Protect state education, new President urges
The Coalition Government is poised to rob children and teachers of a quality education system, the NASUWT’s new President warned in his address to Conference.
(Photo cpationed: NASUWT President for 2011/2012 John Rimmer)
John Rimmer, a secondary teacher from Warrington, told delegates that the basic principles of fairness, equality and social justice are being threatened by the Coalition Government’s ideology which puts profit before people.
“Savage budgetary cuts to our public services and to our state system of education demonstrate an ideology that benefits the few at the expense of the many,” he said.
“Frozen salaries, reduced pensions, unqualified teachers in free schools and academies, redundancies across the public sector and increasing class sizes create even greater disadvantages for the children of working families to overcome.
“The Education Bill going through Parliament puts legislation in place to destroy our state system of education and create an education underclass.”
Mr Rimmer warned of the dangers of the Government’s current ‘slash and burn’ approach to tackling the deficit, saying: “The last thing education needs is a return to the 1980s where public service cuts saw hospital waiting lists increase daily and where children were taught in crumbling schools without textbooks.
“We need to keep sending this Government and the people of this country a clear message that public services are the lifeblood of economic recovery. Privatisation has proved time and again it does not provide better services. It does result in greater profits out of the public purse for private entrepreneurs.”
There is an alternative way to deal with the UK’s financial deficit, Mr Rimmer told Conference, urging the adoption of a Robin Hood Tax on the banking sector and a crackdown on tax avoidance by the super-rich as two fairer ways of responding to the fiscal crisis. Mr Rimmer also hit out at the Coalition’s vision for the future of schools, highlighting reports from Sweden and the USA of falling standards and increasing class sizes in the free and charter schools on which the Government’s much vaunted academies and free schools are based. Similarly, the introduction of the English Baccalaureate to fulfil what Mr Rimmer described as Mr Gove’s ‘grammar school utopia’ of a traditional academic education is not supported by the evidence, he argued. Studies have shown, he told Conference, that selection of pupils and competition between schools does not produce better results. Mr Rimmer urged Michael Gove to rethink his policies, saying: “Why, Mr Gove, are we copying a blueprint with proven failure?”
The NASUWT is facing a challenging time, he told delegates. However, through its continued commitment to equality and social justice and by organising effectively in every workplace, the Union will continue to fight to build a better future for teachers and children, he stated.
“Education is a public service, to be cherished and protected, not a commodity to be sold to the highest bidder,” Mr Rimmer stated, adding: “We believe the children of this country deserve better. We will continue to campaign for a publicly funded, accountable education service and take a stand against profiteers who put the interests of shareholders above the interests of children.”
“...The Education Bill going through Parliament puts legislation in place to destroy our state system of education and create an education underclass... “
Watch a video of Mr Rimmer’s speech at www.nasuwt.org.uk/Conference2011
exhibition opening ceremony
Conference showcases sporting commitment
(Photo captioned: Paralympian Lee McConnell)
(Photo captioned: NASUWT’s Riverside Band perform)
Conference got off to an athletic start by showcasing the work of the NASUWT’s sporting partnerships. The Union is a long-standing sponsor of Paralympics GB, the organisation which supports and promotes UK Paralympians. The NASUWT has worked with Paralympics GB to develop Ability v Ability, a teaching resource which can be used with all students to promote participation in athletics within schools.
Paralympics GB were promoting the resource to delegates during Annual Conference and Lee McConnell, 400m relay runner and hurdler for Great Britain, told delegates at the VIP opening ceremony of the important role teachers can play in inspiring sporting success.
“Athletics has always been a huge part of who I am,” she said, “and that started at primary school.
“It was the encouragement and support of my teachers which led to my going on to become a professional athlete and that is why I thank the NASUWT for promoting Ability v Ability and supporting young people to develop a love of athletics.”
The NASUWT’s Riverside Band also provided a musical accompaniment to the opening ceremony, where delegates could learn more about many of the other charities and organisations supported by the NASUWT by visiting their stands in the conference exhibition. These included the Anne Frank Trust, Youth Music Theatre and the Cuba Solidarity Campaign.