#NUT17 – Day 3 by PPCO

The fourth session of #NUT17 started with a motion on sixth form funding. Delegates spoke of increased class sizes; lack of support for students, particularly around pastoral and mental health care; a reduction in the number of courses offered; and something of a mercenary approach to offering places to potential students, in that in some colleges places are only being offered to students who could be ‘guaranteed’ to pass. Sixth form funding is being impacted by mergers and academisation as well as slashed spending by the government, leading to concerns about the disappearance of colleges altogether.

Following this was Motion 35: A Curriculum For All. This motion is based on concerns about the impact of the EBacc programme in secondary schools, and the resulting restriction of the curriculum being offered to students. Not only are some students being forced into taking subjects that they have no interest in or need for, thereby restricting their options in post-16 education, but it’s leading to a narrowed curriculum where many options subjects, particularly creative subjects, are being forced out.

Next up was a motion on class sizes in special schools. As in mainstream schools, funding cuts are impacting schools and services are being cut. This is a crucial issue in special schools as specialist support for students with special educational needs is simply unable to be provided. The motion sought, amongst other things for class size limits of 12 where pupils have moderate learning difficulties, 9 where pupils have severe learning difficulties and a ratio of 3:1 students to staff in Alternate Provision.

The conference then heard from Professor Howard Stevenson. A former NUT school representative, Professor Stevenson is currently working at the School of Education at the University of Nottingham. He spoke about the government having abandoned teaching as a long-term, sustainable career, as well as the need to break down the exam factories that schools are currently acting as.

We then moved onto the first of two Primary motions, Motion 37: Primary Assessment – A Broken System. Many delegates spoke passionately about the impact that the testing regime has on students. Lancaster, Morecambe and District headteacher Siobhan Collingwood and member Jessica Christie moved and seconded amendment 37.1, and gave speeches which highlighted the mental health issues that students in primary schools face because of the summative assessments including the SATs and phonics tests.

The amended motion includes:

  • Calling on the government to immediately suspend current testing arrangements and trust teacher professional judgements;
  • Balloting leadership members to set up a boycott of the 2018 SATs;
  • Conducting an internal survey to gauge the strength of feeling with KS2 members to refuse to administer the tests; and
  • Continuing to campaign alongside parents, academics, campaign groups and other unions to end the testing regime.

Motion 38, the motion to boycott primary testing, was moved at this point but not finished. We will go back to it later in the conference.