Don't relax, warns doughty Doug

Frances Rafferty

Fresh from quashing a challenge from the left and securing himself another five-year term, the NUT general secretary is in bullish mood. Frances Rafferty reports

DOUG McAvoy, whose election victory ensures him a further five years at the helm of the largest teachers' union, has warned the Government not to take any comfort in the result.

He says although he has conclusively seen off the left's candidate, Christine Blower, ministers must not believe this means the National Union of Teachers will soften its opposition to their attempt to link appraisal to pay and payment by results.

He told The TES: "The Government will be embarking on a suicide mission if it does not significantly shift its policies from those laid down in the Green Paper and its technical document. It will be suicide if it remains hell-bent on imposing these policies on the profession. This will only lead to dissatisfaction and dissent among teachers.

"I hope the bilateral meetings the department has been having with the unions and employers will give it reason to think again. And I ask the Government again to hold a tripartite meeting of the interested parties to work out a way forward that will be acceptable to the profession.

"This union has been the only one to show proper leadership on taking action against the Government's proposals, backed by a comprehensive survey of our members' views."

He said the union's boycott of appraisal will start to bite next term when schools are expected to prepare for appraisal and when the Government intends to start pilot schemes. A conference motion passed this Easter calls for a one-day strike in opposition to the Green Paper. Mr McAvoy said there was nothing to trigger such a strike, but if the Government did not shift significantly then a strike could be called.

Mr McAvoy said he was delighted and relieved at the result. On a 30 per cent turnout, he received 39,245 votes and Christine Blower 22,183. He said: "This clearly shows the membership is not interested in a shift to the left and those on the left cannot continue to say they represent the teachers' view."

He said he would have preferred a bigger turnout, but the mandate was similar to that in the local and European elections. The turn-out for the Association of Teachers and Lecturers leadership vote this spring was 26 per cent.

Christine Blower blamed the "knocking copy" in Mr McAvoy's election material for her disappointing result. She said: "He portrayed me as hard-left and confrontational and said I would be controlled by the Socialist Workers' Party - that is not true. His campaign was very negative and made people vote against me rather than for him." She predicted a tailing off of the union's opposition to PRP and payment by results in return for minor concessions.

Mr McAvoy said he backed a Coopers amp; Lybrand paper, commissioned by the union, which links pay progression to competencies based on the professional development of individual teachers. But a special salaries conference last autumn failed to come to any agreement, leaving the union without a formally-agreed salaries policy.

The union, he said, will continue to campaign on a number of fronts, for example on access to schools for the disabled and music in schools. He said: "We are also developing policies on the General Teaching Council, the curriculum review, nursery provision and class sizes and we will continue to monitor the outsourcing of education to the private sector."

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