A motion to move against "exam factory" culture in schools was softened by an amendment removing commitments for action, but that amendment passed only narrowly
The National Education Union (NEU) met online from 7 to 9 April for an annual conference of reduced length due to the exigencies of having to meet online. Holding a conference online rather than face-to-face works in favour of the union machinery. The limited opportunity to engage in the democratic process face-to-face tended to result in votes that defaulted to the accepted "NEU Left" (i.e. soft-left-SWP-Stalinoid lash-up) wisdom, but with some close-run votes which augur well for the future.
This played out on the first day when a spoiling amendment to a motion which instructed the Union to ballot all primary school members to boycott statutory high stakes testing in 2021/22 was won, but the vote was close. The SWP played a disgraceful role, voting against an action strategy in favour of cuddling up to their chums in top officialdom.
The NEU is still getting to grips with the fact that it is now a union for all workers in schools and other educational settings. Conference debated this in the "Standing Up for Support Staff" motion, which included the instruction to "seek… a way to end the undertaking [made to other unions] not to actively or knowingly recruit support staff".
The motion essentially took an "industrial union" approach, which is not only obvious and correct, but also becoming the reality in schools, where support staff are joining the NEU at an impressive rate. Unfortunately, in an amendment to the main motion, the "NEU Left" bloc put an "obligation" to maintaining an unprincipled agreement with the TUC over and above supporting support staff members, and that amendment was narrowly carried, 51%-49%. Shame on the SWP and others on the left for putting factional and bureaucratic interests above supporting support staff members.
The conference passed the LGBT+ sectors policy. Disgracefully, some within the NEU Left had moved an amendment to weaken this, removing a commitment to get a definition of transphobia that went above and beyond legal compliance. They also attempt to filibuster the policy off conference floor.
Friday afternoon’s "International section" motion was titled Venezuela. An amendment to add some much-needed support for independent trade unionists being repressed by the state was lost, but by a close enough margin to give hope to the idea that NEU Conference is edging closer to supporting workers, whatever country they might be organising in, something that really shouldn’t be that complicated.
An impressive and inspiring fringe meeting heard from several victimised NEU reps and how they are fighting back. The NEU must make defence of its reps front and centre stage.
See "Upcoming meetings" for the Workers' Liberty Education Workers public meeting on Saturday 17 April from 11.30am: Neither Beijing nor Washington