Teachers begin action short of a strike, as NASUWT digs in while the government makes moves

NASUWT image over teachers industrial action
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Members of NASUWT, the teachers’ union, have started action short of a strike across schools and sixth form colleges in England. The union said that teachers face an “excessive workload” and “unreasonable expectations”. Of course, at the root of the problem is the Tory government – which has continued to decimate the education system in the country.

NASUWT: ‘Time for a Limit”

The union said on its website that:

Our members have told us it’s Time for a Limit on excessive workload, unreasonable expectations and the increasing number of hours it takes to fulfil their role.

Despite their best efforts to keep up with an ever-increasing workload, 69% of teachers told us they feel too worn down to give their job their best effort.

Our Big Question and Wellbeing Surveys carried out in 2022 found that teachers ranked workload as the top issue that most impacted both their physical and mental health.

This is on top of issues surrounding pay. Back in July, NASUWT members accepted the government’s 6.5% pay increase offer. However, what they didn’t accept was its plans to improve working conditions. So, the union said then that its ballot of members – which returned a ‘yes’ to strike action – would remain in place. NASUWT general secretary Patrick Roach said at the time that to tackle excessive workloads, members would take measures “up to and including industrial action”.

On Monday 18 September, NASUWT started that action. Its members started effectively working to rule:

Read on...

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This action short of a strike means that teachers in schools will refuse to be directed to:

  • Work weekends or bank holidays.
  • Run extracurricular activities.
  • Work after school “session times”.
  • Perform admin work.

In sixth form colleges, teachers are undertaking similar – albeit reduced – actions.

Tories fiddling while teachers burn out

NASUWT maintains that government and bosses’ expectations of teachers are too high – and its research backs this up. In its 2022 survey, the union found that:

  • 81% of teachers said their job had adversely impacted their mental health.
  • 83% of teachers said they experienced more work-related stress.
  • 85% of teachers feel too tired after work to enjoy the things they would like to do.
  • 74% of teachers said that their partner, family or friends often get frustrated with the pressure of their job.
  • 61% of teachers said they feel disempowered by unreasonable or unrealistic expectations.

Moreover, government recruitment of teachers is a mess – with it repeatedly missing its own targets:

As if by magic, on the same day as NASUWT members started working to rule, the government announced action on teacher workloads. The Department for Education (DfE) said:

Work is underway to support teachers and leaders to tackle unnecessary workload, as the government establishes a new taskforce of unions, teachers, and sector leaders. The taskforce will help support the government’s wider ambition to reduce working hours for teachers and leaders by five hours per week within three years.

As the Evening Standard reported, the Association of School and College Leaders is on the taskforce. Its general secretary – Geoff Barton – welcomed the plan, but noted:

we remain sceptical about whether there is the will in government to take some of the steps that are required to produce systemic change.

The Evening Standard said that the “four main teaching unions” were sitting on the taskforce. However, it’s unclear at this time whether or not NASUWT is part of this.

‘No longer acceptable’

Roach said that:

We can no longer allow teachers to be overworked and exhausted by the demands of the job…

The Government has accepted that excessive workload is a problem that must be tackled. But, the reality is that teachers in England are working some of the longest hours anywhere in the OECD and this is simply no longer acceptable or sustainable…

The industrial action… will mean that for the first time in a decade specific measures and protections are being put into place to tackle excessive workload and working hours and to ensure teachers’ health, safety and welfare.

How long the action short of strike will go on for is unclear. However, what is clear is that teachers have had enough – and the Tory government is clearly aware of this. Whether or not it does anything meaningful to address the dire state the education sector and profession is in is another matter entirely.

Featured image via NASUWT

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