- 2004 Local Government Service Group Conference
- 26 February 2004
This Conference recognises that the experience of school remodelling for our members has been largely negative and counterproductive. Whilst it is true that some branches have recruited large numbers of support staff to the union on the back of the agreement, as yet this has not resulted in any major improvements in terms and conditions. Instead, their hopes have been raised, but because of the Government’s failure to provide the necessary money to pay for remodelling, its impact has been to the detriment of our members. The Government’s real thinking was exposed by a document written by a civil servant in the Department of Education who envisaged schools with one or two qualified teachers, “leading” a team of support staff in delivering the curriculum.
The experience of the remodelling agenda underlines the argument of those in this union and other teaching unions who saw it as an attempt to use our members to provide teaching on the cheap. The Government’s latest funding proposal has left most schools with a standstill budget. As a result, they have been unable to contemplate the remodelling agenda. Where schools have tried to bring in their own proposals, it is often without recourse to the union, leaving members vulnerable to attacks on their conditions of service. Due to a lack of funds, there is now a strong chance that the NAHT (Headteachers’ Association) will withdraw from the agreement. It is also disappointing that the negotiations appear to have taken the stance that increase pay needs staff to take on a “wider range of responsibilities”. It is a positive step having a career structure for support staff, but we should not forget that support staff are almost always underpaid for their current duties.
The Conference while recognising the essential qualities that support staff bring to the classroom at the same time acknowledges the essential role of teachers. This Conference expresses the concern that many of our teaching assistant are being pushed and bullied into taking whole class teaching and that often the national agreement is used as an excuse, suggesting that staff now have to take on this role without any additional pay. This Conference also notes that the largest teaching union has passed policy that all classes should have the resource of support staff and notes that many schools do not employ enough teaching assistants to cover every class. The class that has the resources of a teaching assistant alongside teacher will provide a better learning environment.
UNISON’s response to this dishonesty must be to acknowledge that remodelling has been a failure. Instead, we should renegotiate the agreement, drawing up a national claim for all support staff with proper contracts and pay. This must include an end to all term time contracts and a proper career structure for all support staff. A national campaign led and organised by this union will end the local bargaining imposed on branches by the existing agreement. It will also breathe life into the “Justice for Term Time Workers” campaign.
If the Government refuse to negotiate national terms and conditions, then we should launch a campaign, including if necessary industrial action, to demand extra resources for education and to end low pay in the classroom. In that event, this Conference agrees to organise a special education conference for all branches to draw up a national claim and plan of action.
Further this Conference accepts the principle that every class should have a teacher and every class a teaching assistant and campaign for that policy linking up to other support staff unions, teacher unions and parent organisations.
Conference further agrees that UNISON cannot accept a position whereby LEA’s make the hours or posts of teaching assistants redundant because of budgetary reasons and then use the remodelling agreement to recruit, either externally or internally, people to cover supervisor roles or high level teaching assistant posts.
Conference therefore agrees that UNISON will not accept the introduction of the remodelling agreement into schools who have made such redundancies since the initial signing of the agreement until the relevant hours/posts have been reinstated.