Government threats to deregulate schoolteachers’ working hours and conditions of service have been hastily withdrawn, after the School Teachers Review Body (STRB) rejected Education Secretary Michael Gove’s proposals.
Gove had asked the STRB to scrap: the limit of 1,265 “directed” working hours a year; the limit of 195 working days a year; protected non-contact time for planning, preparation and assessment; protected lunch breaks; and strict regulations about when teachers can be asked to cover additional classes.
This is the first time a Secretary of State has been overruled by the STRB. This victory is a direct result of last year’s campaign of industrial action by teachers, when they showed their anger, solidarity and persistence in refusing to accept Gove’s edicts. Then, the widespread involvement by young teachers in particular, during the period when the STRB was meeting and gathering evidence, gave the body pause for thought.
Teachers are still in dispute on the issues of pay, pensions and workload. Strikes planned for November 2013 and February this year were called off when Gove agreed to meet the unions for talks. A meeting with DfE officials has now been arranged for 25 February, but the agenda is wide ranging and not specifically about the topics in dispute.
The National Union of Teachers has called a national one-day strike on 26 March, saying it can be called off if there is genuine progress towards resolution of teachers’ concerns. Much will depend on the strengthening of union organisation in the schools between now and then. ■