Category Archives: Education

Government Back Down on Forced Academies

On the 17th March, Nicky Morgan, Secretary of State for Education (England), launched a new government White Paper for England: ‘Educational Excellence for Everyone’, building on announcements made in the Budget the day before.

The proposals would have: forced every school in England to become an academy by 2022 and take away many responsibilities for schools from local authorities; make sure most of  new academies are part of Multi Academy Trusts; produce new accountability measure and league tables for Multi Academy Trusts; give additional powers on school improvement  to regional schools commissioners; remove the requirement for parent governors; replace Qualified Teacher Status and review other aspects of teacher training and CPD; transform Ofsted inspection criteria; streamline admissions objectives; reform alternative provision; and publish a strategy for improved careers provision. The full white paper can be found at: White Paper

UNISON immediately condemned aspects of the white paper, in particular proposals to force all schools to become academies and the undermining of the role of parent governors.  Joint union work also targeted the media: Other teacher and headteacher unions have also passed motions allowing for industrial action if necessary.

In the political world as well as the opposition parties the Conservative led Local Government Association and County Council Network also condemned the proposals, as did a significant number of Tory MPs.

Government step back

In response to this vigorous campaigning, the government backed down from proposals to legislate to force all schools to become academies by 2022. However it did announce proposals that would give it additional powers to force some more maintained schools to become academies.

These amended proposals, outlined in the Queen’s Speech on the 18th May will form part of a new bill called the Education for All Bill.  This bill, if passed, would:

  • enable the government to convert schools to academies in ‘under-performing and unviable local authorities’
  • Make the process of becoming an academy ‘swifter and smoother’.
  • Shift responsibility for school improvement from local authorities to schools
  • Set out a new National Funding Formula
  • Make schools responsible for finding the right provider for their excluded pupils, and accountable for their education.

Continued campaigning

Clearly the government has suffered a setback, however it still wants all schools to become academies and the new proposed legislation would allow them to force more schools in that direction.

UNISON will continue to work closely with sister unions and other interested parties to oppose the government’s new proposals. The unions in the coalition issued a joint statement just before the Queen’s speech condemning the government’s increased obsession with school structures, when there were far more pressing issues to deal with: Link

UNISON’s Local Government Conference in June will also see a debate on the government’s plans and the next steps.

National funding formula

The Department for Education published an initial consultation on the principles of a proposed new national funding formula (NFF) in April. They are yet to publish their response to the consultation. It is likely that there will be a further consultation with greater details of the impact and likely changes. However, it seems unlikely that this will be published ahead of the EU referendum. UNISON remains concerned about the potential impact of the new NFF.  It is expected that rather than increasing funding to bring all schools up to the levels of the best  funded, the government will re-distribute funds, ‘robbing Peter to pay Paul’, which would have a severe detrimental  impact on many  schools. Further advice and guidance will be issued when more information is available.

Jon Richards – National Secretary -Education and Children’s Services


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Higher Education Industrial Action, 6 Feb

The UNISON Higher Education Service Group Executive have voted to take a 3rd day of strike action over pay on 6 February. These members have seen their pay cut by 13% over the last 4 years and yet nationally Universities have amassed a surplus of over £1.1 billion; whilst Vice Chancellors were awarded above average pay awards of 8.1% in 2013!

 Most of the 22 University branches in London will have pickets on entrances to their main campus buildings from 7am; please show your support by attending your nearest university picket line (outside of your working hours); publicise the strike with your members and also send the link below to an online petition calling for Fair Pay in Higher Education. 

 For more information on the dispute please visit the UNISON webpages

 A PDF version of a leaflet for students and members of the public is here for your information.

 University main campus addresses

 Birkbeck College
University of London
Malet Street

 Brunel University
Kingston Lane

 City University
Northampton Square

 Goldsmiths College
Lewisham Way
SE14 6NW 

Institute of Education
20 Bedford Way

 Kings College London

Kingston University
Penrhyn Road
Kingston upon Thames

 London Metropolitan University
166-220 Holloway Road
N7 8DB

 London School Economics
Houghton Street

 South Bank University
103 Borough Road

 Middlesex University
The Burroughs

 Queen Mary & Westfield College
Mile End Road
E1 4NS

 Senate House
University of London
Malet Street

 School of Oriental & African Studies
10 Thornhaugh Street

 University of West London
Walpole House
18-22 Bond Street
W5 5AA 

University of East London
Stratford Campus
Romford Road
E15 4LZ

 University College London
Gower Street

 University of Westminster
115 New Cavendish Street

 University of Greenwich
Avery Hill Road

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Teaching Assistants Celebrated As a Class Act

UNISON will today (29 November) be celebrating the invaluable contribution made by teaching assistants to local schools.TA Group

Most schools couldn’t operate without teaching assistants, yet their role is often not fully understood or recognised. UNISON is campaigning for teaching assistants to be rewarded through a proper career structure and better pay, terms and conditions. There is a complex mix of TA responsibilities with an overlap between pastoral, administrative and teaching duties.

The celebration day is part of a wider campaign spearheaded by UNISON, the UK’s largest education trade union, to speak up for teaching assistants and celebrate the positive impact they have on children’s learning and development.
The roles TAs play in the classroom are varied but they are all vital, such as giving targeted help to pupils with special educational needs, supporting children with complex health needs, providing pastoral support to children or supporting teachers with lesson preparation. With the dedicated help of TAs, children get support to keep them in mainstream education who would otherwise struggle.
Sonya Howard, Branch Secretary said:
“Teaching assistants are a class act and schools could not run without them. Children and young people trust their teaching assistants and often turn to them when they are struggling at school with their learning or social wellbeing. By working with an individuals or small groups, a teaching assistant can gain the confidence of a child and help them to achieve their full potential. That is a really special skill and we are celebrating that today.”

A UNISON survey earlier this year that showed 95% of head teachers believed TAs added value to schools. They said that a reduction in the number of teaching assistants would impact on children with special education and health needs, on teachers, and the running of schools.

Jon Richards, UNISON head of education, said:
“They often work long, unpaid hours and have insecure employment contracts and are badly paid for what they do. We are working towards improved career structures and professional standards for all TAs – wherever they work – and want to ensure that they are appropriately trained and deployed. Today we are celebrating the positive contribution of TAs to our schools.”

More information on tasks teaching assistants perform
Working with individual pupils, small groups and children with special needs
Administering medicines (e.g. for diabetic children)
Adapting resources for disabled students
Supervising classes for absent teachers & managing other classroom support staff
Supporting pupils’ social and emotional well-being
Monitoring, assessing and recording pupil data
Running breakfast and after-school clubs & supervising lunch and play times
Invigilating exams and tests.

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Association of Colleges Pay Offer News


It was with little pleasure that the national colleges’ committee members agreed to accept the 2013 pay offer on behalf of UNISON members in further education colleges in England. Responses were received from only 44 colleges after two trawls: 8 were ‘rejections’, 2 inconclusive and 34 ‘accepted’ the 0.7% offer  which includes the Living Wage rate of £7.45 as the new bottom point of the national pay scale. As is ever the case, the offer is only a recommendation and effort will be needed to achieve implementation at local level, especially where there are funding cuts and redundancies.

The national committee will meet on the 4 October and has a packed agenda, including discussion of issues that are on the table with the Association of Colleges (AoC). These include zero-hour contracts; lesson observation case study project; and joint agreements on guidance on:

  • Handling Capability
  • Redundancy Avoidance and Handling
  • Sickness Leave

 The thorniest of these issues is a proposed new sickness leave agreement which AoC say is prompted by the results of a survey suggesting that there are high levels of sickness absence in the sector with a significant cost. The trade union side is challenging their data and talks continue.

The AoC is conducting a review of further education bargaining and asking colleges if they wish to remain in national bargaining, or move to regional or local level.

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NUT and NASUWT Industrial Action

The NUT (National Union of Teachers) and NASUWT (National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers) have announced that they intend to have a programme of regional strike action as part of their campaign against government proposals on teacher’s pay[1]. This action is likely to affect 20,000 schools across England and Wales over the next few months.

This walk-out has resulted from a stand-off with the coalition governmentTeacher Teaching over rising pensions, contributions, increasing workload and the introduction of a system of performance-related pay.

The strikes will take place after GCSE and A-level exams and could continue into the autumn term, including a one-day national strike.

Members of the NUT and the NASUWT teaching union are already operating a joint work to rule over the government’s education and pension reforms, refusing to undertake 25 tasks including providing cover for colleagues and attending unscheduled management meetings.

The first set of action will take place on 27 June in the North West Region.

Announcements on further dates of action in the autumn term are expected.


UNISON respects the rights of other trade unions to take industrial action. UNISON members in schools have not been balloted for Strike action or action short of strike action and therefore they are advised to continue with their normal duties and responsibilities.  However, UNISON members should not take on any additional responsibilities being given to them directly as a result of the teachers’ industrial action.

School support staff should not be expected to provide cover for or take classes, where this would normally be done by teachers who are taking action. In particular, Higher Level Teaching Assistants or cover supervisors should only be taking classes or providing cover where they are contracted to do so, it is timetabled or part of their normal duties. Staff should not be moved from the duties they would normally have carried out in order to cover classes and frustrate the industrial action of colleagues. Members who are under pressure to cover should contact their UNISON rep, branch or region for further advice and support.

Members are reminded that due to industrial relations legislation only those employees who have been involved in a legal ballot are allowed to take industrial action.

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Academic Question

Why are school choosing to become Academies?

Two of Kensington & Chelsea’s schools have come forward with plans to convert to academy status by September this year.

Both Park Walk Primary School and Holland Park Secondary School andSchoola Class currently going through the process of becoming academies. But why are schools choosing to become academies?

Since the introduction of the Academies Bill in May 2010 there has been huge political pressure for schools to covert. In fact the Secretary of State for Education, Michael Gove MP, is on record as wanting all schools to be academies by 2015.

Up to now nationally over half of secondary schools have chosen academy status, but only about 6% of primaries have done so.

Download the Anti Academies Alliance quick guide to academy schools here.

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Teaching Assistants Are ‘Vital To Schools’ Say Headteachers

UNISON commission a new survey in Autumn 2012 of school leaders which reveals that the vast majority of head teachers believe that their school could not run without the hard work of teaching assistants (TAs). Hand Print

The in-depth survey reveals that 95% of heads and school leaders believe TAs add significant value to the team around children, including to those with special educational needs.

The survey also outlines best practice, and reports that TAs could play an even greater role in improving quality given better supervision and deployment.

The school leaders are overwhelmingly supportive of the work that TAs do in a mix of pastoral, teaching and administrative roles, leading some to call for TAs to get better training, pay and employment conditions.

You can read the full report here.

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