General Secretary Dr Patrick Roach began his address to the NASUWT Annual Conference 2021 by thanking teachers for their “incredible commitment, passion and dedication” during the pandemic.
Dr Roach praised teachers for rising to the many challenges faced by schools and colleges over the last year, during the conference which was held virtually for the first time.
“These have been tough times,” he said. “A global pandemic, emergency legislation, national lockdowns.
“But, it is how we have responded in these unprecedented times that really matters.
“When schools were closed, teachers kept going. Designing, delivering, innovating; continuing to secure children’s education against the odds.
“There was no blueprint. No instruction manual. No playbook or training. But, we witnessed how you applied your professionalism and creativity to plug the gaps created by the government’s decision to close schools.”
The NASUWT has helped teachers through the pandemic by providing information, advice and support, and making the strongest representations on their behalf to employers and to governments.
During his address, Dr Roach took the opportunity to thank all of those teachers who have stepped up to support the Union’s vital work over the last year.
“I am deeply grateful to all those teachers who have joined us and all those members who have stepped up into activism during the past year,” he said.
“Thousands of you have chosen to become workplace representatives, health and safety reps, and equality officers.
“You have been amazing. Truly, the beating heart of our Union!
“Building and strengthening our Union, winning more members who recognise that the best place to be is in a union, and even more, to be in the Union that is led by teachers for teachers.”
“And, through your actions, many employers have come to recognise the value of working with the NASUWT, and that, in order to get through this crisis, we all have to work together.”
Dr Roach stated that teachers have been “treated with contempt by government”, despite their hard work and dedication throughout the pandemic.
He condemned the fact that teachers have not been given a pay award this year and have been disparaged for speaking out about the risks of reopening schools.
“Colleagues – it was you - in spite of the incompetence of Government, the criticism, and the stress many of you endured – you continued to put children first,” he said.
“And, we will always work to ensure that your commitment is recognised and rewarded, and that your courage and your actions are never forgotten.
“And, I say again today that we will continue our calls for a full, independent public inquiry into the Government’s handling of the pandemic and its impacts on teachers and our education system.”
Dr Roach called on the Government to come forward with a plan for a teacher-led education renewal that includes commitments to:
- Recruit more teachers and support staff and other children’s service professionals.
- Retain and recognise teachers who have dedicated their lives to the job.
- Let teachers teach. A plan to reduce class size.
- End the long working hours of teachers which continues to drain teaching quality.
- Guarantee every teacher time for professional development as a contractual entitlement throughout their careers.
- Scrap the link between performance and teachers’ pay.
- Ensure that teachers’ contractual entitlements are fully protected, and that there is compliance with employment, health and safety and equalities laws, and that employers are held properly to account.
“A road map that recognises that the profession and our pupils have already been through a great deal, and that acknowledges that many teachers are running on empty.
“Ministers cannot stand by and insist that the profession must simply soldier on.”
He added: “If we are to aspire to have the best country for children to grow up in, we will need more than catch-up and recovery.
“We need a plan for education renewal. And, we want a recovery, a renewal, that is teacher led, too.
“Creating the best conditions to enable teachers to secure children’s learning and development by creating the conditions that let teachers teach.”