The Education Digest – In the news – Autumn term
20th September, 2023
NEU members vote to accept 6.5% teacher pay deal and the union confirms further strikes will not go ahead in the autumn term. Members of the National Education Union (NEU), the country’s largest education union, voted to accept the government’s teacher pay deal on 31 July 2023.
Global Rights Index
The International Trade Union Confederation’s annual Global Rights Index has downgraded the UK’s rating from a three to a four on a scale of one to five, indicating a “systematic violation of rights”.
The Index rates countries depending on their compliance with collective labour rights and documents rights violations by governments and employers. This marks the first time in over a decade that the UK has dropped down the rankings. The reduced rating is attributed to “repressive laws” including the Strikes (Minimum Service Levels) Bill and the change in the law in July 2022 to permit the use of agency labour to replace striking workers.
The government has recently come under heavy criticism for its handling of the presence of “crumbly” reinforced autoclaved aerated concrete (RAAC) in schools. Recently, more than 100 schools have been ordered to close buildings to pupils over safety fears.
Notably, UK governments have been aware of some of the vulnerabilities of RAAC since the 1990s and they have been focusing on the management of the issue since 2018. Until very recently the guidance for the management of RAAC has been considered to be a robust approach in ensuring building occupants safety is prioritised at all times.
In May 2023, the government commissioned a ‘condition and energy survey’ of all state funded schools and colleges. The nature of the survey aimed to highlight any structures suspected of containing RAAC which would then receive a further inspection by specialist structural engineers. On Sunday 3rd September, the government published new evidence which indicates that the approach towards how RAAC safety is undertaken may need to be changed. The Education secretary, Gillian Keegan, has revealed that 1,500 schools are yet to have checks, and another 450 with suspected RAAC are awaiting official assessments. We still await the full list of affected schools.
Ofsted and RAAC
Ofsted will avoid inspecting schools on DfE’s RAAC list – These settings will be removed from Ofsted’s scheduling for inspection this term unless the inspectorate has “concerns”. See https://www.gov.uk/government/news/ofsted-statement-for-schools-affected-by-raac
A new taskforce of 14 representatives from four unions, teachers, academics and sector leaders has been established to review how workload can be reduced. Although the majority of teachers spend more than half of their working time on non-teaching tasks, it looks like the taskforce will initially be focusing on flexible working as it has announced five new flexible working ambassador multi-academy trusts and schools.
The government is pushing forward with plans to increase attendance by enforcing electronic registers at all schools. The plans are for the e-registers to be accessed by the education secretary to keep track of persistent absences.
The new rules will not come into force until September 2024 at the earliest.