The head of the ATL teaching union has said that teachers must have the power to say “no” to education fads and unnecessary workload.
Mary Bousted, the ATL’s general secretary, said the ability to say no would be “the best antidote” for the “punishing” hours teachers are having to work.
Speaking at the union’s annual conference in Liverpool, Dr Bousted said: “A teacher or school leader with professional autonomy is able to say 'no'."
She asked teachers to “imagine a world” in which they could say no “to the latest fads which they are told are the next ‘must do’".
“So, when teachers are told that they must mark in three colour pens, and write more in their marking than their students have written in their work, they can say, 'No, there's not a jot of evidence that… improves pupils' work,'" she said.
“Imagine a world where teachers could say ‘no’ to after-school and holiday revision classes. ‘No’ to the photocopying, printing out and sticking in books, evidence of practical work. ‘No’ to making pupils write down their verbal feedback and responding to it.
“The confidence to use that little word – 'no' – would be the best antidote against the punishing, excessive hours worked by the profession.”
Respect for the profession
Dr Bousted said there needed to be a “serious rebalancing in the power relations in education”, with the government doing less and the profession doing more.
“We need a rekindling of proper, not feigned, respect for the wisdom and knowledge of teachers,” she said.
Dr Bousted said there was a “toxic mix brewing” in education because of insufficient funding, the teacher recruitment crisis, the “systemic failure” of half of multi-academy trusts and the “unreliability" of national tests.
She said the architect of this “wondrous concoction” was Michael Gove: “The man who regrets rien… who, having led us bravely into a dysfunctional education market, now tells us all will be alright on the post-Brexit night.”
However, Dr Bousted said the decision of the ATL to merge with the NUT to become the National Education Union had “changed the game” in education.
"We can no longer be ignored, no longer sidelined,” she said. “The collective voice of our members will be heard.”