Union rejects blue-sky idiocy

12th December 2003 at 00:00
You published a paper, Workforce Reform - Blue Skies, (TES, December 5) written by a Department for Education and Skills civil servant, which set out a future scenario of schools with fewer teachers and more support staff.

The TES, in its news, quoted my reaction to this proposal which I described as idiotic and more grey skies than blue.

However, the editor, Bob Doe, in his "Platform" article in the same issue, ignored this comment and went on to surmise that DfES officials were clearly confident the National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers would "go a very long way down such a road rather than admit the National Union of Teachers was right".

Is it being seriously suggested that a union representing more than 200,000 teachers is proposing to support policies that would effectively end their employment prospects, and those of prospective members, mainly because of a difference of opinion with our NUT colleagues?

The absurdity of such a suggestion beggars belief, yet that is the only inference that can be drawn from Bob Doe's surmise.

Opponents of the workforce agreement are clearly frustrated at its successful implementation. Despite all the dire prognostications, the agreement's initial proposals are being put into action and teachers are beginning to be relieved of a range of workload tasks. The attempts to stop the use of learning managers to relieve teachers of the responsibility of short-term cover have petered out.

All this is gall and wormwood to the agreement's opponents, whose number includes, it seems The TESeditor. They seize upon the notions set out in a speculative paper, treat them as if they are a fait accompli of government policy, even though ministers have explicitly rejected them, and accuse the unions, representing the overwhelming majority of teachers and heads in the country, of conspiring with the Government to end the jobs of their members.

There has clearly got to be a serious discussion about the future balance in the school workforce between teachers and support staff. The Nasuwt is adamant that responsibility for the pedagogic function continues to remain firmly in the hands of qualified teachers.

Eamonn O'Kane

General secretary


Bob Doe replies: I am glad to hear DfES assumptions about NASUWT compliance are wrong. I was not opposing the agreement, just pointing out that it affects primary and secondary schools differently.

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