NUT News
14 July 2016

Commenting on the appointment, Kevin Courtney, Acting General Secretary of the National Union of Teachers, said;

"We congratulate Justine Greening on her appointment as the new Secretary of State for Education. We want to engage with her, representing the views of the profession and seeking positive change for our young people.

'There are real problems to be addressed: teacher recruitment and retention, mainly caused by excessive working hours is at crisis point; a lack of school funding is jeopardising the quality of education; and testing and assessment is in complete disarray."

14 July 2016

97% of teachers think preparation for the SATs has a negative impact on children’s access to a broad and balanced curriculum

“This year children have not been given sufficient time to learn what was expected of them. In order to try and meet these new requirements teaching of other subjects was completely side lined.”

91% of teachers think the ‘expected standard is beyond the reach of the majority of children

“Many of the things being tested are just simply beyond the children's level of development.  Some of the things they can learn, but actually don't fully understand for example some children can learn 'tricks' to spot passive voice, but don't actually grasp why the sentence is passive and what that means.”

“I think that many children, who have tried their utmost, are going to be very disappointed to find that they are 'working towards'.  I think this is because the element of 'best fit' has been removed and children have to fulfil all criteria in 'working towards' before they can move onto the 'working at' criteria.  I think that this has been one of the most difficult things to come to grips with this year.”

74% of teachers think that the Grammar, Punctuation and Spelling Test (GPS or SPaG) doesn’t support the development of children’s writing

“The function of writing is to communicate with the reader. Spelling, grammar and punctuation help the writer in this communication process but they are of no value on their own. It is of no use a child being able to identify and explain the purpose of a fronted adverbial unless they can use it effectively in their own writing.”

81% of teachers don’t think that the primary assessment system enables an accurate representation of what children know and what they can do

“The assessment criteria are forcing children to fit into certain boxes. There are many children in my class who have made fantastic progress and that is evident in their books. However, this is not evident when assessing as not all children's progress fits the tick box system we currently have.”

“Even high ability children in my class aren't hitting the expected standard. Not because they aren't good enough but because we are struggling to find evidence. They can write complex sentences and use similes etc. but because they haven't got enough forced sentences such as 'what a surprise!' they may not even meet the expected level let alone be above as they would have been in previous years.”

97% of teachers are concerned about the effects of preparation for the SATs on children with special educational needs, 84% were concerned about the effect on EAL children, and 74% were concerned about the effects on summer born children

“This test system makes a mockery of an integrated main stream school system, leaving children feeling left out, different and disenfranchised.”

“We have had to run far more booster groups for these pupils, both in and out of school time. This has meant they have missed out on a lot of other areas of the curriculum (science, history, music, PE etc.).”

“The SEN children were not given any opportunity to demonstrate their hard work or progress. Last year our SEN data was 'outstanding', this year SEN children will not appear to make progress.”

“The children have seriously not been taught what they need. I think they have had a wasted year trying to do SATs. It's been a lost year and now they are ill equipped for secondary.”

90% of teachers think that changes to primary assessment this year have had a negative impact on children’s experience at school

“Confused and stressed teachers leads to poorer quality experiences for children. How could it be otherwise? We've done our very best to protect children from the damaging effects of these assessments but we are stuck between a rock and a hard place. If we don't play the game we face forced academisation for poor results or being a coasting school. It's a no-win situation for teachers. We have just tried to do as much damage limitation as we can.”

“Despite all my reassurances that 'the most important thing is that you try your best' and extra PSHCE lessons, extra circle time and support from our school counsellor, the children's confidence has taken a nose-dive. Some children have felt so anxious about the tests that they have struggled to sleep, experiences nightmares or a disturbed and broken night's sleep.”

“We have had a massive increase in social, emotional and mental health issues this year. It has been reported that teachers and schools are to blame for this, but we have not designed a curriculum and testing for which most of our children are not emotionally or developmentally ready for. Our children are being set up to fail! Ministers don't seem to realise that there are children at the end of these tests. They are only concerned with measuring teacher accountability.”

86% of teachers said that changes to primary assessment in 2016 have led to a significant increase in their workload

“The workload of my colleagues has been hugely increased and this has had a significant impact on their health and well-being. As a senior school leader I have experienced first-hand fantastic teachers in tears as they realize the implications of the changes to primary assessment to their pupils, their own achievements and the future of the school as a whole. An unbelievable burden of responsibility rests on the shoulders of year two and year six teachers which, despite our best efforts as leaders to alleviate, remains overwhelming. It has been heart-breaking to watch as good teachers have questioned and doubted themselves, their experience and professionalism, and have broken down. As a senior teacher I too have broken down in the knowledge that their challenges are beyond my control to put right or alleviate. This year's work load and the pressures it has created have been unbearable.”

97% of teachers think that primary assessment arrangements in 2016 were not well managed by the DfE

“To expect teachers to run a system of assessment with no clear idea in September of where it is going or how it will be assessed, and to still hold them accountable at the end [of the school year] is shocking, cruel and unkind.”

“The short time scale between publication of assessment materials and assessment dates has made adequate training, professional discussion , cross school moderation and examples of good practice impossible to establish - the cornerstones of effective change.”

“I have never felt so lost in what I am doing. The goalposts keep changing and nobody can keep up. There has been no clear aim for children or teachers.”

88% of teachers are concerned about what 2016’s test results will mean for the future of their school

“I am worried that my results will not be good enough and will trigger an Ofsted. It will be another way to place blame on the teachers and try to convert more school into academies.”

14 July 2016
15 July 2016

Kevin Courtney has been elected as the twelfth General Secretary of the National Union of Teachers, the largest teachers’ union in Europe.

Under Union rules, Mr Courtney takes over immediately from Christine Blower, who stood down in May after seven years as General Secretary.

In welcoming his election success, Mr Courtney paid tribute to the other candidate, Ms Beth Davies, for the conduct of the election.

Kevin Courtney, General Secretary of the National Union of Teachers, said:

“This is an extraordinary honour. General Secretary of the NUT is one of the most important jobs in education and I am proud to be taking on that role. I will work tirelessly to achieve an education system that recognizes all our children’s strengths and respects and recognises the incredible job that teachers do.

“I am fortunate to be inheriting from Christine Blower the leadership of a strong and growing Union. I am in no doubt, however, of the challenges ahead – not least the need to convince the Prime Minister and the new Education Secretary, Justine Greening, of the case both for proper investment in our education service, as opposed to the damaging cuts currently in place, and for urgent reform of the Key Stage 1 and Key Stage 2 testing arrangements.”

Christine Blower, former General Secretary of the National Union of Teachers, said:

“I congratulate Kevin on his election and commend the members for electing him. Kevin will be a brilliant General Secretary. He is a great campaigner for the kind of education service NUT members want and deserve. I wish him every success in leading the Union.”

Editor's Note

The results were as follows:

COURTNEY, Kevin 22,290 (69.9%)
DAVIES, Beth 9,612 (30.1%)

Number of eligible voters: 297,938
Total number of votes cast: 31,941
Votes found to be invalid: 39
Votes counted: 31,902
Turnout: 10.7%

The current contributing membership of the NUT is 333,704 (as at 31 December 2015).

Kevin Courtney was elected as Deputy General Secretary of the National Union of Teachers on 28 January 2010 and has been the Acting General Secretary since June 2016 following the retirement from the post of General Secretary by Christine Blower. Kevin has been active in the Union since 1983, first as a school rep and then as NUT Secretary for Camden. He was elected onto the National Executive for Inner London in 2006.
Kevin was born and educated in Pontypridd, Wales, where he attended Trefforest Primary and Coedy-Lan Comprehensive. He went on to study physics at Imperial College, London and began his teaching career in the physics department at Camden School for Girls in 1983, where he taught until becoming the NUT branch secretary in 1990. He was elected in 2005 to the executive committee of SERTUC (Southern and Eastern Regional TUC) becoming one of its vice presidents at the same time.
Kevin led significant campaigns as Camden secretary over maternity pay, overseas teachers, recruitment and retention payments, London and Fringe allowances, LGBT history month and anti-racism. While Deputy General Secretary of the NUT Kevin has taken a lead on NUT campaigning issues including academies, EBacc, teacher workload, terms and conditions, school and sixth form funding, recognition for supply teachers and assessment and testing.

He is profiled in today’s Times Education Supplement.
15 July 2016

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