NEWS • VIEWS • INFORMATION • ADVICE
LGBT equality under threat
(Photo captioned: NASUWT delegates at the TUC LGBT Conference)
The threat to lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans (LGBT) teachers and pupils from the Coalition Government’s programme of cuts and reform was starkly highlighted by the NASUWT at this year’s TUC LGBT Conference.
The free schools and academies project has a number of particular risks for LGBT equality, NASUWT Representative Alan Phippen told the conference, citing emerging evidence on the proposers of a number of free schools showing that some groups are seeking to use the opportunity to open schools that promote homophobic and discriminatory views.
This threat is being exacerbated by the attitude of the Coalition Government to equality issues, Mr Phippen went on to argue. The Education Bill, which is currently passing through Parliament, makes no reference to tackling homophobia, transphobia and homophobic bullying, despite the Coalition Government promising to address this issue prior to the creation of the Bill. This omission, he said, demonstrates the reality behind the rhetoric, showing that the Coalition has no real commitment to equality and the rights of LGBT people.
“The Coalition has failed to conduct a proper equality assessment of its education reforms. The discrimination in the education system that will arise from these changes, including discrimination against LGBT teachers and staff, is either being ignored or covered up,” he said.
NASUWT Representative Mary Page also urged delegates to join the fight against homophobia and repression of LGBT people worldwide. She paid tribute to courageous campaigners in Uganda who have successfully overturned an Anti-Homosexuality Bill, which, if enacted, would have seen LGBT people facing life in prison because of their sexuality. Despite this victory, violence and repression in Uganda is still rife, she explained, highlighting the recent brutal killing of teacher and gay rights activist David Kato.
The NASUWT has developed links with the Uganda National Teachers’ Union and has joined Education International (EI), a federation of education unions worldwide, in calling on the Ugandan Government to bring those responsible for Mr Kato’s death to justice.
Ms Page urged the wider trade union movement to join this fight: “As trade unions, we have a duty to champion equality, not just at home but around the world. Securing the decriminalisation of homosexuality in all parts of the world must remain a priority action in the fight for social justice and human rights.”
Also at the conference, Mr Phippen was successfully re-elected to the TUC LGBT Committee. The event was followed by the London Pride march and rally, which aims to highlight and challenge discrimination against LGBT people. The NASUWT took part in the parade and ran a stall during the event.
(Photo captioned: TUC Conference)
Further advice and information for LGBT members can be found at www.nasuwt.org.uk/LGBT
Scepticism over Welsh ‘bureaucracy’ claims
Education Minister Leighton Andrews has promised that a drive to improve school performance in Wales will not increase bureaucracy.
The Minister announced the introduction of a new School Standards Unit to ‘drive up performance’ and the creation of a new literacy and numeracy framework for pupils aged five to 14.
This follows the launch of a 20-point action plan designed to address what Mr Andrews has described as ‘systemic’ failure in the Welsh education system after the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) rankings, which grade countries on the basis of education performance, were published.
The NASUWT challenged the Minister’s interpretation and manipulation of the PISA data and has produced a guide for teachers about how international benchmarking should be used.
Under the performance plans, schools will be given expected levels that students should meet in literacy and numeracy, and reading and numeracy tests will be introduced. The changes will start to be rolled out to schools in September 2012.
Mr Andrews has stated that he is determined to ‘drive out bureaucracy’ from the education system but the NASUWT believes that these plans have the potential to do the exact opposite.
The Minister’s seeming obsession with the PISA results is steering the introduction of sweeping reforms that could have debilitating consequences for teachers and be counterproductive to raising standards.
The NASUWT believes that rather than rushing in with misguided and draconian attempts to ‘fix’ an education system that is not broken, ministers should concentrate their efforts on addressing the £604 per pupil funding gap between schools in Wales and England. That would do more to raise standards than punishing and denigrating teachers.
Mr Andrews has already announced plans to introduce national reading tests for pupils at Key Stage 2 and develop a new grading system for schools that could see the closure of those institutions deemed to be underperforming. The NASUWT has expressed concerns that this is a return to the publication of performance league tables.
Annual literacy and numeracy tests for teachers as part of their training and proposals to revise initial teacher training (ITT) so it becomes a two-year masters course have also been announced.
The NASUWT has produced new guidance on the use of PISA data in Wales. It can be downloaded at www.nasuwt.org.uk/BenchmarkingWales
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