Conference 2018: A hint of sadness
This was the last year that ATL and NUT sections would hold separate conferences. For me there was a hint of sadness as I saw the range of multicoloured NUT banners around the Brighton conference hall. I have been an NUT member for over twenty years and during that time I have seen many changes, most of them positive. So with this latest change I felt a mix of both trepidation and excitement at the birth of our new National Education Union. Anyone who believes that attending Conference is 'a bit of a jolly', make no mistake - delegates work very hard representing our Association's values and ideas.
Conference 2018 was a significant milestone for me as I delivered my first conference speech! I seconded a motion arguing against numerically driven target setting and Performance Management.
The crux of my speech argued that a child at age 11 is not the same as a young person at age 16.
A child deserves a balanced education. It is about protecting the mental health and well being of students trying to simply 'get through' a challenging revised curriculum.
It is about protecting our members who are steadily drowning under a mountain of data and target grades to pass their appraisal targets, but more importantly to teach subjects that they once professed to love.
Overall, having attended conference on and off for a few years, Brighton Conference 2018 was most notable for me because of the celebration of diversity in the speakers who participated in debates, best exemplified by the range of speakers from different ethnic groups.
High points for me included:
• The speeches from students from the Rohingya community who spoke about their experiences in Myanmar and settling in the UK and Wilson Sossion (President of the Kenya Teachers Union) who spoke about the threat of privatisation in the Kenyan Education System.
• The debates on baseline testing and KS2 SATS.
• For me the fringe meetings were most inspiring and informative, particularly the one I attended on Social Mobility and Schooling which raised issues of child poverty and the strategies used to improve life chances of our young people.
• The talks by the delegations who visited Palestine and Cuba were equally inspirational and thought provoking.
My thoughts for the term ahead:
• The importance of remembering that our strength is in our UNION together as professional educators;
• The importance for us to continue talking and debating with each other. Stimulating intellectual dialogue will further embed our Union's core values of pride and professionalism;
• The importance of continuing to talk to union members at home and abroad, forging links of solidarity to promote equality and fairness of opportunity within education:
• The importance of protecting and valuing the qualities of our lay-led union. Our members drive our values and our policies!
I look forward to much more productive debates at the NEU Conference 2019 in Liverpool.