ATL held their conference on Monday, March 30, to Wednesday, April 1 in Liverpool. Here’s what happened.
What were the main issues?
1. Teacher workload:
Workload was a main issue on the conference agenda.
General secretary Dr Mary Bousted used her keynote speech to raise concerns about the workload challenges which are forcing teachers out of the profession.
She backed this with figures which showed “dismal” retention rates of newly-qualified teachers. The Department for Education data revealed the proportion of NQTs remaining in the profession for more than a year had dropped from 80 per cent in 2005, to 62 per cent in 2011.
But concerns were raised the 2011 figures could be an anomaly with conflicting figures from the National Council for Teaching and Leadership.
The union followed the familiar annual conference theme of berating Ofsted. Dr Bousted said the evidence overwhelmingly shows that Ofsted is not working.
She said: “It is plagued with quality control problems and has, not a credibility gap, but a credibility chasm with the teaching profession which does not have confidence in the quality of the inspection team that might turn up at their school gate.”
(Other people and organisations did also earn here ire – most notably Michael Gove.)
Shadow education secretary Tristam Hunt chose a good crowd to promise a “far-reaching reform” of the education watchdog, should Labour get in Government.”.
He pledged to introduce a new system by the end of the next Parliament.
Story after story highlighted the real struggle teachers are facing. Rod Bissett, from Birmingham, described to delegates his own depression and how it affected his career. He also talked about a colleague with a physical disability who had adaptions made for her, but a colleague suffering panic attacks was told to pull herself together.
Alison Sherratt, a member of ATL’s executive committee, described the exhaustion she felt as a carer to elderly parents, while also looking after her three daughters and trying to keep up with a senior school position.
The executive committee was asked to commission a report into the support provided for education employees with disabilities and mental health issues – to be presented at next year’s conference.
Best of the rest:
More than a third of school staff claimed they or a colleague have faced false allegations from pupils. It led to calls for more support so careers are not “irretrievably damaged”.
A survey of 685 ATL members found some staff had quit because of the false allegations.
Another survey found 90 per cent of members had received no training on how to support young carers. Only one in three of those surveyed said they worked in a school which provided special support to young carers.
What can you expect to see in the future?:
The union pledged to investigate the decline of local authority influence in schools, look into the validity of claims of a ring-fenced education budget and monitor the Government’s policing of the “fundamental British values” policy.
One thing you won’t see in the future is the union supporting zero hours contracts. A potentially controversial clause in a motion that noted “for some members, zero-hours and term-time contracts can be a benefit” was struck off.
An amendment was passed that deleted the clause after members said it was out of keeping with ATL policy and the clause was deleted from the motion.