NASUWT conference took place between Friday, April 3, and Monday, April 6 in Cardiff. Here’s what happened.
What were the main issues?
1. Mental health:
Top of the union’s agenda were “frightening and disturbing” figures which laid bare the impact of escalating stress on mental health.
More than two thirds of teachers said their job has adversely affected their mental health in the last 12 months.
Of those, nearly half had seen a doctor and more than a third had taken medication, according to figures collecting during the annual Big Question survey.
Chris Keates, general secretary, said the problem was “unprecedented”, with increased workloads mostly to blame.
2. Financial pressure on parents:
The union said the Government’s economic and social policies mean pupils attend school hungry, tired and sick.
Ms Keates said the “truly shocking statistics” show the lives of children are being blighted and degraded by poverty and homelessness.
Hard-up parents can’t afford to buy proper school uniforms for their children or take the time off work to look after poorly children, she added.
The union’s survey of 2,452 teachers found nearly a quarter had brought in food for hungry pupils.
3. Teacher pay:
Excessive freedoms and flexibilities granted to schools by the Coalition Government were said to be leading to greater pay inequality.
A total of 62 per cent of teachers surveyed said they were eligible for pay progression but had not received it.
Cost-cutting measures were also blamed for a rise in the use of unqualified teachers – though official figures suggest the numbers of people teaching without qualification have fallen.
The union said a national framework of pay was essential to maintain fair wages and called for an end to “paying teachers what you can get away with”.
The best of the rest:
In a survey on workload, half the teachers surveyed say they are expected to respond to work-related emails outside school hours – up from 45 per cent in 2014.
Growing concerns over energy drinks causing bad behaviour among pupils received traction in most of the national press. A survey of more than 3,500 teachers found 13 per cent thought the caffeine-packed drinks were fuelling poor pupil behaviour.
Two thirds of supply teachers said they are being asked to sign agreements with offshore companies which allow agencies to avoid paying tax and national insurance liabilities.
And nearly half of teachers who have CCTV cameras in schools say they have been used to form negative judgements about teachers’ performance – up eight per cent from the previous year.
What happens now that conference has passed their motions?
While a number of conference motions were debated and passed, most merely pledged to continue support for ongoing matters.
One area which may now attract more scrutiny is pupil premium funding. The conference heard there was a lack of academic evidence supporting the assertion that pupil premium funding has a significant impact on pupils with the most need.
Members voted for the national executive to commission research to investigate and petition the Department for Education to audit and publish the impact of the pupil premium on the workload of teachers.
You can also expect more data and research around the impact of energy drinks on pupil behaviour. The union has partnered with drug and alcohol charity Swanswell to examine the claims from teachers. The partnership aims to dig a bit deeper and produce some guidance for pupils, parents and schools about the impact on children’s wellbeing.