Protest against school funding cuts in Coventry

Protest against school funding cuts in Coventry

Jane Nellist, Coventry NUT

Protesters gathered in Coventry today for the “Big School Assembly” demonstration organised by trade unions to protest against education cuts.

Jane Nellist from the National Union of Teachers spoke, as well as speakers from the University and Colleges Union, UNISON and the Association of Teachers and Lecturers. Parents also spoke and expressed concerns about the impact of funding cuts on their children.

The School Cuts website highlights the effect of education cuts across the country at primary and secondary level. It lists the cuts being made to almost all schools – the picture below shows just how badly these cuts will impact on Coventry.

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Education cuts and academisation represent a huge threat to children’s futures, and it’s important for school staff, parents and pupils to keep building the campaign against them.

Education for all – not exam factories

Education for all – not exam factories

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We are pleased to publish the following article by Jane Nellist concerning the situation in our education system. Jane is on the NEC of the National Union of Teachers (NUT) and is currently President of Coventry TUC. The article also appears in the current issue of The Socialist, the Marxist newspaper for workers and youth. It should be read alongside the article ‘What kind of education?’ which also appears in same issue.


Education for all – not exam factories

By Jane Nellist

It is without doubt that our children are the most tested in the world.

Almost from the time a child starts school, they are subjected to a never-ending regime of examinations. This not only impacts on the child, but on the school and the individual teacher, and most importantly on the quality of education.

The costs of these formal tests and exams are a drain on school budgets, with private companies, like Pearson, making huge profits from our education system. Constant switching between exam boards creates huge workloads for teachers, rewriting schemes of work.

The pressure of testing on pupils causes unnecessary stress, resulting in increasing levels of mental health issues. Schools are now more like ‘exam factories’.

Even the Institute of Directors uses this term. Their report in April stated that “this study raises serious concerns that UK education policy is turning our schools into exam factories, squeezing out creativity and the joy of learning at a time when these very attributes are becoming increasingly important.”

With teachers subjected to performance-related pay, it is obvious that ‘teaching to the test’ impacts on the curriculum young people experience. Music, art and drama are being marginalised.

Teachers have always used testing as part of the assessment of their pupils, but it is only one of the tools we use. The increase in the use of publicly reported testing and exams from children as young as seven is more to do with control than good education.

So does it have to be like this?

Well, the simple answer is no. Teachers want to ensure all their pupils can achieve their full potential, whatever their ability. High-stakes testing inevitably means some pupils are more ‘important’ than others. Children with special educational needs, and those more able, can often be sidelined.

‘Pisa’, which looks at the quality of education worldwide, has consistently shown that Finnish children perform well. This is in a country where there are no school inspectors, no league tables, and no exams until the age of 16.

In Germany, while they have introduced national tests, there are no performance league tables and schools are not penalised for poor results.

Of course, parents want to ensure there is accountability. But a recent Ipsos Mori poll on who people trust put teachers on 88%, second only to doctors and nurses – while politicians, who make the decisions about our education system, came in at 15%.

Sats

Parents are becoming increasingly uneasy about the level of testing. Campaigns such as ‘Children are More than a Score’ are gaining wider support for ending Sats.

We need a huge overhaul of education, led by education professionals. We need to rid our system of the present national curriculum, along with Ofsted inspections, Sats and league tables.

Our immediate demands should include a flexible curriculum with more practical learning. It must be a broad and balanced curriculum, with time for the arts, music and more pupil-led innovation, as well as a wide pastoral curriculum including health and sex education for all.

Diagnostic testing and moderated teacher assessment should be at the discretion of the teachers. But a socialist education system would be based on individual and group learning and attainment rather than exams.

Agree with Jane? Fill in the form below!

Leading trade unionist condemns ‘lunch isolation’ letter

Leading trade unionist condemns ‘lunch isolation’ letter

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The letter

We publish below comments from Jane Nellist concerning the disgusting letter circulating on social media addressed to parents of children at a ‘Free school’. Jane is a member of the national executive of the National Union of Teachers and joint secretary of Coventry NUT. She writes here in a personal capacity.


‘Every day almost, there are articles about the disgraceful behaviour of Academy and Free School Headteachers and CEOs who take it upon themselves to abuse their power in our schools.

The latest incident is of a so-called ‘Superhead’ of a London Free School, Katharine Birbalsingh.  She came to prominence in 2010 at the Tory Party Conference when she criticised the state education system, drawing on examples from her own school which resulted in her losing her job.

She went on to set up her own Free School and was praised by Michael Gove.  Her most recent claim to noteriety is to punish pupils whose parents have fallen behind with lunch payments by segregating them in isolation and giving them only a sandwich and a piece of fruit as well as extra lessons.

It’s ironic that her Twitter profile (@Miss_Snuffy) states that she “believes in justice for the poor and discipline+traditional teaching = social mobility.”  Her policies though mean that the pupils are being punished due to their financial situation which is completely unacceptable. The school incidentally does not allow pupils to take their own packed lunch which may be a cheaper option for many families on low wages but who do not qualify for free school meals.

Evidence shows that many children are going to school hungry and that having a breakfast and proper school lunch can help to ensure that children are more able to learn.  By withdrawing these children from their friends and limiting their food, this head is stigmatising them and punishing them.

As a teacher, I believe that all pupils should have a free breakfast and free high quality lunch.  We need to ensure that families have sufficient money to feed their children properly by ensuring that benefits and wages are raised above poverty levels.

This headteacher demonstrates all that is bad about the ethos of some schools that the Tories are praising as good models of education.

It’s time that we put an end to these educational ‘experiments’ and bring all Academies and Free Schools back under local authority control where they can be democratically accountable to the communities they serve.’

Coventry teachers join national NUT strike

Coventry teachers join national NUT strike

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Protesting outside the Department for Education building in Coventry

Today saw members of the National Union of Teachers (NUT) take industrial action against funding cuts to schools, an increasing workload, and schools using unqualified teachers in order in classrooms in order to save money. Members of the NUT say they will continue to take industrial action demanding no more cuts to funding, so they can continue to provide an outstanding education and support for every child to develop and thrive.

Around 80 teachers and other trade unionists protested outside the Department for Education building in Coventry and at Godiva Statue, as well as holding picket lines at schools across the city.

“The 12% reduction in funding to Coventry schools will devastate education in this city. We will see a possible increase of class sizes to 35 and classes taught by unqualified teachers. Teachers will see their workload further increase and it is intolerable now. More and more teachers will leave teaching either by choice or by being made redundant as schools tighten their belts. Parents should be angry that this will impact on their children’s education.” said Nicky Downes, Coventry NUT equalities officer and Socialist Party member.

Since the Tories came into power we have seen attacks on our education, NHS and other public services across the country. Today it was announced that junior doctors have rejected the imposition of a new contract – the next step should be for them to take strike action alongside teachers, as part of the fight against austerity.

LIVE: Coventry teachers show solidarity with striking junior doctors

LIVE: Coventry teachers show solidarity with striking junior doctors

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NUT joins picket line today at Walsgrave 

The all-out junior doctors strike continued into its second day today, and once again the picket line at Walsgrave hospital in Coventry was well supported. As we highlighted yesterday, the solidarity developing between junior doctors and teachers is crucial – and seeing the Coventry NUT banner on the picket line today is another great example!

Junior doctors go back to work tomorrow, but this dispute is not over – doctors have lodged a legal challenge against the new contracts, but are determined to beat them before they are implemented.

LIVE: Junior doctors strike in Coventry

LIVE: Junior doctors strike in Coventry

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Support the doctors – save our NHS!

Junior doctors have taken all-out strike action today as part of their campaign against the planned imposition of new contracts by hated Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt. Throughout the strike doctors have had fantastic support from the public, including patients, and today is no different!

Despite the fear campaign by right-wing newspapers, the strike is still strong and the doctors are determined to win. The co-operation between the BMA and the teachers union, the NUT, leading to a joint demonstration is hugely important and should develop into a campaign of joint industrial action, to build for a 24-hour general strike!

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Our best pictures of today’s protest

Our best pictures of today’s protest

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Off to London – Tories out!

Over 50 people from Coventry and Leamington joined the anti-austerity protest in London today, including a number of members of Coventry Socialist Party. Below are some of the best pictures we took today!

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Time for Cameron to go – and take the rest of the Tories with him!

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The FBU fire engine!

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Teachers say no to forced academisation

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Tories out – time for a general strike!