The NASUWT will continue to “challenge and confront” disability-related prejudice and discrimination wherever it occurs, members have been told.
Teachers at the annual Disabled Teachers’ Consultation Conference heard NASUWT Deputy General Secretary Dr Patrick Roach highlight the negative concerns of some schools who refused to make reasonable adjustments for their staff.
This was backed up by a poll at the conference which found that over half (53%) of members said they had experienced difficulty when requesting disability-related reasonable adjustments in the workplace.
A shocking four in ten teachers (44%) said at their school there was no acknowledgement of disability-related sickness absence, meaning teachers who had to take absence related to a disability were seeing this recorded as regular absence.
Dr Roach said the NASUWT would continue to challenge what he called the “blatent discrimination” faced by disabled teachers in these areas.
“Such practices by employers are not only outdated, they are also unlawful, and we must do whatever we can to expose them and to challenge them,” he said.
And he condemened the “divisive and disgraceful rhetoric” around welfare reform, adding: “This is fueling hostility and a culture of intolerance towards disabled people.”
Members were reminded that the NASUWT was “the only teachers’ union that is committed to an industrial campaign that has equality and fair treatment at its heart.”
Dr Roach said: “Our action short of strike action, and continuing programme of strike action in schools is defending the rights of all teachers, including disabled teachers.
“It is putting the concerns of disabled teachers centre stage and it is making a difference school by school, employer by employer, government administration by government administration throughout the UK.
On pay, Dr Roach said: “With the prospect of pay and appraisal reviews looming for many teachers we also have to ensure you are empowered to resist the imposition of unacceptable, unreasonable and unachievable targets.
“If we accept that schools cannot afford a pay award and pay progression for teachers we are on a slippery slope – where all rights of teachers are denied as employers seek to line their pockets at the expense of others.”
And he said he was proud that the issue of mental health and disability had moved to be the defining issue for the teaching profession as a result of the issues highlighted by disabled teachers.
Dr Roach said it was a privilege to represent and support members whose work was to teach, shape and enrich the lives and life chances of children and young people.
He concluded: “Its our responsibility to create the conditions in which you and your colleagues can work effectively and be treated with dignity and professional respect, by putting teachers first. And that is what we will continue to do.”