Union says poll of its members showed 91.6% had voted in favour of government’s final offer
A teaching union has decided to accept the government’s pension reforms after a poll of members voted in favour of the proposals.
The ATL president, Alice Robinson, said: “ATL members are realists. They recognise how tough times are and that the government is determined not to give any further ground.
“Although the government’s final offer does not give us everything we wanted, it is the best deal we could get in the current economic climate, and members do not want a significantly worse deal imposed on them if they rejected this one.”
ATL members took part in November’s strike in protest at the pension changes by up to two million public sector workers.
The union’s announcement means there will not be a repeat of such a huge strike, although the leaders of other unions are discussing further walkouts because of continued opposition to the government’s reforms.
Mary Bousted, the ATL general secretary, said: “The pensions talks and negotiations were incredibly tough. The government did not want to make concessions and we had a hard fight to get a fairer deal for teachers.
“It was only because ATL members, along with the members of six other education unions, were prepared to show their strength of feeling by going on strike and lobbying their MPs that we managed to force the government to shift its position and start talks to get an improved offer.
“I am really proud of the courage ATL members showed when they took part in the union’s first national strike in its 127-year history.”
Bousted said the union was “still not happy about the pension contribution rates for 2012 to 2014, on which the government refused to negotiate” but said it would negotiate hard over the rates from 2015 onwards.
“We will also closely monitor the rate of members opting out of the teachers’ pension scheme, Northern Ireland and Scottish pension schemes, and will ensure the government takes action if this threatens the schemes’ health,” she added.
A Department for Education spokesman said: “We welcome today’s announcement. The deal on the table reflects teachers’ and heads’ arguments about what’s most important to the profession, particularly around early retirement.
“It’s a fair deal which strikes the right balance, guaranteeing teachers a good future pension but keeping long-term costs firmly under control.”
Underperforming teachers could be dismissed within a term instead of a year, under powers being introduced in September
Katharine Birbalsingh: ‘The job-for-life ethos destroys the motivation of young, talented teachers’
Insisting on high standards is not a bad thing. I am a teacher setting up a free school, the Michaela Community School, in Tooting, south London, which opens in September this year. We expect the best from our teachers and plan to reward them for it. Teachers deserve the same respect as doctors, lawyers and other professionals. If doctors don’t perform, they lose their jobs. No one would insist that a bad doctor be kept in a post so that he or she can continue to perform bad operations. As a result, the public respects doctors.
But in teaching, where it is nearly impossible to lose your job, one’s professionalism and self-respect are compromised. This “job for life” ethos destroys the motivation of young, talented and enthusiastic teachers who eventually leave because they want to stand out from the crowd. Do we not care about our children enough to ensure they are given the very best in school?
Assistant heads, deputies and heads are teachers too. Too much union power doesn’t just ensure that failing teachers remain in post – it also protects shockingly poor senior teams who are incapable of properly supporting their staff. Unreformed union power means one size fits all: defend everyone, no matter how much they betray our children.
While defence of the working man is a crucial part of any civilised society (to prevent exploitation), when that power means that the very idea of firing a bad teacher is not an option – 17 teachers in the UK were fired in the past decade for incompetence – then as a society we have lost our way.Children are our future and they deserve the very best.
• Katharine Birbalsingh is a former deputy headteacher
Alice Robinson: ‘Teachers need time to improve’
I have grave concerns about the time frame and consistency of this new process. Currently, there is a clear procedure, which is the same across the country, from school to school, no matter what local authority you work in. And I think this system does work well. Sometimes the issue is that the procedure is not followed closely enough, so it is seen as unwieldy.
But if local authorities and schools are able to set their own process, a teacher who might be judged good in one school might be ruled unsatisfactory in another. A lot of the time, when teachers are struggling, it’s the context. Some teachers may struggle in one school, but get excellent results in another. And a teacher who for many years has been teaching Year 2, and teaching well, might – due to the school’s requirement – be asked to teach Year 6 and struggle. And 12 weeks is a very short space of time to identify the problem, put in place help, support and guidance, and then see an outcome. The short time frame will inevitably put more pressure on these teachers and impact on their confidence.
I just don’t think it’s true that there are large numbers of bad teachers in schools. I think there are a few, and I fear that just as there are a small number of failing teachers, there will be a small number of heads who abuse this new process because of personality clashes with their staff.
• Alice Robinson is president of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers
Stephen Twigg: ‘Be tough on bad teaching but fair to good teachers’
Prof Dylan William from the Institute of Education has shown 8% of performance in schools is down to the governance structure, while 80% is down to the quality of teaching. While in government, Labour made huge efforts to raise the status and quality of teaching; introducing programmes like Teach First to attract bright graduates, linking performance to pay and giving heads greater freedom to remove under-performing teachers.
Clearly, there is still much to do. Although Ofsted agrees this is the best generation of teachers ever, there are still too many poor or merely adequate teachers – only 4% are seen as outstanding in primary schools, and only 5% in secondaries.
Labour will not hesitate to support evidence-based measures to improve teaching. But the government’s proposed standards apply equally to new starters and more experienced teachers. Surely performance measures should be progressive, reflecting professional development and continually challenging a teacher to improve?
The biggest critics of bad teaching are good teachers. As part of Labour’s policy review we will be exploring innovations including peer-to-peer performance measures and continual performance assessment of teaching, including clear metrics for raising performance year after year. The important thing is to have a system that heads can use flexibly but is also fair to staff.
If heads need more powers to remove teachers, we will provide them – and improve information sharing so that such teachers are not simply “ghosted” through the system. Finally, we will give teachers high quality training and networks to share best practice. Poor teaching can blight a child’s future. So we will be tough on bad teaching but fair to good teachers.
• Stephen Twigg is Labour’s shadow education secretary
Sally Llewellyn: ‘As a parent you do worry if your child has certain teachers’
Poor teaching can turn students off. I have three daughters and a stepson aged between 10 and 24 years old and I think this change is a good idea. Children only go through education once – if you go through Year 4 and you don’t learn anything you never get that year back. That’s a whole wasted year for 30 students.
I don’t think schools would ever actually sack someone in 12 weeks. There will still be a whole range of warnings. I don’t think there are lots – but there are poor teachers, and it is very difficult to sack them. Not everyone is cut out to be a teacher.
In any industry people are at risk of not getting on well with senior leadership but it will still be hard to sack a good teacher because children are tested every year, so a teacher’s results are monitored and most teachers are part of a union that could look at this. I don’t think this will penalise new teachers either. If people really feel they are not up to standard then they should be trained for longer or have fewer teaching hours in their first year.
As a parent you do worry if you hear your child has certain teachers – every parent does. Every parent can name their favourite three teachers at their child’s school – they are the best ones and you want your children to have them. If successive classes see their results drop when they are taught by one teacher then that teacher should not be teaching. Education has to be about the child.
• Sally Llewellyn is the mother of four children
• Follow Comment is free on Twitter @commentisfree