This has been an historic year for the NUT. We have a new name – The National Education Union – and we are merging with the ATL to form one of the largest unions in the land. This is a major step towards creating the professional unity which has been our long-held aim – one union for all teachers.
The dominant theme of this year has been school cuts. Although Sutton looks like ending up with a gain from the National Funding Formula, this is just the tip of the iceberg. What lies beneath is the massive gap between what schools are allocated by government and what they need to maintain standards of education. Budgets are frozen – in the government’s term ‘flat cash’ – whilst inflation, pensions contributions and NI costs all increase the pressures on school budgets.
This has a number of effects locally. The Council is reviewing SEND provision with a view to closing unit for hearing impaired and children and behaviour support. Some schools have struggled to pay the last unfunded round of pay, despite the below-inflation cost of living rise of only 1%. Other schools have had to make redundancies, support staff are not being replaced and schools are narrowing the curriculum to keep within financial constraints. Teachers are becoming harder to recruit as pay stagnates and workload rises.
One of the greatest achievements of the NEU this year, locally and nationally, has been to highlight the issue of school cuts. In Sutton we have leafleted and held meetings; nationally the NEU launched a website which has woken up the public to the funding crisis.
Meanwhile, Sutton Education Authority is phasing itself out. Centralised education services have been ‘spun out’ to a company in which the Council holds the major stake. The NEU has spent considerable time this year negotiating redundancies as Cognus, as this enterprise is now called, has struggled to balance the books.
Traditionally the Unions, as the Sutton Teachers’ Committee, have met with the Local Authority to discuss matters of education and policies relating to teachers. We will continue to do this, but the NEU will also seek to meet with the representatives of the Primary and Secondary head teachers to engage in dialogue and find areas where a consistency of approach will benefit both employers and employees. The NEU is currently considering asking schools to sign up to a London-wide workload charter.
In this new landscape it is you, the members of the union who are our strength. Our numbers continue to grow. Our reps fulfil a vital function in schools. They support and recruit members and monitor the way that the policies of the union apply to their schools, supported by the Sutton Association officers.
If there is one thing you should really get round to in 2018, it is to get involved with your union. Get involved NEU