I am writing to you after reading the response of your Schools Minister Lord Nash on 6 February to a parliamentary question tabled by Lord Taylor of Warwick (HL 4987).
I was very pleased at the commitments given to seeking to find a resolution to the current dispute we have regarding pensions, pay and working conditions although it would have been more appropriate for these to have been communicated to us directly rather than via a response to a parliamentary question.
In his parliamentary reply, Lord Nash stated that we have been asked what would bring an end to our dispute and referred to continued discussions seeking to bring an end to the dispute. To date there have been no attempts on the part of the Government to engage in discussions of this kind. Instead further adverse changes have been imposed to teachers’ pay and conditions with no regard to any concerns raised. When Ministers have been required to consult by statute they have undermined this process by carrying out the process over a Christmas holiday period with the barest minimum response time possible and subsequently ignoring any responses submitted.
It is hardly surprising that when, at the turn of the year, You Gov published the results of a survey of the teaching profession, the findings demonstrated a crisis of morale in the profession. The majority (55%) of teachers felt that their morale was low or very low, an increase of 13% since April 2012, while 69% of teachers said their morale had declined since May 2010.
Teachers continue to face excessive workload which is leaving them less able to focus fully on teaching and learning. Teachers’ pay is not keeping up with the cost of living and survey after survey has shown that teachers and head teachers are opposed to your proposals for teachers’ pay to be determined at the discretion of the head or the governing body. Teachers are paying more in pensions contributions with the prospect of working longer until they eventually can retire and getting less pension in return.
As well as wanting to be recognised as highly skilled professionals deserving of good terms and conditions, teachers responding to the survey asked that you begin to value, trust and listen to them.
As we are sure you will agree, such increasing levels of low morale are of serious concern which, for the sake of pupils and their teachers, we need to work together to address. In this context I am in no doubt that teachers will welcome your new commitment to seek a resolution to our dispute.
Following your recent announcement on the English Baccalaureate certificates, teachers will be encouraged that this may be a turning point in relations with the profession and that the Government will start listening and acting on the concerns of teachers. This is essential, beyond the matters which are the subject of our dispute, if we are to defend and improve upon the teaching our children deserve which we believe is being put at risk by the changes being imposed by the Government.
I would appreciate an early meeting with you to begin these discussions and will approach your office to find some suitable dates. I will treat such meetings as a priority and be as flexible as possible in order that the discussions can commence. The National Union of Teachers will be engaging in such discussions on the basis that there is an intention to have meaningful negotiations and do hope that this is shared by you as suggested by the answer provided to Parliament.
I am sending copies of this letter to Lord Nash and the Rt Hon David Laws MP. I am also making the letter available to the press in order that they are fully aware of our response to the statement in Parliament.