This year's conference was notable because it was the first NEU Annual Conference and there were a number of firsts with key note speeches from Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn, and the Liberal Democrats Education Secretary, Layla Moran. To me this was notable because it suggested that the main parties are listening to the concerns of the NEU.
The introduction of CPD or Professional inset sessions was interesting, although the traditional fringe meetings continued to be on my priority must do lists. I attended the No More Exclusions fringe meeting and anybody with a few years in teaching could not fail to have an opinion on this area. I listened to the first hand experiences of young people, parents and educationalists. Participants expressed concerns about the effect academisation has had on exclusion rates in specific ethnic communities.
High stakes testing must end, say teachers, parents and politicians
The NEU is to ballot all members in primary schools for a boycott of all 'high stakes testing', starting with an indicative ballot in the second half of this term. The decision was made at NEU Conference in the same week that both Labour and the Liberal-Democrat Parties announced that they would abolish SATs and league tables for primary schools.
Speaking at the NEU Conference, Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn, said,
These tests are bad for children, bad for parents and bad for teachers. We need a different approach, so I am pleased to say that the next Labour government will scrap SATs for seven and eleven year olds. He went on to say that Labour will end Baseline too.
We have reached a crucial moment in the campaign for a change to the current system of assessment in primary schools.
Following announcements by the Labour and the Liberal Democrat parties, that they will get rid of SATs and league tables, the NEU is preparing to ballot all members on the question of boycotting all high stakes tests.
There is a widespread view amongst teachers, parents, politicians and education experts that the current assessment system is damaging education because:
Over Easter, the first NEU Conference debated the latest UN Climate Change report. It was agreed that we should approach other unions and ask them to lobby government and press them to carry out their obligation under the Paris Agreement. It was agreed that we have to help lead a Just Transition, shifting energy production, transport, housing and agriculture onto a sustainable basis within the lifetimes of the children currently in our schools.
An amendment was passed that included our support for the students striking or protesting against climate change. In particular, we agreed to oppose any reprisals, such as detentions and exclusions, against students taking action to fight climate change. The rights to strike and protest are fundamental democratic rights for students and workers alike and the NEU calls on schools not to take action against students.
We stand with you on the right side of history, said Nicky Downes from Coventry.
We were delighted when Leicester NEU Equal Opportunities Officer and rep at The Lancaster School, Camille London-Miyo, was awarded East Midlands NEU Officer of the year for her work in promoting equality of opportunity. The picture shows Camille receiving her award from NEU joint general secretary, Kevin Courtney, at national conference in Liverpool at Easter.
During NEU National Conference over Easter, I attended a session about the increasing commercialisation and privatisation of education. Speakers were from a range of backgrounds, with a range of different experiences, but all spoke passionately about education being a human and civil right and a force for good.
We can already see increasing privatisation in the UK, with large multi-academy trusts taking over schools - CEOs and CFOs earning huge salaries, driving expensive company cars, and claiming large expenses - all at a cost to children's education. Why is public money being used in this way? Surely it should be spent on educating our children? Globally, the market for education is worth £5 trillion, and with 262 million children without access to education, the argument put forward by private companies is that there isn't enough public money to fund it. Obviously, this isn't the only answer, as evidenced by public/private partnerships in Pakistan and Uganda not meeting their stated aims, often only providing education in urban areas, and not meeting the needs of disabled children. 'Out of the box' schools are common, with scripts delivered by unqualified teachers. It's a scalable model, but one that doesn't deliver rich learning to equip today's children to be tomorrow's leaders.
AGENDA: Supporting children and young people in making positive relationships matter
One of the enjoyable experiences of the Annual Conference 2019 was taking part in this hands-on creative CPD programme led by Jan Kauser.
AGENDA is a resource to support children and young people (age 7-18) to make positive relationships matter in their schools and community. Through activities and case studies, AGANDA invites you to explore creative approaches to a range of issues including feelings and emotions, friendships, gender norms in society, gender-based and sexual violence, consent, body image, gender, sexuality and relationship rights, positive relationships, gender equality and equity.
Kamaljit Buhi and I attended the Pre-Conference Church Service. The service was open to everyone whether or not members of NEU. This included people of all faiths, or of none.
Liverpool Anglican Cathedral was the venue for the very first NEU Pre-conference Church Service on Palm Sunday 14th April. Representatives of NEU played a part in leading the service, which lasted about one hour.
We thoroughly enjoyed exploring this intriguing building before attending the service. John Betjeman called it one of the great buildings of the world. The cathedral is also home to a collection of artworks, including a piece over the West Doors called 'For You' by Tracey Emin, a pink neon sign that says
I felt you and I knew you loved me.
The TUC Black Workers Conference took place from 12 - 14th April.
Black workers from all trade unions across the United Kingdom gathered at the TUC, Congress House in London. Our Union sent 10 delegates. This conference is an opportunity for Black workers to build and develop networks with other trade unionists. It provides a supportive forum to learn about issues at work that specifically affect Black Workers, and also provides strategies and information on achieving equality in the workplace.