Wednesday, 10 September 2008
Democracy Now! is a radio and TV show available on the internet at HTTP://democracynow.org. It aims to represent the “silenced majority” in American society. To their shame, BBC journalists have failed to raise the issue of Amy Goodman's arrest or to protest.
Sheer self-preservation would suggest that journalists should oppose the targeting of journalists by the police in the United States. Democracy Now has been a thorn in their side because of their refusal to use “embedded” journalists who simply reproduce the government line.
As Amy Goodman says “journalism is telling a story somebody doesn't want told. Anything else is advertising.”
It is in the interests of all workers in the media (and out of it!) to protest the arrest of journalists who seek to undermine the lies of the corporate media.
Thursday, 31 July 2008
Friday, 23 May 2008
In Central Hall Westminster at the April 24th strike rally in front of two thousand teachers, with many more thousands locked outside, wild cheering and applause greeted any platform speaker even hinting at further joint action.
It seemed that the NUT was on a roll. After years of trying, the Left on the NUT National Executive apparently had won a small majority in the elections. Also by a quirk of fate a left general secretary took the helm, joining an already established left treasurer. We then got the news that UNISON were going to ballot, and others were lining up to join those that had already shown willing.
At the same time discontent is being fuelled by more rising prices. Our case is strengthened daily. And to cap it all the government has come under real pressure. With the massacre in the local elections, now Nantwich & Crewe, and Gordon Brown's poll ratings at absolute rock bottom what a chance to extract another u-turn on public sector pay to add to the 10p tax fiasco.
Trade unions rarely get a favourable combination of circumstances to pursue a strike. It is never the right moment. But given some other situations this was a golden opportunity. Incredibly some, or rather quite a few, including those calling themselves Left, have voted against calling action now. They have let teachers down. They have let the government off the hook. They have quite possibly caused a negative impact on the rank and file of other unions.
We recognise that there might be complicating factors, but the overriding factor here was a chance for the coordinated action that the whole of the trade union movement has been campaigning on for such a long time. Shame on those who have shown such a lack of judgment that they voted against a strike in July.
Leadership is all about judgment. Of course we all want the same thing in the end, but timing is everything in politics. Now it seems we have a situation where some 'on the left' have joined with others on the right with similar 'honestly held views' to effectively kick our pay battle into the long grass for now.
Experience in the Left Caucus on the National Executive has shown me that there are some whose views are barely 'Left' at all. There are others on the Left like myself, Martin Powell Davies and others especially in the Socialist Party, who faced a somewhat different, quite unsympathetic reaction to our 'honestly held views'. Martin stood for General Secretary because we reckoned that the views of the candidate backed by others on the Left would fall short. Were we right? As an Executive member I spoke out against some of the methods of many in the Left Caucus who believed that those in the then majority of the Executive really wanted the same thing as us and would see the error of their lackadaisical ways and be won over by our more energetic campaigning.
Unfortunately, the result of this vote could demobilise teachers. It certainly gives the government time to re-group. It may well be that the relentless pressure of events can bring action to the fore again. I certainly hope so. The Div. Secs on June 17th might have much to say. Hopefully Divisonal Secretaries who wanted to see united action in July will not go shy in taking up the arguments of those on the left as well as those on the right.
Monday, 19 May 2008
From Early Year News
Angela Ahern writes:
I attended Early Education's Annual Conference in Sheffield at the weekend. The theme was "Trusting children's thinking: reflecting on Dispositions for Learning". The keynote speakers were Professor Cathy Nutbrown : School of Education, University of Sheffield and Mick Waters : Director of Curriculum, QCA.
Cathy Nutbrown's talk was entitled "Respectful educators, capable learners". Cathy is an interesting and stimulating speaker, quoting Christian Schiller, Alec Clegg and Robin Tanner, amongst others. She expressed her view that education should be through the Arts, encouraging creativity and expression. Art - in terms of music, dancing, painting should be seen as a pedagogy. "Creative children need creative adults with wide eyes and open minds". Creative education in this sense is an "orienteering expedition, not a route march", with adults as "orienteering guides", providing tools and resources for the journey and opportunities to be a pioneer. Creative assessment is seen as a series of checkpoints on the learning journey.
Cathy quoted from an essay by Fulgham (1990) entitled "All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten", "live a balanced life - learn some and think some and draw and paint and sing and dance - every day -some". Put things back where you found them and clean up your own mess - have milk and cookies at 3.00pm followed by a nap - hold hands and watch out for traffic - what else do we need to know?
Mick Waters from QCA has been described as the "Mick Jagger of the education world", so the audience weren't too sure what to expect, and he did not disappoint. Mick had separately also decided to quote Fulgham, so had to find another poem to illustrate his point, which was essentially that it is vital that educators do not lose their playful joyful spirit! Mick advocated applying the principles of early years education in secondary schools. He commented that to some "education is seen as a cold shower - unpleasant and hateful but good for you". He made the point that the curriculum should fit the learners, not the other way around.
Mick had helpfully made a list of childhood essentials, "make, do and mend........
*taking things to bits
*caring for creatures
*enjoying the weather
*being in a club
*making something to use at home or at school
He posed the question, "is there anything living in your classroom?"
For further information on Mick's view of the early years curriculum, see the QCA website.
The conference heard from Felicity Thomas and Stephanie Harding from Earlham Early Years Centre, Norfolk in the afternoon, who have developed their own way of planning and assessing young children through focusing on their dispositions for learning, such as curiosity, persistence, co-operation, being rich and flexible in communication and playfulness.
The conference closing address was given by Margaret Edgington, who is the Vice President of Early Education. She stressed that those of us who work in the early years need to be firm about what are our non-negotiables, such as a curriculum that encourages an orienteering approach rather than a route march through targets, and to stand by and defend these - to both the Government and Ofsted - where applicable. She urged us to trust our own thinking - we are the connoisseurs of young children's learning and we need to exert our spirit strongly!
Next years conference will be held in Swansea and is entitled "Childhood Regained".
Look forward to seeing you there!
Monday, 5 May 2008
You can also email in about action in your area to firstname.lastname@example.org
Coventry and Birmingham
Brighton and Eastbourne
Bolton and Manchester
and the new Classroom Teacher 5
Sunday, 6 April 2008
NUT General Secretary, Steve Sinnott, died suddenly on 5 April, 2008. He was 56. There have been many tributes to him. The main emphasis has been to make the 24th April strike he worked so hard for a success.
Thursday, 27 March 2008
The Classroom Teacher leaflet on what to do if the union votes to strike on 24th April can be downloaded here
You can download it and print it out at no charge. Some associations are copying it with due acknowledgement in their own publicity for the strike.
24th April could be a golden opportunity to recruit new activists to transform the union.
Wednesday, 26 March 2008
I thoroughly enjoyed NUT conference. Bill Greenshields’ presidential address was inspiring with its emphasis on the class basis of British society and his more-or-less unflappable demeanour made for a well-organised conference. Sometimes his avuncular chairmanship put me in mind of an uncle from my youth, Joe I think his name was.
The way the conference worked, the Executive Priority motion meant most calls for action were ruled out of order. This gives the National Executive an enormous opportunity to display flexibility. With an apparent left numerical majority on the Exec (depending on how you calculate these things) they must prove to be our flexible friends and not the government’s.
On Sunday on the tram there was a lot of talk about the Jerry Glazier Easter Miracle where Jerry apparently saw the light on the road to Damascus and ended up agreeing with Martin Powell-Davies on the need to link action on class size, workload and pay together.
After the Classroom Teacher http://www.classroomteacher.org.uk discussion on Sunday I look forward to April 24th and recruiting new activists from the first-time strikers who will be involved. The classroom teacher flyer will be available for people to download and print out
The WSTA delegation had a gender balance of 7:2 which reflects the gender balance of the union. Other delegations can do likewise and perhaps the National Executive too.
We recorded our thoughts on the conference blog http://wsta1.org.uk from which you will see that two first-time delegates who are supply teachers were moved to see the consideration the union is giving to their plight.
Monday, 10 March 2008
The campaign against Academies
The standard response of politicians of all stripes to criticism is to say the criticism is based on data is out of date and the issues referred to have been addressed. The Academies issue is no exception. Any politician these days will admit that the Academies program was a shambles and many of the sponsors were shysters but now the whole act has been cleaned up. In West Sussex, for example, instead of some second-hand car salesman they have the services of an educational body with a “proven track record” and the Local Authority is itself involved in the bid.
The reality is that the educational body in question is the Woodard Corporation which has a “proven track record” of running elitist religious schools. When a meeting of 150 parents and teachers was held to discuss the academy bid they contemptuously refused to send anybody to speak to them. They would sooner take advice from their servants than from parents or teachers.
The Local Authority may have a representative on the governing body but the unelected Woodard Corporation will have as many as it wants.
If you have concerns about your local school you can hold the local authority to account. The religious foundations are answerable only to the Almighty and the private companies are only answerable to their shareholders.
Far from being benevolent institutions aiming to help the community, the sponsors get the control of a 20 million pound school for 2 million pounds. They can (and do) then use this patronage to hire consultants of their choice at a fee of their choosing and to opt for educational suppliers of their choice – money no object.
Unusually all of the educational unions are united on this issue. There is an anti-academies alliance which you can contact. If an academy is proposed in your area (and it will be) give them a ring on 07528 201 697 or email email@example.com
Their website is http://www.antiacademies.org.uk/index.php
Wednesday, 5 March 2008
Sunday, 24 February 2008
Since the corporate fat cats and their ideologues proclaimed "the end of history" they have had virtually undisputed sway over the world. They can no longer blame "the dirty commies" for everything which goes wrong. With such extensive power they have built into their very foundations all the combustible material on the planet. As Trotsky predicted they would in fact.
We do not have a system of entrepreneurs taking risks and building up small businesses in a free environment. Massive corporations have budgets larger than many nation states and wield power over governments.
Do you trust these rich bastards to tackle climate change or the environmental consequences of their greed or would you agree with Jack London: "you cannot evade the charge that your class has mismanaged. You will talk about other things and things connected with other things but you will not answer that central charge."
To join in the discussion click here
Wednesday, 20 February 2008
Friday, 8 February 2008
The Local Authority had the good manners to send a spokesman who was listened to in polite silence.
Woodard Corporation - the power behind the academy bid - contemptuously refused to send anybody to talk to parents and teachers. That exemplifies their high and mighty approach and is the reason parents and teachers are up in arms.
Friday, 1 February 2008
Yes. of course your degree was harder to get than anyones these days.
It's so much easier now. I heard of a kid who got a degree in David Cameron studies and all he had to do was text an essay in to radio 1 and he got a first. my mates BTEC in bricklaying now entitles him to a chair in classics at Cambridge university.
These days kids can take the internet in to their exams, and their parents probably. Not that they have to do exams anymore. Not like when i had to do ten fourteen hour exams in Latin Algebra and we weren't even allowed pens to write with. I had to do so much writing my arms literally fell off, literally. and everyone else's did too and if they didn't then you only got a third - but that's the equivalent of a phd today anyway.
You can do xbox studies these days - all you have to do is get to level four of crash bandicoot and they make you emeritus professor. they're giving degrees away in the streets now you just have to walk down the street and they'll give you a degree in Britney Spears studies.
I'm outraged, it's terrible any student getting a degree today should be thoroughly ashamed of themselves - they're all worthless and this is my favourite subject because it allows me to tell bull**** anecdotes about how someone I knew only turned up twice a year and still got his degree whereas I had twenty seven hours of lectures a day for nine days a week and i still only got a third because that was the highest classification they used to give out.
I particularly love telling young people that I worked harder than them and that their efforts are wasted.
I hate the idea that other people can be successful.
Wednesday, 23 January 2008
Teachers in West Sussex are planning a campaign against proposals to turn three of the County's secondary schools into Academies, starting with a Public Meeting on Thursday 7 February at 7.30pm in the Assembly Rooms, Worthing. Dave Thomas, local Secretary for the National Union of Teachers, said:
We are opposed to Academies in West Sussex because:
they undermine democratically controlled Local Authorities,
they put schools in the hands of unaccountable sponsors,
they threaten teachers' pay and working conditions,
they will introduce three more schools of a faith character, with minimal consultation and a reduction in parents' choice.
At a meeting of West Sussex NUT held on Wed 16th Jan, the following motion was passed unanimously:
'WSTA is opposed to the establishment of Academies in West Sussex. It further deplores the lack of consultation by the Woodard Corporation and WSCC with the staff and their representatives in the schools concerned, namely, Boundstone CC, Kings Manor CC and Littlehampton CC.'
The meeting was attended by NUT members from all three schools and from other schools throughout West Sussex.
The public meeting is open to parents, teachers, support staff and others with an interest in state education to allow them an opportunity to air their concerns.
Sunday, 20 January 2008
A group of teachers who backed Martin Powell-Davies’ recent stand in the NUT Vice-President election met on Saturday January 12th . The meeting discussed what needs to be done to build action to defend teachers’ pay, cut our relentless workload and to halt the break-up of local authority education.
A leadership we can rely on
One thing that still holds us back is the lack of a fighting union leadership that teachers can rely on to build the united action we need. Martin’s campaign helped keep up the pressure on the NUT Executive to call the promised national ballot for strike action on pay. We hope that the Executive will vote to get the ballot under way when they meet at the end of January. By then the Government should finally have announced the miserly salary awards that they expect us to put up with for 2008-2010.
Building support for classroom teachers
Most teachers, struggling with the daily grind in schools, will know nothing about the debates within the Union. But they know they need support in standing up to the demands of bullying managers and the pressures of observations, league tables and performance management. Hard-pressed school reps know they need support in organising their school group and explaining union campaigns in a way that grabs classroom teachers’ attention.
Many hard-pressed Union Secretaries and officers will feel the same way. Too often left on their own to try and build school-by-school action in isolation, ground down by a rising mountain of individual casework, they also need support in building strong local Associations that can defend teachers and also to help bring in new members, especially young teachers, into activity.
It’s this vital task, of helping to develop a strong network of classroom teachers, school reps and campaigning union officers that the meeting agreed had to be our first priority.
A campaigning newsletter
We agreed to build our network by launching a new campaigning newsletter, “Classroom Teacher”, to circulate to schools, both by e-mail and as printed copies that teachers can distribute to their colleagues. It will focus primarily on the main pay and conditions issues facing classroom teachers and the campaigns we can build to defend ourselves.
The newsletter plans to be sharp and snappy, written by, and for, classroom teachers, reflecting the daily pressures we are under but also building confidence that together we can take action to turn the tide. We plan to put names to the articles reflecting the range of teachers involved in the network. At the same time, we hope to have room to include some more detailed commentary for teachers who also want to read something a bit more analytical about the problems we face. We also want to invite teachers to send in their own articles and comments and to be a real part of a growing network.
We hope that the newsletter can develop in to a larger bulletin – which will mean appealing for finances too. It will certainly be regularly produced so that ‘Classroom Teacher’ will be there in staffrooms at least every half-term for teachers to read.
A first flyer has been produced based on a Lewisham NUT newsletter “Too Much Work, Too Little Pay” which went down well at a recent national NUT Secretaries meeting. A further leaflet on the pay campaign should be out shortly.
The ‘Classroom Teacher’ network
The newsletter will advertise an e-mail, blog and website which will allow teachers to get in touch with the campaign and also post their own comments on the blog. There is also a Classroom Teacher account on youtube.
We have also set up a classroom teacher e-group which will allow members of the network to easily contact each other and exchange views and information.
We hope that teachers will forward our newsletter to colleagues and develop its circulation. We
want to make sure we know where it is being read, get feedback on what teachers have thought of it but, above all, get new teachers to join the network and write their own comments and articles.
Where there is support, we will also organise national or regional meetings around particular issues or campaigns so that we can bring teachers together and help plan a way forward. We can also produce material to be distributed at NUT Conference, although our main focus is going to be on classroom teachers rather than national NUT events.
We hope this initiative can help build a network of classroom teachers working together to defend our colleagues and to build a union ready and prepared to take action to change our pay, our workload, our union and our schools.
Martin Powell-Davies 07946 445488