Russell Hobby, general secretary of NAHT blogs about his thoughts and passions and the work of the National Association of Head Teachers.
Seize the initiative
At a time of ‘immense change’ NAHT is taking a proactive stance on behalf of members, writes Russell Hobby
Autumn is one of the busiest seasons in the trade union calendar. The government likes to launch consultations before the end of summer term and they all have to be submitted in September. Recent submissions on your behalf cover school organisation, primary assessment, gas masks, pensions, a college of teaching, school places, school surpluses on academy conversion, whistle blowing, asbestos, governance, uniforms and leadership pay. Yes, really: gas masks.
Then there are party conferences. We spoke alongside David Laws at an event in Glasgow and attended a session on the future of assessment at Labour in Brighton. Each party is planning its manifesto for the next election. NAHT needs to talk to them about how to make a better stab at it next time round. We have no political affiliation – our constitution does not allow it, nor would we want it.
We also had a significant consultation with the School Teachers’ Review Body. We argued the case for the reform of teaching and learning responsibilities and for taking more account of challenge and complexity when determining senior leadership pay. I think both arguments were heard. My concern is that the current government’s default response to any problem is deregulation. The complete deregulation of senior pay could have the opposite effect to that intended – reducing salaries for those who work in the poorest communities. We have argued strongly in favour of retaining some structure.
We also have a plan up our sleeve to protect members if there is more deregulation than we might wish. We should know the broad outlines before the end of term.
We’ve also made rods for our own backs by developing a range of proactive projects. These are part of our agenda to crowd out political interference by taking back ownership of standards, demonstrating that the profession has the will and the capacity to regulate itself. These lay the groundwork for a different relationship between government and the profession in a future Parliament. Aspire – the school improvement pilot programme to help 30 schools get from ‘requires improvement’ to ‘good’ – is going well; we are already getting our first ‘good’ judgements. This terms also sees, in a secret location, the first pilot of Instead, the peer-review process we announced at our annual conference. We are also rolling out the Leadership Compact, which defines a healthy two-way relationship between employers and school leaders. We are also set to meet at a special general meeting to discuss new ways to organise ourselves to ensure that we appeal to both current and future generations of leaders.
The government also likes to ensure we don’t get bored. Universal free school dinners for infant-age children was one such initiative: we are working with the DfE to help them understand the impact on capital expenditure and on registration for free school meals. A sudden change to entry requirements for GCSEs was another: causing major disruption to planning for exams in secondary schools for the third time in a row.
It is a time of immense change. Some of these changes appear cynical and hasty; some are to correct the mistakes of previous decisions. I hope this update shows that NAHT is responding with energy and agility. More than this, I hope it shows we don’t just react to the government, but setting out our vision and working towards it without seeking permission. This is what it means to be a union of leaders.
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