Saturday, 27 October 2012

Action Making a Difference

Almost a month in and the joint NUT/NASUWT action is having a significant impact in schools across Oxfordshire. Working together with headteachers and others, we have been using the action to improve the conditions of members in a number of schools and to address the failure of the Secretary of State to protect teachers, and thereby their students, from the damaging effects excessive workload.

One of the great things about this action is that it has seen teachers acting together to protect their terms and conditions. Where individuals have been struggling under immense pressure, often worried about raising it with a headteacher under similar or even greater pressure, this action has brought people together to find shared solutions.

We have had a huge response from NUT school groups contacting us (hence the lack of recent updates to this blog!) to let us know what an impact the action has had in their school. We have also had a number of schools where, after meeting to look at the guidance from the NUT nationally, members have agreed that the action will have little or no impact on their school because measures are already in place to deal with concerns about workload and other issues.

Finally, we have a number of schools where we are still advising members on what they can do together to help improve things for teachers and, ultimately, for students. If you are still at this stage, please do get in touch as we are only too willing to support you through the process of reclaiming teachers time for teaching and learning.

Contacting us

More news from Oxfordshire NUT:


All previous phone numbers you may have used for Oxfordshire NUT will be replaced with a new helpline number - 07807 300 595.

The NUT South East Regional Office number remains unchanged - 01444 894 500.

The new number will be active from 5th November and will be covered by an answering service for the next week. If you have an urgent call during this period, please contact the Regional Office directly.

The caseworker's email is also being replaced so from now on please email us at, unless you are updating your membership details on which case

As we develop our communications over the coming year, we may add more email addresses for specific areas of work but, if in doubt, you can always email and your email will be passed on if necessary.

Schools in Special Circumstances

We are aware that there are a number of schools working in special circumstances in Oxfordshire, because they are in an Ofsted category, because they are being forced to convert to academy status or for other reasons.

We want to reassure members in these schools that they are entitled to participate in all aspects of the joint NUT/NASUWT action as set out in the advice from NUT nationally.

We are aware that schools in special circumstances have additional pressures placed upon them, often by government or Ofsted, but that doesn't mean that teachers in those schools are no longer entitled to reasonable working conditions. Similarly, it is inconceivable that outcomes for students can be sustainably improved where staff are faced with excessive workload which does not allow them to perform to the best of their ability in the classroom.

Our advice to members in these schools is to meet with colleagues as a joint NUT/NASUWT group and discuss the national union guidance on the action. This should provide a basis for discussing how you can work together to ensure that the needs of staff and students are both protected during this difficult time.

Breach of Contract?

We have had a few school reps contact us to check whether taking the action would constitute a breach of their contract.

Just to reassure you, that is why both the NUT and NASUWT have conducted ballots for industrial action in accordance with the law. Teachers, as with other workers in the public and private sector, are entitled to take lawful industrial action in furtherance of a legitimate trade dispute (in this case with the Secretary of State).

Any member of the NUT working in a maintained school, academy or 6th form college is covered by the ballot and can participate in the action. If anyone advises you diferently, please contact us asap.

Sunday, 23 September 2012

GCSE Fiasco Response

The NUT has come together with a number of other organisations to pursue a regrade of GCSE papers affected by the grading scandal (see here).

Meanwhile, it is important that we make MPs aware that this issue can't simply be brushed under the carpet and that, until their is justice for those whose results were arbitrarily changed, we will continue our campaign.

Below is a copy of the letter I have just sent to my MP, Nicola Blackwood. You can email your MP via this link here and sign the national petition for a regrade here.

Dear Nicola Blackwood MP,

I am getting in touch to let you know of my concerns about this year’s GCSE examinations.

As a teacher, I think it is entirely unacceptable and grotesquely unfair that exam boards changed the grade boundaries in such a way that many pupils who would have gained a C grade in January attained a D in June for exactly the same work.

This arbitrary shift has potentially changed the lives of hundreds of students, many of them in Oxfordshire, and, unlike their counterparts in Wales where the education minister has ordered regrading, they have no possibility of receiving the grade that they earned. In addition, a number of teachers with GCSE classes have failed to meet the targets set jointly by themselves and the school, purely due to this change, and may be held to be underperforming where, had the goalposts not been shifted, they would have been judged as good. This may well have a damaging impact on their careers.

Finally, a number of schools (over 100 nationally) will fail to meet the floor targets as a result of this arbitrary and politically-influenced decision. Schools which otherwise would be recognised as doing the best for their students and supported to improve, will be put through a process of uncertainty and distrust. Having supported a number of schools through this process locally, I can assure you that, in the vast majority of cases, it does nothing to improve the experience of students or to enhance their learning.

If the speculation about the exam boards responding to political influence proves correct I think it is high time that assurances are provided that awarding bodies are able to act independently in the best interests of all their students when it comes to grading their examination papers.

I wholeheartedly support calls for an independent inquiry into the situation and an immediate regrade of the exams. Such quick and decisive action is needed if we are to restore confidence in the examination system for the new academic year.

I would be grateful if you could raise my concerns with the Secretary of State for Education and advise me of his response.

Yours sincerely,
Gawain Little

Saturday, 15 September 2012

The Importance of Play

I have just come back from an excellent family day at Hill End Outdoor Education Centre.  Organised by Oxfordshire Play Association, there were a huge range of activities for children and young people of all ages.  Groups involved in running activities included Elms Road Children's Centre, Donnington Doorstep, Oxfordshire Parenting Forum / Dads Go Wild, the Earth Trust and Oxfordshire Outdoor Learning Trust.

My daughter Rosa says her favourite bit of the day was making tweeter birds with OYAP (formerly Oxfordshire Youth Arts Partnership).

The atmosphere was fantastic and attendance looked excellent.  Having never been before, I was blown away by quite how many people are brought together by events like this.

It also made me reflect, both as a teacher and as a parent on the importance of play and learning through play.  This led me directly on to whether there is more we could do as a union to support organisations like Oxfordshire Play Association and, crucially, centres like Hill End which provide such opportunities for outdoor play and experiences for our children.

If you have any ideas, please do email us at the usual address.

For more information on OPA, visit

For more information about the Oxfordshire Outdoor Learning Trust, visit

Friday, 14 September 2012

Non-Strike Action & NQTs

A busy week meeting with reps and preparing guidance on the NUT's non-strike action which starts on September 26th.

By cutting senseless bureaucracy and excessive monitoring, we will be freeing teachers up to do what they are paid to do - teach.

NUT and NASUWT school groups are now looking at how they can best implement the guidance in their school and what would make the biggest difference for students and teachers.

Very pleased to be working together to improve education for all.

Also, been busy helping to publicise the NQT seminars we are running next week.

Seminars will run from 4.15pm at:

St Birinus, Didcot (18th September)

Banbury School (19th September)

Cherwell School, Oxford (20th September)

and will cover a range of important topics for making the most of your first year in teaching, as well as having plenty of time to put questions to our experienced panel.

If you are starting teaching this term, book your place by emailing

Tuesday, 11 September 2012

GCSE Fiasco

Please sign the open letter to Michael Gove, demanding a regrade of the GCSE papers for students who were the victims of an arbitrary decision to raise grade boundaries -  Open letter to Michael Gove and Ofqual Petition | GoPetition.

For more information, check out the press release from the NUT on the latest revelations here.

Monday, 10 September 2012

Give us time to teach!

The National Union of Teachers announced today that it would call on members to take non-strike action from 26th September to defend their work-life balance and return the focus of the job to teaching and learning.  The Union has announced a list of uneccessary and bureaucratic tasks which teachers will boycot from 26th on an effort to make Education Secretary Michael Gove intervene over spiralling workload.

Tuesday, 29 May 2012

What sort of action?

Yesterday NUT and NASUWT launched an historic agreement to protect teachers and defend education.

The two unions, which between them represent 85% of teachers, agreed to focus on:
*Workload Pressures

The campaign will involve joint non-strike action from September which, if there is no movement from government, will lead to joint strike action later in the term.

Today, Kevin Courtney (NUT Deputy General Secretary) outlined for Division Secretaries what form non-strike sanctions will take. Non-strike action will be targeted to:
*enhance teaching and learning
*hit at over-the-top accountability not learning
*not withdraw goodwill
*move beyond current action being taken by teaching unions.

For more news, follow @NUTox and #teacherstogether on Twitter.

Teachers Together

Following yesterday's historic agreement between NUT and NASUWT to work together to protect teachers and defend the education system, today's briefing for all NUT Division Secretaries will outline what this means in practice and the benefits for members at a local level.

Details of the agreement can be found at here and latest national news by following #teacherstogether on Twitter.

More to follow throughout the day...

Friday, 17 February 2012

Craving for Mountains

I woke up yesterday with a craving for mountains. So, as soon as Catherine had left for work, Rosa and I set off for the Brecon Beacons.  We grabbed lunch in Merthyr Tydfil, which we ate by the side of a lake on the edge of the National Park, then off we went up Pen-y-Fan.

Sat about three quarters of the way up, where several paths meet (we never quite made it to the top - she is only 22months!), looking at the stunning views, I remembered the first time I came here.  It was on a residential trip to Woodlands Outdoor Education Centre with 40 year six children.

The impact of this trip on the children was immense.  For many, it was the first time they had done many of the activities on offer -  a once in a lifetime opportunity.  For one, it was the first time they had seen a sheep.  The value of this experience - in terms of developing teamwork, confidence, transferable skills in a safe but challenging atmosphere, supported by qualified teaching staff and instructors - cannot be underestimated.  It was a truly life-changing experience.

Outdoor education is not an optional extra, especially for children living in the city. It is a huge opportunity which we must not deny them.  In the current atmosphere of cuts and austerity, it is important that this essential aspect of the broad and balanced curriculum we offer our students survives.

I would urge all teachers, parents and students to sign the e-petition in support of outdoor education - - and all teachers and school leaders to ensure that they are making full use of Oxfordshire's Outdoor Education Centres (full details can be found at

We must use and defend these services or we will lose them forever!

Thursday, 2 February 2012

Surveys Show Support for Pensions Decision

NUT Division Secretary's Briefing

Off to a national Div Secs briefing at Hamilton House today where we will be discussing the next steps in the pensions campaign as well as what the Union will be doing to tackle workload.

It's been really interesting listening to members' views across Oxfordshire (and in Wokingham) over the past few weeks. A few things came across overwhelmingly.

Members support the decision not to sign up to the rotten deal outlined in the Heads of Agreement (of our 2950 members, only 1 has so far suggested that this would be a good idea).

The vast majority would be willing to take further strike action, but only if there is a clear plan for a campaign, alongside other unions, to actually win. Simply 'naming a day' for further strike action is not enough.

Suggestions for how the campaign can be built include co-ordinating more creative strike actions with other unions, possibly in a series of regional or sectional strikes leading to a joint day of action, and also using a variety of non-strike tactics.

Many members felt that this latter part was essential and suggested ideas such as lobbying, petitions, mass letter-writing, local and national demonstrations, and more. They felt that this would both galvanise our members and allow members of those unions which are not currently looking at action (such as Unison) to stay involved with the campaign.

Looking forward to feeding these ideas in to today's meeting and to hearing back from other areas of the country and from the executive. Hopefully, I will have more to report to local members on my return.

Friday, 20 January 2012

UCU to Continue Pensions Campaign

News just in: The Executive of the University and Colleges Union, representing teachers and lecturers in HE and FE, have rejected the government Heads of Agreement by a majority of 3:1. This means that UCU, many of whose members are in the Teachers' Pension Scheme, will be continuing the pensions campaign alongside the NUT, NASUWT, PCS, Unite and others.

UCU is looking to meet with other unions who have rejected the deal to discuss strategy and tactics over the next few weeks. NUT and PCS have also announced that they are seeking such a meeting. This presents the real prospect of a united campaign continuing from and building on the November 30th national Day of Action.

A broad range of tactics may even see the involvement of unions which are still in negotiations but have not yet signed a deal with government. Alongside this broad approach, another day of strike action is likely to be on the cards before the imposition of increased contributions on 1st April. UCU are suggesting that 1st March may be a possibility.

So, the pensions campaign is alive and well with a real prospect of delivering for members. Now we need to involve everyone we can on what is undoubtedly the fight of our lives.

School Meetings

We are trying to get out to as many schools as possible to discuss the next steps in the pensions campaign,  forced academies and all the other issues affecting our members in Oxfordshire. Also a great opportunity for school groups to elect or re-elect a school rep.

If you would like a member of the local committee to visit your school or would like any support with organising a meeting for members, get in touch now on or 07967392229.