Page 21 - Independent Schools Magazine
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One last time - the NEU ATL Conference 2018
When unreasonable expectations
of parents can lead to stress
John Richardson, National Official, reports on issues of relevance to the independent sector...
A mood of optimism permeated the last NEU ATL section annual conference, coupled with a
sense of reflection.
Niamh Sweeney, NEU ATL’s president, celebrated the pioneering spirit of the 180 women who, in 1884, formed the Association of Assistant Mistresses (AAM) the progenitor of ATL. Our founders were educationalists in the broadest sense, with many involved in the suffragette movement.
Niamh rallied delegates,100 years on from Millicent Fawcett, one of our founding members, achieving equality for some women, we must again take a lead.
While our goals are more modest, they are important. Simple things, such as the basic ingredients needed for pupils to grow.
As Niamh succinctly put it: A broad and balanced curriculum where children and students can flourish, learn subjects that interest them
– maybe even just for the sake of enjoying learning them, to use them in life, but not for a test.
In her keynote speech, NEU Joint General Secretary Mary Bousted, amongst other things, addressed the key issues for educational professionals which remain workload, falling pay and the recruitment and retention crisis.
Mary highlighted the on-going crisis in teacher recruitment caused by
the toxic combination of excessive workload and pay austerity. The drain of experienced teachers leaving the profession now means that, shockingly, in England more than half of teachers have less than ten years’ experience.
For members working in the independent sector, one workload pressure is the unreasonable expectations of some parents, who believe that paying for an education guarantees top grades and top university places. Somehow the sense that the parents have a role
to play beyond paying, and that the child must have the aptitude and ability... gets lost in the equation.
In turn, such unreasonable expectations, can have a detrimental impact on staff. Helen Porter, Executive member for Berkshire, said: “I have enjoyed being a workplace rep in the independent sector for almost 20 years, but one aspect I haven’t enjoyed is witnessing the mental health conditions that have developed in some of my colleagues because of excessive workload
and work- related stress. Anxiety, depression and alcohol abuse are not uncommon.”
Brian Metcalf, vice chair of the Independent & Private Sector Group, IPSAG, proposed the motion Workload and mental health in the independent sector. Unanimously passed, delegates called on independent sector employers to carry out an audit of workload
and staffing and to produce clear guidance and model procedures to protect staff well-being.
Elsewhere, Geoff Pye, Executive member for Essex and teacher
at Brentwood School, moved the motion calling for all independent schools to have a governing
body. He stated that while most independent schools are well run and well governed institutions,
a few schools have inadequate governance, including not having a governing body.
It is within the hands of the Government. Legislation would
be needed to ensure all Schools, regardless of how they are constituted, have a fit, proper, representative and elected Governing body that is accountable for the governance of the school.
Varshini Rajkumar, IPSAG, in seconding the motion echoed the call for legislation to ensure that,
....governing bodies in all schools are elected, and act with transparency and due diligence.
Concerns about the proper use of money came up in various
debates, including the burgeoning pay of senior leaders in Academy Trusts when individual schools face funding cuts and staff redundancies.
In an innovative approach to supply teachers, delegates backed the motion calling for the union to investigate a third-party platform that would link supply teachers with schools directly, cutting out expensive middlemen.
Members working in the independent sector gathered for their own break-out session to discuss issues of relevance to them. Amongst other things, members heard that NEU membership in the independent sector is now over 30,000 members.
Outside of the debating chamber, there were numerous break-out
sessions, CPD opportunities and fringe meetings. Amongst other things, there were sessions on teaching skills, leadership, SEND, mental health, and a young teacher’s manifesto. Members enjoyed the opportunity to improve their personal skills in Making your voice heard and How to say no with confidence!
Outside the conference hall, delegates were treated to a musical performance by a Viola Sextet
from St. Thomas Moore School, Derbyshire. Then a salutary lesson of the value of teaching chess as part of the curriculum, as delegates were soundly beaten by pupils from Sacred Heart primary school in Liverpool!
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