Gove misleads Tory Conference with ill-informed attack on teacher unions

Janet Downs's picture
 17
Union bosses “are saying that teachers shouldn't do photocopying, they are saying that teachers shouldn't put up displays, they are saying that teachers shouldn't invigilate exams,” declared Secretary of State for Education, Michael Gove, when he addressed the Tory Party Conference in Birmingham.

But it isn’t union chiefs who are telling teachers they should not do these jobs. Tasks which are not part of teachers’ professional duties, including bulk photocopying and exam invigilation, are listed in “Raising standards and tackling workload: a national agreement” (2003), a document jointly signed by the then Department for Education and Skills, the Welsh Assembly Government and the unions. This agreement followed the PriceWaterhouseCoopers workload study (2001) which found that many jobs done by teachers could be done by non-teachers.

In January 2010, shortly before Gove became Secretary of State, Ofsted investigated the impact of the workforce reforms and concluded:

“…in the most effective schools visited, workforce reform had made a considerable difference to pupils’ learning because leaders had ensured that all their staff had clear professional status, were well trained, were deployed effectively and were held accountable for contributing to pupils’ learning and well-being.”

Mr Gove must be aware of this, of course. However, it suits him and his supporters to perpetuate the myth that union general secretaries tell teachers not to "devote themselves to children". But it appears that Mr Gove thinks that strategies to ensure effective deployment of teachers’ time are “restrictive practices, which work against children’s welfare.”

Teaching is "the highest calling any of us can be called for", Mr Gove told delegates. But those that heed the call should not be expected to reject acceptable conditions of service or to spend time on mundane clerical tasks which could easily be done by non-teachers. A teacher feeding paper into a photocopier is not being efficiently employed even if the Secretary of State for Education thinks that s/he is.

 
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Ricky-Tarr's picture
Thu, 11/10/2012 - 11:42

No, Janet. It is you who are misleading your readers with a distorted account of what Michael Gove said.

Gove does not want teachers to be burdened by excessive amounts of photocopying.

He mentioned photocopying as an example of the pettiness and small-mindedness of the unions, who he said, had 'ordered' their members to refuse to do all sorts of things (some of which, like photocopying, Gove listed) as part of their current industrial (in)action.

The union diktats are set out in Action short of strike action, Instructions Phase 1 issued by NUT/NASUWT.

Sarah's picture
Thu, 11/10/2012 - 12:09

Surely the union is merely representing the interests of its members which is what it exists to do. It cannot instruct its members to do anything they haven't agreed to - so not a diktat at all then.

agov's picture
Fri, 12/10/2012 - 08:17

"Gove does not want teachers to be burdened by excessive amounts of photocopying."


Yet strangely you seem not to have quoted the bit where he says that.


"Nor did Gove ever allude to ‘bulk’ photocopying."


That would be the point then. He set out to mislead by omission and implication. Seems to have satisfied you, Ricky.

Ricky-Tarr's picture
Thu, 11/10/2012 - 12:25

It cannot instruct its members to do anything they haven’t agreed to..

Unions frequently instruct their members to do things they haven't agreed to.

If any of the membership organizations I belong to started sending me "Instructions", I'd treat that as a diktat and tell them to take a running jump.

Janet Downs's picture
Thu, 11/10/2012 - 12:42

sarah - you are correct in saying that the unions are protecting their workers from excessive workload. That's why they and the English and Welsh Governments signed a joint workload agreement in 2003. Bulk-photocopying was among one of the many tasks which it was agreed could be done by non-teachers.

Yet Gove (and now Ricky above) misrepresent the tasks in this long-standing agreement as things that unions have "ordered" their members not to undertake. These tasks are listed in the School Teachers’ Pay and Conditions Document (STCPD) 2012 and appear for reference in the union document cited by Ricky (no link was given). The listed tasks are not "union diktats" as Ricky claims but are part of teachers' conditions of service ie that teachers do not spend their time doing jobs which require no professional judgement and could be done by non-teachers (as identified by PwC teacher workload study 2001).

So, refusing to do bulk photocopying is not part of current industrial action but part of a long-standing agreement nearly a decade old.

http://www.teachers.org.uk/files/Action-Guidance-A4-24pp--8372-all-mem.pdf

School Teachers’ Pay and Conditions Document (STCPD) 2012. available from: https://www.education.gov.uk/publications/standard/publicationDetail/Pag...

Allan Beavis's picture
Thu, 11/10/2012 - 12:40

Aren't we all members of the organization called "Government"? We elected them, and it seems that more and more of us are fed up with the diktats from Central Government ranging from enforced Academization to grade boundary shifts mid-year; from narrowing the curriculum via Academies, Free Schools and the Ebacc to the demonization of GCSEs. That's before we get onto the diktats from the other government departments. the diktats from Cameron and his Cronies have punished the poor, squeezed the middle and lined the pockets of their ilk.

You're right. Let's treat the diktats from the Tory-led coalition with the contempt it deserves and tell them to take a running jump by making sure they lose five General Elections in a row in 2015.

Ricky-Tarr's picture
Thu, 11/10/2012 - 13:06

Yet Gove (and now Ricky above) misrepresent the tasks in this long-standing agreement as things that unions have “ordered” their members not to undertake.

No, it was because (and only because) the unions issued orders/diktats/instructions that Gove even mentioned these things.

Nor did Gove ever allude to 'bulk' photocopying.

I don't believe that it is a part of any sensible conditions of service that a teacher should be forbidden to photocopy. But seeing that photocopying is clearly a sensitive issue (perhaps, in your day teachers were required to 'bulk' photocopy?), let's look at another of the prohibited activities: putting up classroom displays of children's work.

Every Primary School teacher I've met does this. Most appear to enjoy it, not resent it.

Janet Downs's picture
Thu, 11/10/2012 - 13:15

This is a comment I put on a previous thread:

"I used to feel very personal about my wall displays (any empty wall would soon be covered with my stuff if no-one else laid claim to it). I used to go around the school with drawing pins in my pocket so I could do running repairs on any damaged displays (even when they weren’t mine). While I agree with most of the things on the Work Force Reform list (bulk photocopying and doing technical stuff on computers used to eat up much of my precious non-contact time) I would ignore any directive not to put up displays (Mr Gove please note). In the unlikely event that some over-zealous union official (I’ve never met one actually) told me I shouldn’t be putting up displays then I would deny all responsibility. In any case, I could say I wasn’t doing it “routinely” but just doing it now and again as required."

http://www.localschoolsnetwork.org.uk/2012/07/academies-have-freedom-to-... (7/7/12 2.41pm)

Janet Downs's picture
Thu, 11/10/2012 - 13:29

Just a reminder about what Gove said (I gave his words in the article at the top of this thread):

Union bosses “are saying that teachers shouldn’t do photocopying, they are saying that teachers shouldn’t put up displays, they are saying that teachers shouldn’t invigilate exams."

All three of these tasks are listed in the workload agreement 2003, in the latest School Teachers' Pay and Conditions Document 2012 and published for reference in the NUT/NASUWT Action Guidance. They are NOT as Gove implied union prohibitions. Gove mentioned them because he wanted to give the misleading impression that they WERE union diktats.

As Secretary of State he should be aware of what School Teachers' Pay and Conditions are (they're published by his department). So if he's not deliberately misleading his listeners then he's incompetent.

Putting up displays is a task which is listed in the workplace agreement as a job which could be done by a non-teacher. However, this appears to be one of the tasks which many teachers carry on doing probably because, as Ricky said, it's an enjoyable activity (see my comment 1.15pm).

Ricky-Tarr's picture
Thu, 11/10/2012 - 12:33

.....and sarah, the current NUT action is based on a ballot for which only 27% of teachers eligible to vote actually did so.

Thus, their imperious "instructions" or diktats, as you will, are effectively being imposed on 100% of the membership by something closer to a quarter of the membership.

Allan Beavis's picture
Thu, 11/10/2012 - 12:48

This sounds a bit like your imposing a view that a phone poll of just 22 parents to prove a "significant" finding that subjects included in the EBacc tend to be those that pupils and parents/carers think are the most valuable generally.

Janet Downs's picture
Thu, 11/10/2012 - 13:11

As this thread deals with tasks which were listed in the joint Government/union agreement as jobs which could be done by non-teachers, and are not tasks which unions have "ordered" their members to refuse to do, your comment about the ballot of teachers for industrial action is irrelevant.

Ricky-Tarr's picture
Thu, 11/10/2012 - 16:39

No, Janet. It is relevant (by way of rebuttal) to Sarah's assertion that a union "cannot instruct its members to do anything they haven’t agreed to ".

What is irrelevant (to Gove's speech), or at least - not particularly relevant, is your introduction of the Government/union national agreement. Gove's key text is the one I specified. That, of course, makes references to the national agreement and enjoins union members to observe it inflexibly, cussedly and so on as a form of "working to rule".

Janet Downs's picture
Thu, 11/10/2012 - 16:55

Since when has abiding by a mutually-agreed contract between employers (the English and Welsh Governments in this case) and workers (teachers) been inflexibility? Since when has observing mutually-agreed conditions of work been cussed "working to rule"?

If an employee, any employee not just teachers, has a mutually-agreed contract which states what duties are not included in the contract (ie what jobs should be done by another employee), then it is not cussed inflexibility to refuse to do what are not part of an employee's duties. Actually, it could be viewed as shirking - spending time on mundane tasks which could easily be done by someone else instead of doing the more difficult job one is hired to do.


Richard's picture
Sat, 13/10/2012 - 07:51

@Ricky Tarr, you might want to instruct yourself in union law. They have no power to inssue instructions to members, they can merely issue recommendations. Alternatively, if you don't fancy getting caught up in dense legislative speak, you could always spend a weekend on a far-right indoctrination boot camp. The Tory party runs them in exotic places such as Rwanda.

Richard's picture
Sat, 13/10/2012 - 07:52

".and sarah, the current NUT action is based on a ballot for which only 27% of teachers eligible to vote actually did so"

And Bristol is to get a mayor on the basis of a 24% turnout. Locals objected but the Tory party insisted this is quite democratic.

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