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Education in the media: Tuesday 3 April 2018

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Today’s Education in the Media blog looks at the various motions discussed at the National Education Union (NEU) conferences over the Easter weekend.

Easter teaching conference

Over the Easter Bank Holiday weekend, two teaching unions met for their annual conferences – the National Education Union met in Brighton and the NASUWT union met in Birmingham. The themes that emerged from the conferences included teacher pay, workload, primary assessment, the academies system, pupil poverty and more.

Please see our responses to the most prominent coverage below.

Teacher pay

On Saturday 31 March, the National Education Union (NEU) agreed a motion for a ballot on national strike action over teachers’ pay, if union demands are not met. Meanwhile, the NASWUT backed calls for a rolling programme of industrial action. This was reported by the BBC Online, TES and Schools Week.

A Department for Education spokesperson said:

We have a record 15,500 more teachers in our classrooms than in 2010 and this generation of teachers is better qualified than ever before. The average teacher's salary stands at £37,400 outside of London, rising to £41,900 in the capital. It is thanks to these teachers hard work and our reforms that 1.9 million more children are being taught in good or outstanding schools since 2010.

We have already given schools freedom over staff pay and have asked the independent School Teachers’ Review Body to take account of the Government’s flexible approach to public sector pay as they develop their recommendation.

We want to continue to attract and keep the best and brightest people in our schools. That’s why the Education Secretary recently announced a strategy to drive recruitment and boost retention of teachers, working with the unions and professional bodies, and pledged to strip away workload that doesn’t add value in the classroom.

SEN funding

On Sunday 1 April, the NEU published a report about Special Educational Needs funding. This was covered by BBC News, BBC Online, the Independent, the Telegraph, the Sun and the TES.

A Department for Education spokesperson said:

Core schools and high needs funding has been protected in real terms per pupil and will rise to its highest ever level – over £43 billion in 2020, 50% more per pupil spending in real terms than in 2000. The budget for pupils with special educational needs is £6billion this year. Local authorities now have more money for every pupil in every school.‎

Our new Education, Health and Care Plans are putting the views of young people with special educational needs and disabilities and families at the heart of the process so they can help shape the support they receive. This is a hugely significant reform but local authorities are rising to challenge and have reviewed almost 222,000 cases with initial inspections showing positive outcomes for young people.

We will continue to work with councils to ensure the new EHC plans are of the highest quality.

Sexual harassment

On Monday 2 April, NASUWT published a survey on teachers' experiences of pupils sexually harassing one another, the mental health of pupils and bullying against pupils. One of the key findings of the report claimed four in ten teachers know of pupils sexually harassing one another, and that some teachers say pupils as young as four have depression.

The survey findings were covered by The Times, The Daily Mail, The Sun, The Daily Telegraph, The Guardian, The Daily Mirror, The Independent and Sky News.

 A Department for Education spokesperson said:

‎Harassment or bullying of any kind is completely unacceptable and abhorrent in any setting, especially schools. All schools should be safe places for pupils to learn and teachers to teach. To support schools, we have recently published new advice, specifically on child on child sexual violence and sexual harassment, and are making Relationships Education compulsory in all primary schools and Relationships and Sex education compulsory in all secondary schools.

Schools are required by law to have a behaviour policy in place to prevent all forms of bullying, and the Government has recently pledged £1.7 billion to improve mental health support available to children and young people.

Pupil poverty

On Monday 2 April, the National Education Union – in collaboration with the Child Poverty Action Group – released the findings of a survey of teachers that claimed 60 per cent believe child poverty has worsened 2015. It also claimed 55 per cent of teachers feel free school meals provision currently in place is not sufficient for the poorest pupils.

The story was covered widely by the Guardian, the Daily Mail, the Daily Mirror, the Independent, the Daily Telegraph, the Times, BBC Breakfast, Sky News and BBC Online.

In the Guardian article, NEU official Celia Dignam was quoted incorrectly stating that children currently entitled to free school meals will not be getting them under Universal Credit. This is not the case – all children currently receiving a free meal will continue to do so.

 A Department for Education spokesperson said:

We want to create a country where everyone can go as far as their talents can take them, and education is at the heart of this. That’s why we launched our Social Mobility Action Plan, which sets out measures to close the attainment gap between disadvantage students and their peers and targets areas that need the most support through the £72million Opportunity Areas programme.

Alongside this we continue to support the country’s most disadvantaged children through free school meals, the £2.5billion funding given to schools through the Pupil Premium to support their education and the recently announced a £26million investment to kick-start or improve breakfast clubs in at least 1,700 schools.

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