inland for the bridge crossing. At all times we shall use the coastal path.
The Peace Memorial commemorates all who lost their lives in the wars of the last hundred years, whatever their gender, age or nationality, military or civilian, and invokes the wording of the United Nations Charter, "...we the peoples of the United Nations, determined to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war ......". It is sponsored by Eastbourne United Nations Association and Eastbourne for Peace and Liberty.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

No Academy in Midhurst or Easebourne

Letter to Pat.Arculus@Westsussex.gov.uk the grandly titled "cabinet member for education" for West Sussex. You can write too if you live in West Sussex and you are concerned:

I am concerned at the haste with which the academy proposals in West Sussex, in particular in Midhurst/Easebourne, are being railroaded through. Once the decision has been made the academies will be outside the control of local people and as we saw recently in Barrow ignoring the concerns of local people can lead to councillors losing their seats.

If councillors are seen as out of touch with local people and abdicating responsibility for education to unelected religious bodies local people may well feel councillors do not deserve their support or trust.

As a teacher I am also concerned that teachers' organisations have not been consulted about this drastic change in their wages and conditions of service. New staff at the academies will not have the wages and conditions of service laid down in the STPC document and local agreements with teachers' organisations will be torn up.

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Onwards and upwards = the NUT pay campaign.

The National Executive today unanimously agreed:

1. to reaffirm its committment to the decision of annual conference to ballot members for discontinous action

2. to discuss timescales for a ballot and also of forms of strike and non strike action at its next meeting in 2 weeks time.

3. to seek a meeting with Govt to put forward our demands on pay and on workload.

4. to congratulate div and assoc secs for the work done so far and encourage them to work for the petition ( deadline May 23rd) and the lobby of Parliament on June 9th.

Discontinuous action means that the NUT will be able to act in UNISON with other unions in the public sector. The government has said it want to "listen" and "feel our pain" so feel this Gordon!

Sunday, May 04, 2008


A strange way to celebrate Mayday by electing a load of Tory councillors. I have taken for going for a walk every time Boris appears on the box. However there was one small bit of good news from a friend in Cumbria:

THE anti-academy campaign has sensationally ousted veteran Barrow Borough Council leader Bill Joughin in the local elections.

And his deputy, Jack Richardson, only managed to hold on to his town hall seat by one vote after three recounts.

The Tories were shaken by this result. They had ignored local feeling against the academy and they have paid the price. It also shows people who stand up and fight can beat the Tories while New Labour goes down to ignominious defeat.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Gordon Brown "disappointed."

Gordon Brown has said he is "disappointed" that teachers are going on strike. This week the government has cut corporation tax from 30 to 28 percent thus handing over billions to the fat cats. 50 billion has also been handed over to the bankers. Then they pretend they haven't got the money to pay the teachers.

Teachers are beyond "disappointed." Some are getting angry and as Steve Sinnott put it, "Gordon, you wouldn't like us when we're angry!"

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Verifiabilitiyify your nucular program

I caught CNN when they televised at length Brown looking embarrassed and Bush ranting that Iran cannot be trusted and demanding of Aminadinajad - "Verifiabilitiyify your nucular program"

Another country he can't trust apparently is Al Qaeda although he did look a bit confused at that point and then conceded they were a bunch of people rather than a country. Though the guardian of the free world still looked unsure.

And now here is something quite long about Obama - but quite good which is my reason for forwarding it.

Democrats Raise Hope for Change — Populist Rhetoric Conceals Pro-Corporate Policies
By Alan Jones
The race between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama for the Democratic nomination remains unresolved, with just a few primaries left. Obama appears to have an insurmountable margin. However, neither candidate is likely to gain the 2,025 delegates required to secure the nomination. This sets the stage for an all-out fight at the August convention, as unelected “super-delegates” will probably decide the outcome.

Hillary Clinton, trailing in delegates, can only win the nomination by trying to fatally injure Obama's campaign to convince the super-delegates he cannot win against John McCain. Her campaign has used thinly-veiled racism to attack Obama. Furthermore, she made the astounding claim that only she and… John McCain are "qualified" to act on national security, not Barack Obama.

Incredibly, the Obama campaign found itself on the defensive on issues such as NAFTA in a state like Ohio, which has been devastated by job losses because of the "free trade agreements" signed by Bill Clinton's White House.

The Clintons have a huge rap sheet of attacks against working people, from welfare rights to democratic rights, NAFTA, selling out on healthcare reform, and supporting Bush's war. Yet, Obama's camp showed its timidity toward the establishment by refusing to go on the attack against the Clintons' record, largely because they don’t disagree with these policies.

Obama's Politics

Obama’s spectacular primary victories were a reflection of the increasing rejection of the Republicans’ policies over the past seven years among large sections of the population. Obama has electrified youth and African-Americans, and is organizing rallies of tens of thousands with his message of "change" and "hope."

There is a sense of history being made and of another barrier being demolished, with an African-American so close to winning the Democratic Party’s nomination.

Obama, much more than Clinton, is able to appear as a Washington outsider who represents real change, as well as appearing to be "antiwar" because he expressed opposition to the war while Clinton was supporting Bush's war drive.

Aside from the hopes for a better future projected onto his candidacy by millions of Americans, Obama is very vague when it comes to putting forward specific social reforms or actual changes. In reality, Obama is a thoroughly big business candidate, having been vetted by the corporate elite that control U.S. politics. If elected, he will bitterly disappoint his supporters by carrying out pro-rich, anti-worker policies.

Obama is not the product of the civil rights struggles or any real political movement. In many ways, his political origins have more in common with Colin Powell, Bush's former Secretary of State, and a whole new generation of black leaders who have been loyal servants of the establishment.

This alone, however, does not explain the sudden shift of a large section of the political establishment behind a man who, four years ago, was in the Illinois state senate. Obama's political backers include Senator Ted Kennedy and such pillars of the establishment as former National Security Advisor and Cold War hawk Zbigniew Brzezinski, Rupert Murdoch's New York Post, The Los Angeles Times, former Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker, and Warren Buffet, the second richest man in the U.S.

In the aftermath of U.S. imperialism’s debacles in Iraq and Afghanistan, a growing section of the U.S. ruling class is looking at Obama as the multicultural face that can signal to the world a shift from the policies of Bush’s unilateralism into those that would combine selective military force (in the name of a "war on terrorism" against "rogue regimes", etc.) with more diplomacy and the use of alliances.

In an editorial endorsing Obama, the Los Angeles Times commented: "An Obama presidency would present as a distinctly American face a man of African descent…No public campaign could do more than Obama's mere presence in the White House to defuse anti-American passion around the world" (2/3/08).

Contradictory Features
There are contradictory features reflected in the Obama phenomenon. On the one side is the genuine hope for change felt by millions of working people, while on the other side there is the desire of sections of the establishment to use Obama to create a more “acceptable face” to promote U.S. imperialism’s policies internationally.

Underlying the present political developments is a sharpening class polarization in U.S. society, which is compounded by a deepening economic crisis. This is fueling illusions that the Democratic Party and Obama represent some kind of "change." This reflects a shift of consciousness to the left and is an anticipation of an increase in social struggles in the coming turbulent period of American politics.

In the absence of a real political alternative from the labor or antiwar movements, the mass of workers and youth will need to go through the experience of a Democratic presidency to dispel their illusion that the Democratic Party - a party owned lock, stock, and barrel by the corporate establishment - will affect changes to benefit working people and bring an end to the squandering of untold trillions in Iraq and other wars.

When these illusions are shattered, many more will begin to understand the necessity of building a serious movement of working people in the streets, as well as the need to break from the two parties of capitalism and build our own political party.

Growing Populism
As the primary fight heated up, both Clinton and Obama were forced to try to tap into the broad anti-corporate anger that exists among large sections of the working class and even the middle class.

In speeches in economically hard-hit states, like Wisconsin and Ohio where there have been massive job losses, Obama spoke about the enormous inequality that exists in the U.S. and the fact that the rich are getting richer while everyone else is struggling to get by. Obama called for "shared sacrifice and shared prosperity."

His populist rhetoric provoked a reaction from the big business media, who warned Obama against stirring up "class warfare." Clearly, the establishment press realizes there is a danger of the Obama campaign igniting the deep reservoir of social discontent.

The Democrats seem poised to make gains against the Republicans in Congress in 2008. Whoever gets elected president in 2008 will be faced with colossal crises, both at home and abroad. The Obama campaign, while fostering illusions of change and hope, is not the vehicle of social change that the liberals imagine, but signals the opening of a new period of political and social instability.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Teacher Support Network

Message from the TSN:

Hello, I’m the digital media manager for Teacher Support Network. Just came across your blog. Neat stuff. You’re an active internet user and a teacher. I’m looking to develop new ways for teachers to get more involved using online community building tools. I just wanted to send you a personal invite to get involved in some of our upcoming things

Outside of our tools on our site http://teachersupport.info, We also have some entry points set up on the social network sites.

On Facebook:

Page: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Teacher-Support-Network/8348473439

Group: http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=2385602766

Would enjoy your participation and feedback. We’re also looking to get more teacher bloggers involved with TSN’s online work to create more teacher bloggers, or at least more participants talking about issues facing UK educators. We’re in the midst of creating some new online tools and would be neat to have you on board to maybe look at some of them as we’re developing them.

Anyway, any input is welcome. Thanks in advance

Andrew Lyons
Digital Media Manager
Teacher Support Network

Hamilton House, Mabledon Place, London WC1H 9BE
Direct Line: +44 (020) 7554 5242 Fax: +44 (020) 7554 5239
Email: andrew.lyons@teachersupport.info

Saturday, April 05, 2008

Steve Sinnott 1951-2008

NUT General Secretary, Steve Sinnott, died suddenly on 5 April, 2008. He was my age.

Acting General Secretary, Christine Blower said: “Our hearts go out to Steve’s family at this sad time.

I know that he would have wanted the Union to go ahead with all its campaigns because he believed in all of them with his heart as well as his head.

At a later stage we will have the opportunity properly to remember Steve Sinnott, to honour his achievements and to celebrate his life.
For now, the best way to mark our respect would be to maximise the effect of the campaigns to which he was so committed.”

Friday, April 04, 2008

Teachers support the strike

The TES online survey shows massive support from non NUT teachers for strike action. Their union leaders should wake up and pay attention!

Source: TES online survey of 7,336 teachers, of whom 3,521
were NUT members

Is the one-day strike on April 24 a good idea?

All teachers Yes 62% No 38%
Non-NUT members Yes 52% No 48%
NUT members Yes 73% No 27%
(The same proportion of NUT members said they intended to
walk out on April 24)

Will it cause your school to close?

All teachers Yes 47% No 53%
Non-NUT members Yes 39% No 61%
NUT members Yes 55% No 45%

Friday, March 28, 2008

School Rules OK?

Our local swimming pool has three rules. Here they are:

1) Do not do anything dangerous.
2) Obey any instruction given to you by staff.
3) Enjoy yourself.

The third one isn't even a rule but just intended to create the right atmosphere.

Any school could manage with such a set of rules. Any pupil could understand them.

Alternatively our school had a rule "pupils may only wear flesh-coloured tights." One of our very few black pupils made a complete idiot of the head who tried to enforce that one!

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

NUT conference 2008 The Easter miracle

I thoroughly enjoyed NUT conference. Bill Greenshields’ presidential address was inspiring with its emphasis on the class basis of British society and his more-or-less unflappable demeanour made for a well-organised conference. Sometimes his avuncular chairmanship put me in mind of an uncle from my youth, Joe I think his name was.

The way the conference worked, the Executive Priority motion meant most calls for action were ruled out of order. This gives the National Executive an enormous opportunity to display flexibility. With an apparent left numerical majority on the Exec (depending on how you calculate these things) they must prove to be our flexible friends and not the government’s.

On Sunday on the tram there was a lot of talk about the Jerry Glazier Easter Miracle where Jerry apparently saw the light on the road to Damascus and ended up agreeing with Martin Powell-Davies on the need to link action on class size, workload and pay together.

After the Classroom Teacher http:/classroomteacher.org.uk discussion on Sunday I look forward to April 24th and recruiting new activists from the first-time strikers who will be involved. The classroom teacher flyer will be available for people to download and print out

The WSTA delegation had a gender balance of 7:2 which reflects the gender balance of the union. Other delegations can do likewise and perhaps the National Executive too.

We recorded our thoughts on the conference blog http://wsta1.org.uk from which you will see that two first-time delegates who are supply teachers were moved to see the consideration the union is giving to their plight.

Friday, March 07, 2008

Some people are gay. Get over it.

I started teaching in 1979 and I wouldn't have put up a poster like this then. I put one up in my room this week and all the comments have been positive. Some pupils were quoting it to each other as a criticism and a suggestion they might like to heed its advice.

Have some Madeira M'dear

This song is by Flanders and Swan and was very funny when they used to do it:

She was young, she was pure, she was new, she was nice
She was fair, she was sweet seventeen
He was old, he was vile, and no stranger to vice
He was base, he was bad, he was me!
He had slyly inveigled her up to his flat
To view his collection of stamps
And he said as he hastened to put out the cat
The wine, his cigar and the lamps

Have some madeira, m'dear
You really have nothing to fear
I'm not trying to tempt you, that wouldn't be right
You shouldn't drink spirits at this time of night

Have some madeira, m'dear
It's really much nicer than beer
I don't care for sherry, one cannot drink stout
And port is a wine I can well do without
It's simply a case of chacun a son gout
Have some madeira, m'dear

Unaware of the wiles of the snake-in-the-grass
And the fate of the maiden who topes
She lowered her standards by raising her glass
Her courage, her eyes and his hopes
She sipped it, she drank it, she drained it, she did
He quietly refilled it again
And he said as he secretly carved one more notch
On the butt of his gold-headed cane

Have some madeira, m'dear,
I've got a small cask of it here
And once it's been opened, you know it won't keep
Do drink it up, it will help you to sleep

Have some madeira, m'dear,
it's really an excellent year
Now if it were gin, you'd be wrong to say yes
The evil gin does would be hard to assess
Besides it's inclined to affect me prowess
Have some madeira, m'dear

Then there flashed through her mind what her mother had said
With her antepenultimate breath
"Oh my child, should you look on the wine when tis red
Be prepared for a fate worse than death"

She let go her glass with a shrill little cry
Crash! tinkle! it fell to the floor
When he asked, "What in Heaven?" she made no reply
Up her mind, and a dash for the door

Have some madeira, m'dear,
rang out down the hall loud and clear
A tremulous cry that was filled with despair
As she paused to take breath in the cool midnight air
Have some madeira, m'dear,
the words seemed to ring in her ear

Until the next morning, she woke up in bed
With a smile on her lips and an ache in her head
And a beard in her ear 'ole that tickled and said
Have some madeira, m'dear

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Supply Teachers - shock troops of education

I received a letter from my MP the other day in which he put forward the basic argument that allowing “flexibility” in the employment of agency staff made it possible for agencies to provide employment and any restriction of their “flexibility” would lead to a reduction in employment prospects.

I was inclined to ask this Tory MP, “what are you, New Labour?” because you couldn’t put a Rizla between the policies of the bosses’ parties on this issue.

It is of course a downright lie that paying people less and taking away their entitlement to pension benefits leads to more employment. What it does do is to keep the private agencies afloat. Without them schools would need some system of Local Authority supply lists. This is a system that was sacrificed on the altar of privatisation.

The conference motion on supply teachers contains the line “calls on the executive to campaign vigorously”. Yet this motion stands in the name of the executive! On those grounds alone it deserves your full support. The prospect of the executive trying to galvanise themselves is to be welcomed.

For many teachers supply teaching has been a way of reducing their timetable prior to retirement now that early retirement has become virtually unobtainable and retirement on the grounds of ill health is virtually impossible unless you are actually dead.

Paradoxically, supply teachers are often the shock troops of education, sent in to hold the line when nobody else can. Have you ever covered a class and found out within five minutes exactly why the usual teacher is off with stress-related illness? Supply teachers do this all the time.

And yet they are criminally underpaid and denied their pension rights in the name of “flexibility”. If they are not directly employed by a school the agencies will not pay a penny towards their CPD and they have to rely on their own resources to keep abreast of developments in education. The only people who provide free CPD for supply teachers are the NUT.

Whether the National Executive campaigns “vigorously” or in their more usual
less-than-vigorous manner, we need to fight for supply teachers. School reps can make their colleagues aware of the injustice affecting people who work at their side. The fat cats in agencies pay them less, rob them of pensions and pocket the difference.

It will help all of us in the fight against the creeping privatisation of education

If you want to help galvanise the executive contact classroomteachers.org.uk

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

This is not just vandalism

One of the features of East Grinstead is the Art Deco Caffyns building. Although it is a bit of a local landmark and stands out from some of the ghastly buildings around it, it has never had a perservation order on it.

Now it is to be demolished when it could have been preserved because a food shop is opening. This is not some teenager writing on a toilet wall. This is not just vandalism. This is M and S vandalism.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Florida Republican Guard

The Americans want free elections in Cuba and they are sending over Jeb Bush and the Florida Republican Guard to supervise them.

(Two jokes for the price of one)

Friday, February 08, 2008

Woodard Corporation snubs parents and teachers

From the WSTA blog

Teachers and Parents oppose academies.
150 parents and teachers concerned about the threat to turn Littlehampton, Boundstone and King’s Manor into academies attended a meeting organised by the WSTA on Thursday 7th February..

The local authority's spokesman Robert Back was listened to in polite silence. He argued that although Academies had been corrupt and inefficient in the past they would be very different now. He also argued that the academy was “the only game in town.” The private sponsors Woodard Corporation refused to send anyone to speak to us.

Alistair Smith and Hank Roberts spoke on behalf of the NUT and got a very positive reception.

Alistair pointed out the dangers of Academies where historically the Local Authority has lost all say in the running of the school with the LA having one governor and the sponsors having the lion’s share.

He also stressed the social divisiveness of Academies. “Academies,” according to Lord Adonis, “are the 21st Century’s Grammar Schools.”

Hank Roberts pointed out that sponsors generously donating two million pounds can get upwards of 18 million pounds of public money for their trouble and frequently excessive profits are made through “consultancy fees” and the provision of equipment for the school. They are not sponsors but spongers.

Private businesses are colonising the state-funded education system.

Everyone who spoke from the floor was opposed to privatisation and not taken in by any of the promises. nor did they accept the arrogant assertion "there is no alternative". That is not a spirit in which to conduct a consultation. It is undemocratic...and anyway it is something Margaret Thatcher used to say a lot.

There was also discussion about the spread of religious schools without any popular demand. Hank warned of the proliferation of separate schools for children whose parents have different religious views and the potential divisiveness this will bring about.

Sunday, February 03, 2008

Teach boys to stab?

I see Norman Tebbitt has done it again - this time saying all boys should be taught to shoot. He always was barking but he seems to have become worse. Obviously what we should do is teach them to stab while we are at it

I wonder if he does it so that Boris will look sane by comparison. He has got a job on his hands if so.

It is on a par with the other Tory policy of paying members of your family to do nothing. I know a lot of teenage boys who need no incentives to do nothing.

Monday, January 28, 2008

McDonalds A levels

From the WSTA weblog
We have news that McDonalds are introducing their own A levels and we have an exclusive preview of the paper:

Is McDonalds?

a) a vicious anti-union low wage employer?
b) a fast track to a heart attack?
c) fun in a bun?
d) animal cruelty incarnate

If your answer was (c) congratulations you now have a Mc A

(before the Millionaire McLawyers get on the McPhone this is
a joke of course)

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Woodard Corporation takeover of schools

Teachers are up in arms about the transfer of three schools to the Woodard Corporation. this is the press release I was busy with yesterday:

Teachers in West Sussex are planning a campaign against proposals to turn three of the County's secondary schools into Academies, starting with a Public Meeting on Thursday 7 February at 7.30pm in the Assembly Rooms, Worthing.

Dave Thomas, local Secretary for the National Union of Teachers, said:
We are opposed to Academies in West Sussex because:
they undermine democratically controlled Local Authorities,
they put schools in the hands of unaccountable sponsors,
they threaten teachers' pay and working conditions,
they will introduce three more schools of a faith character, with minimal consultation and a reduction in parents' choice.
At a meeting of West Sussex NUT held on Wed 16th Jan, the following motion was passed unanimously:
'WSTA is opposed to the establishment of Academies in West Sussex. It further deplores the lack of consultation by the Woodard Corporation and WSCC with the staff and their representatives in the schools concerned, namely, Boundstone CC, Kings Manor CC and Littlehampton CC.'
The meeting was attended by NUT members from all three schools and from other schools throughout West Sussex.
The public meeting is open to parents, teachers, support staff and others with an interest in state education to allow them an opportunity to air their concerns.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Workload and Pay

from Classroom Teacher

Hands up all those who have had this experience. We called a meeting at school to discuss the issue of workload. And at the beginning of the meeting I had to read out all the apologies of people who could not come because they were too busy!

For teachers "excessive workload" means workload which seems to serve no educational purpose. Colleagues who voted to boycott the SATS on grounds of workload were coming in every weekend for rehearsals of the school play. The obvious benefit for the pupils of the school play outtrumped the demerits of SATS.

I think if people are going to refuse excessive workload they have to have some confidence the union will back them. And that would require a ballot.

At conference the Executive argued against a ballot on workload because it would confuse the issue and we needed to concentrate on getting a result in a pay ballot.

Then there was a bit of a hiatus and this week a decision has to be taken, a "robust" decision perhaps? Woe betide the NUT leadership if they come up with an invertebrate decision instead.

There is a discussion about this on the TES website
You can join in here

Monday, January 14, 2008

Action and Change for Teachers

A group of teachers who backed Martin Powell-Davies’ recent stand in the NUT Vice-President election met on Saturday January 12th . The meeting discussed what needs to be done to build action to defend teachers’ pay, cut our relentless workload and to halt the break-up of local authority education.

A leadership we can rely on

One thing that still holds us back is the lack of a fighting union leadership that teachers can rely on to build the united action we need. Martin’s campaign helped keep up the pressure on the NUT Executive to call the promised national ballot for strike action on pay. We hope that the Executive will vote to get the ballot under way when they meet at the end of January. By then the Government should finally have announced the miserly salary awards that they expect us to put up with for 2008-2010.

Building support for classroom teachers

Most teachers, struggling with the daily grind in schools, will know nothing about the debates within the Union. But they know they need support in standing up to the demands of bullying managers and the pressures of observations, league tables and performance management. Hard-pressed school reps know they need support in organising their school group and explaining union campaigns in a way that grabs classroom teachers’ attention.
Many hard-pressed Union Secretaries and officers will feel the same way. Too often left on their own to try and build school-by-school action in isolation, ground down by a rising mountain of individual casework, they also need support in building strong local Associations that can defend teachers and also to help bring in new members, especially young teachers, into activity.
It’s this vital task, of helping to develop a strong network of classroom teachers, school reps and campaigning union officers that the meeting agreed had to be our first priority.

A campaigning newsletter

We agreed to build our network by launching a new campaigning newsletter, “Classroom Teacher”, to circulate to schools, both by e-mail and as printed copies that teachers can distribute to their colleagues. It will focus primarily on the main pay and conditions issues facing classroom teachers and the campaigns we can build to defend ourselves.

The newsletter plans to be sharp and snappy, written by, and for, classroom teachers, reflecting the daily pressures we are under but also building confidence that together we can take action to turn the tide. We plan to put names to the articles reflecting the range of teachers involved in the network. At the same time, we hope to have room to include some more detailed commentary for teachers who also want to read something a bit more analytical about the problems we face. We also want to invite teachers to send in their own articles and comments and to be a real part of a growing network.

We hope that the newsletter can develop in to a larger bulletin – which will mean appealing for finances too. It will certainly be regularly produced so that ‘Classroom Teacher’ will be there in staffrooms at least every half-term for teachers to read.

A first flyer has been produced based on a Lewisham NUT newsletter “Too Much Work, Too Little Pay” which went down well at a recent national NUT Secretaries meeting. A further leaflet on the pay campaign should be out shortly.

The ‘Classroom Teacher’ network

The newsletter will advertise an e-mail, this blog and our website which will allow teachers to get in touch with the campaign and also post their own comments on our blog. We also have a Classroom Teacher account on youtube.

We have also set up a classroom teacher e-group which will allow members of the network to easily contact each other and exchange views and information.

We hope that teachers will forward our newsletter to colleagues and develop its circulation. We
want to make sure we know where it is being read, get feedback on what teachers have thought of it but, above all, get new teachers to join the network and write their own comments and articles.

Where there is support, we will also organise national or regional meetings around particular issues or campaigns so that we can bring teachers together and help plan a way forward. We can also produce material to be distributed at NUT Conference, although our main focus is going to be on classroom teachers rather than national NUT events.

We hope this initiative can help build a network of classroom teachers working together to defend our colleagues and to build a union ready and prepared to take action to change our pay, our workload, our union and our schools.

Martin Powell-Davies 07946 445488

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Preview Newsletter

The CPD newsletter going into schools soon can be seen

Channel 4 political awards

The characters listed for this award are as follows:
Of those available I would probably opt for the anti-war protestors although this is technically voting for myself!

Tony Blair: Call 09011 27 27 01
or Vote by email

Ian Paisley and Martin McGuiness: Call 09011 27 27 02
or Vote by email

Ken Livingstone: Call 09011 27 27 03
or Vote by email

Alex Salmond: Call 09011 27 27 04
or Vote by email

The Countryside Alliance: Call 09011 27 27 05
or Vote by email

Anti-Iraq war protestors: Call 09011 27 27 06
or Vote by email

Don't use their premium rate phone lines, you can vote for free.


What is the betting New Labour have full time staff phoning in day and night?