NUT push for charter to firm 'vague' rights

2nd November 2007 at 00:00
England's biggest teachers' union is drawing up a professional charter for its members in the belief that the Government has failed to clearly define teachers' rights and responsibilities.

The need for a charter is outlined in the National Union of Teachers' new policy directions paper, to be presented to ministers in Parliament in a month's time.

Steve Sinnott, the union's general secretary, said he wanted to work in partnership with the General Teaching Council and other professional organisations, in developing the document. The charter would be by teachers, for teachers, and voted on by teachers, he said.

The union's push is a signal that it is dissatisfied with the work being done behind closed doors by the School Teachers' Review Body, in redefining teachers' rights and responsibilities.

The document will be modelled on one published by a Dutch teachers' union, Algemene Onderwijsbond, which asks teachers to determine the direction of education jointly and account for that to parents, pupils and society.

"Teachers in England do not feel they own their profession," says the NUT paper Good Local Schools for Every Community.

A professional charter should define teachers' professional autonomy, determining their rights and responsibilities in providing children with the best possible education, it says.

Those rights would probably include an entitlement to high-quality professional development, funded to the tune of about pound;1,200 a year, and the ability to decide lesson directions without having to write detailed lesson plans. Responsibilities on teachers would include keeping themselves up to scratch with their professional learning.

The charter is part of a new wish-list contained in the policy paper. It also calls for:

- A United Kingdom Council for Education to share experiences from England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland and doing such work as exploring Britishness.

- Setting 2014 as the target date to increase state school funding per pupil to pound;8,000 from the current average of pound;5,000.

- Establishing a ring-fenced grant for young people in need of intensive support, including those from minority ethnic groups or working-class backgrounds.

- Exploring the idea of democratic school boards to oversee federations or groups of schools.

- Extending the PGCE to a two-year course with appropriate government funding.

Mr Sinnott said the policy paper was a major document. "I think the Government needs to take it very seriously indeed," he added. "This would be a new direction of travel for the Government."

Note to Her Majesty, page 29.

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