The National Education Union (NEU) is holding a virtual conference on 3 October. The union’s annual conference in April 2020 was cancelled due to the Covid-19 crisis.
The virtual conference will deal with rule changes. Most of them are benign. Some, such as the possibility of job-sharing elected roles, are probably positive.
However, the ones reducing the Executive from 70 to 55, and allowing the General Secretaries to extend their term in office beyond five years if they announce they are retiring, should be opposed. Unfortunately, it seems the rule changes will be taken as a job lot, making the vote a difficult tactical question.
Beyond the rule changes three motions from the Executive will be debated: Covid-19 and Safe Return, Winning in the Workplace after Covid, and Building a Fair Education System after Covid.
The Covid-19 and Safe Return motion essentially argues for a continuation of the current national strategy of campaigning for better testing and tracing, smaller class sizes, and union control of health and safety. Amendments to it seek to strengthen it by stipulating class sizes, calling for more resources (workers and buildings), Risk Assessments for all vulnerable staff and clear and speedy escalation to industrial action where there are safety concerns. They should be supported.
The Winning in the Workplace motion calls for campaigns to ensure national pay increases and pay scales in every school, and reduce workload. In addition, it calls for recruiting reps and building union strength. There are good amendments to strengthen it, particularly over concerns for women members and black members and ensuring effective rep support and training.
The Building a Fair Education System after Covid motion proposes to replace SATs for 2021 with teacher assessment, GCSEs and A-Levels for 2021 with a mixed model, suspend Ofsted inspections for 2020/21 and establish a commission into exams. Good amendments to this motion call for a ballot to boycott statutory test in primary schools and for a campaign for the abolition of GCSEs.
There are concerns about attendance, participation, and democracy in this Zoom conference.