BNP members no place in class

6th November 2009 at 00:00
Teaching should be placed on the same footing as the police, claims NASUWT in attempt to ban far-right members from schools

Scottish teachers are being urged to sign a petition which calls for members of the BNP to be banned from teaching.

The petition, launched by NASUWT, the UK's largest teaching union which claims 7,000 members in Scotland, calls for teaching to be placed on the same footing as the police, armed forces and prison service, which bar members of the BNP and other far-right organisations from joining them.

Speaking at the union's Scottish conference last week, general secretary Chris Keates stressed the BNP was not just an English problem. The party was contesting the by-election in Glasgow North East and hoped to win a seat in the next Holyrood elections in 2011. "The views and beliefs of those who are active in the BNP are completely incompatible with the ethos and values of public service in which harassment, discrimination, intolerance and abuse have no place," she said.

This was just one of many policy issues which Ms Keates addressed in a UK context. Scotland's induction scheme, she said, was a "long-standing example of excellent practice", which NASUWT wanted to see adopted in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

It was also keen for the Scottish teachers' 35-hour week to be emulated in the rest of the UK. However, Scottish teachers' comments that it was impossible to do the job in that time were undermining the union's efforts, she warned.

"Teachers don't help themselves by saying it's not possible to do," Ms Keates told the conference at the union's new Edinburgh offices. "If there's a contractual agreement, work has to be prioritised. In Scotland it has been a while since we reminded teachers what their entitlements are, how hard-won they were and how important it is we preserve these conditions of service."

Delegates felt that the Scottish Government could learn from Westminster when it came to responding to cyber-bullying of teachers. The UK Government had issued advice to teachers in Cyberbullying: Supporting school staff, a leaflet telling staff whether, for instance, they had the right to confiscate pupils' mobiles. They should be treated like offensive weapons and banned from classrooms, said Ms Keates.

Delegates called for provisions to prevent allegations being made about teachers on internet sites; restrictions on pupils' access to mobiles during school; and heightened awareness of the need for teachers to be cautious when using social networking sites. They also backed a call for the Scottish Government to fund early retirement schemes to free up posts for new teachers.

Simon Kirkwood, 29, had been teaching for three years, he said. He had a post working as a permanent supply teacher in North Lanarkshire but many of his peers had not found teaching jobs and were working behind bars and in call-centres.

Bob Walker, also a teacher in North Lanarkshire, echoed his calls for packages for older teachers. He retired early in 1997 and found a job as a cycle mechanic at Halfords, but was forced to return to fund his daughter through medical school.

New initiatives such as A Curriculum for Excellence no longer sent tingles up and down his spine, he admitted. He felt jaded, he said.

Replacing a teacher at the top end of the pay scale with a probationer would save councils pound;9,900 in the first year, said Victor Topping, the Scottish representative on the national executive committee.

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