NEWS • VIEWS • INFORMATION • ADVICE
Disabled teachers urged to fight for their rights
The NASUWT’s most successful conference ever for disabled teachers from across the UK was held recently with a record number of attendees.
This annual consultation conference, which aims to ensure that teachers with disabilities have a voice in their union and are influencing and informing policy development, heard from teachers with disabilities from across the UK, who shared their experiences of living and teaching with a disability.
In a rousing speech, NASUWT General Secretary Chris Keates [above] briefed members on the impact of Government policies on teachers with disabilities.
She addressed head on what she called the ‘systematic under-reporting’ of disability by teachers to their employers.
Chris Keates said: “There is a deep fear among teachers with a disability of reporting this to their managers and employers for fear of disadvantage and discrimination.“ This creates a vicious spiral in which teachers with disabilities are even more vulnerable in the workplace.”
She went on to attack the “savage cuts” by the Coalition Government impacting across the UK to publicly funded programmes, including the Ability v Ability programme developed by the NASUWT and Paralympics GB. This package of resources has supported, for over a decade, hundreds of teachers and schools, helping them to bring athletics alive for their students, particularly those with disabilities.
Ms Keates said: “There is no other resource of its kind that is widely available to teachers. The NASUWT is committed to continuing to work on developing the resource even further. But it says a lot about this Coalition Government impacting arcoss the UK that this was one of the first programmes it axed.”
The Conference also heard disturbing evidence from some of those present that attempts were being made to force them out of their jobs because of their disability.
Some headteachers were highlighted as bullying staff into leaving their jobs rather than complying with the law and making adjustments to support their continuing employment.
Examples of the misuse and abuse of performance management and capability procedures were also cited by attendees who expressed concern that such unacceptable practices were likely to increase, having heard the Coalition’s plans to change the performance management and capability procedures.
The implications of the Equality Act were explained by Richard Reiser [above], a leading international disability equality trainer. He advised how the new legislation could be used if teachers felt they were being discriminated against.
Mr Reiser said: “We are different but we are also equal. To try to pretend that you are not disabled is the first mistake.”
He told delegates: “Disability is an equalities issue. This is a transition we all have to make, particularly those who acquire their impairments along the way.
“You have to get out of the tragedy model and see this is an issue of human rights. You have every right to be treated equally.”
Workshops were held on:
• Putting the Equality Act into Practice.
• Managing your Finances.
• Assertiveness/Confidence Building.
• Wellbeing in the Workplace.
Delegates also took part in ‘Loud and Clear’, a fun and energetic vocal coaching session with voice coach Jackie Roxborough.
To book your place for the 2012 Conference, go to www.nasuwt.org.uk/Events or call 0121 453 6150. Further information about the NASUWT’s support for teachers with disabilities can be found at www.nasuwt.org.uk/DisabledMembers.