On my first day, the National Education Union was launched at an event attended by MPs and leading education figures in London. Then came the TUC Congress. I was part of the AMiE delegation, and, excitingly, had the opportunity to speak to a motion on post-16 education, which is where I have spent my 20-year education career.
I joined the profession after switching from a career in journalism and quickly discovered what an all-consuming job teaching is. I absolutely loved it and threw myself into it wholeheartedly. Over the years, I moved on from teaching HE in an FE college to focusing mainly on FE teaching on vocational courses.
I worked my way up, becoming head of department and head of a larger department when two merged. It was at this point I became an AMiE rep - then head of an even larger department following a further merger. This meant I eventually reached the heady heights of the college’s director of arts with about 1,300 students.
The mergers were really the start of the significant cuts being made to FE funding over the last decade and as I was required to deliver more for less and then even more for even less my natural sense of justice kicked and I asked “Why”? I accepted at first that some areas could be run more efficiently without a damaging impact on staff and students. However, FE colleges have now been operating for some years in a way that has a negative impact on students and staff, their workload, their results and their health and well-being.
Schools are now being hit by funding cuts and the national funding formula announced by Justine Greening last week is very disappointing. There is no new money for schools, which means most will have less money per pupil in 2020 than in 2015.
As a vice-chair of governors in a poorly-funded secondary school, I have a close interest in school funding and I am extremely happy the school cuts website started to mobilise action against further cuts as parents realised the implications for their children.
Inadequate funding is at the heart of the National Education Union’s campaigning, and we have been out in force at the TUC Congress and this month’s party conferences, running fringe sessions on funding.
Constant curriculum changes and testing regimes lead to an increasing workload, which in turn exacerbates the staff recruitment and retention crisis, which is why the National Education Union will also be campaigning to cut workload. When the Department for Education’s own workload survey shows that leaders are working an average 60-hour week, it’s clear we must tackle this.
Leaders have a significant role to play in defending our education system from an onslaught of dogma-driven changes. We have to challenge the Government when we can see the damage underfunding and debilitating workloads have on our staff and students. Just passing the stress further down the chain of command is not quality leadership and is never going to solve the flaws in the system.
So, leaders need to be brave, to stand up and be counted. I’ll be blogging and tweeting regularly, so please do join the debate. @JosieW_AMiE