The two teachers unions that collectively represent about 85% of teachers in England and Wales have jointly distributed to their members a 25-point plan of action that will see them gradually decrease the number of tasks that they will perform as part of their protest against the direction of negotiations with the Department of Education, potentially culminating in several strike actions. Starting later this month, the National Union of Teachers and NASUWT are asking those falling under their auspices to stop performing all non-teaching duties including answering emails outside school hours and accepting assignments to supervise extracurricular activities.
Union leaders explain that escalating their non-participation instead of directly calling for a strike will make their protests less disruptive to students and their families. This rationale, however, doesn’t sound convincing to many Conservative Members of Parliament who oppose the unions’ actions, saying that by limiting the duties that teachers would be willing to perform, they are still negatively impacting pupils in the nation’s primary and secondary schools.
Damian Hinds, Tory MP for East Hampshire, who sits on the education select committee, said: “The reality is that these are far-reaching, extreme and totally unjustified measures that will undoubtedly harm pupils up and down the country.
“What is more, the action is being called in protest over a pension deal that the majority of the parents affected by it could only dream of.”
Last week more than 95% of NUT’s members voted to authorize work action that is short of a strike as a means of protest against pay freezes and the increase of pension contributions. The NASUWT obtained a similar mandate from its members earlier this summer. The 25-point plan doesn’t mean that the strike is entirely out of the question, however. In last week’s vote, a strike had the approval of over 80% of NUT’s membership.
According to the paper distributed to the teachers, those who have voluntarily taken on duties that are listed among the proscribed activities may continue to carry them out. However, if those tasks had been assigned by school administrators, teachers can refuse to perform them if they choose.
Christine Blower, NUT general secretary, said teachers’ morale was “dangerously low”, adding: “For the sake of teachers and children’s education, these constant attacks from Government need to stop.”
Chris Keates, general secretary of the NASUWT, said that Michael Gove, the Education Secretary, “was put on notice in May that he could address teachers’ concerns and avoid the possibility of further industrial action”.