NUT Education manifesto – Labour’s ‘critical friend’

Emma Hardy's picture
When I first became an activist in both the Labour party and the National Union of Teachers (NUT) some people questioned as to whether I could be both, I was told that I would have to choose. Of course there are times that I disagree with both organisations but unless I set up a trade union and political party with a membership of one then I am never going to find something that completely matches everything I believe in. Therefore, as an activist in both NUT and Labour I had my own reasons to really enjoy the NUT’s Education Manifesto.

There are many echoes of Tristram Hunt’s announcements, including support for qualified teachers, vocational education, copying London Challenge, CPD for teachers throughout their careers, end free schools, no schools for profit and reduce workload. However, as well as supporting Labour it also offers them a challenge, to address poverty as a contributing factor in educational outcome, to mend our fractured school system, to invest in school buildings, ensure all children have a broad and balanced curriculum and reduce testing in schools. In my opinion, the manifesto sets itself as a ‘critical friend’ of Labour Party policy, basically telling them ‘all very good but we think you could do better.’ For example, the NUT show support for Tristram’s plan for teachers to have CPD throughout their career but they ask him for ring fenced funding to ensure it happens, they agree free schools should be ended but want him to allow all schools to return to the LA if they wish.

Arguably, it is the point on testing that has generated so much support from the literacy community including Alan Gibbons, Mary Hoffman, Sally Gardner and Philip Pullman who commented that he was “Delighted to [support the manifesto]. It makes a lot of sense.” Bali Rai tweeted “I love the manifesto and I respect and admire teachers.” Alan Gibbons has taken the manifesto and has now signed up thirty five authors to endorse it including Terry Jones, Michael Rosen and Barbara Band. On Saturday I joined many others in calling for the government to "Stop putting so much pressure on our children."

This education manifesto appears to have taken some people by surprise, anticipating unrealistic dogma what they found were justifiable and reasonable aims:
· We need a wider vision of learning and achievement.
· We need more time for teaching – not more tests.
· All children deserve qualified teachers.
· We need to end child poverty.
· We need to end the schools places crisis.
· We need to mend a fractured educational system.
· Education should not be run for profit.
· We need to invest in education.
· We need teaching to be an attractive profession.

It is not difficult to see why it is gaining so much support and this document will be used to unite parents and teachers and build alliances with the wider public beyond the general election. Rather ambitiously 1.6 million copies have been printed and the first day of national street stalls is planned for Saturday October 11th. Anyone who has ever worked in education will tell you that everyone has an opinion on how schools should be run and what they should do and this document will facilitate and initiate discussions between NUT members, parents and governors. The mobilisation of members by the NUT is still growing and there is no sign of fatigue, the therapeutic and radicalising effect of ‘doing something’ upon teachers morale has been underestimated by this government and I’m already looking forward to being involved in what the NUT will do next!

To read the manifesto click here: NUT Education Manifesto if you would like to join others in registering support for this document please use the comment option below.
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Martin Francis's picture
Sun, 05/10/2014 - 18:19

I recently posted on the Green Party's website an analysis of the NUT Manifesto and a comparison with the Green Party's Education Policy. There are many agreements and no fundamental disagreements.

Our policy on free schools and academies (No more to be created, reintegrate existing ones into LA system, support campaigns against academisation), on curriculum (broad entitlement with schools able to construct their own curriculum according to local needs) and testing (scrap Y1 Phonics screening and SATS) is accompanied by a commitment to restore teachers' professional standing and opposition to performance related pay along with a replacement of Ofsted by a collaborative organisation informed by education research.

Perhaps most importantly we have an understanding of the Global Education Reform Movement and the damage it is doing to a broad view of the purposes of education, collaboration between schools and education as a public service.

We aim to liberate teachers and reclaim childhood.

Robert Waring's picture
Sun, 05/10/2014 - 19:26

Janet Downs's picture
Mon, 06/10/2014 - 08:24

International data confirms much of the NUT manifesto:

1 Most developed countries do not have high-stakes tests at 16 but have moved towards graduation at 18 often by multiple routes.

2 The OECD warned in 2011 there was already too much emphasis on exam results in England. This had negative consequences including narrowing the curriculum, 'gaming' and teaching to the test.

3 In the most successful school systems (as measured by PISA), education policy is aligned with other public policies – they are coherent, sustained and consistently implemented.

4 Successful systems value and respect their teachers - they are properly trained and continue to receive professional development.

5 Increasing competition between schools is supposed to increase performance but OECD found no correlation between higher performance and the degree of competition within a school system.

In addition, the Academies Commission found that innovation (one of the supposed benefits of increasing competition and school choice) was stifled more by league tables than lack of competition between schools. The Commission feared the academies programme would lead to fragmentation with schools (or ghettos known as chains) working in their own interest.

Dave Mingay's picture
Mon, 06/10/2014 - 16:13

An interesting view and take on it. I don't see the NUT as a "critical friend" of Labour I see us as a campaigning Union with policies that would benefit children and teachers. I think a few points need clarification. Firstly Labour won't end the Free Schools programme, new ones will be renamed "Parent-led academies" which have the same status as current free schools. That is not the same as NUT policy which calls for the entire programme to be scrapped. On CPD it is basically a 3 year contract and if you haven't had sufficient CPD or your school aren't happy with you and you fail your "teacher MOT" then you're sacked. Again this is not the same as the NUT calling for more CPD. Labour offers very little alternative to the Tories, sadly.

Andy V's picture
Tue, 07/10/2014 - 11:38

Thank you for sharing your overview. The pithy to the point examples go the core of the anguish I (and I know many others) feel regarding the upcoming GE and which party - if any - offers a positive platform for education and future generations.

Kevin Courtney's picture
Mon, 06/10/2014 - 19:32

Professor Tim Brighouse has just sent the NUT this statement about our manifesto:

'At last a set of statements which if acted upon could transform our children's future. It will command the support of all engaged on a daily basis in education - parents, school staff, students and governors. Their voices need to be heard by all those seeking our votes in 2015'

Kevin Courtney's picture
Wed, 08/10/2014 - 21:43

Here is a further statement in support of the NUT's Stand Up For Education manifesto. This one is from Professor Robin Alexander

Director of the Cambridge Primary Review

'How can we not support NUT's 2015 Manifesto for Education? This is not some ideological wish-list but a sensible and principled statement with a firm basis in evidence. The proposals on child poverty, the curriculum, assessment, teacher development, accountability, localism and the strengthening of education as a public service are all in line with those from national enquiries like the Cambridge Primary Review.'

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