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.