More challenges ahead
ATL has undergone a significant transformation in the last year resulting in a stronger, larger union with a higher profile than ever before, president Alice Robinson proudly told Conference
And it all started at last year's Conference when delegates voted in favour of balloting members on strike action. "ATL members — the most moderate, measured and considerate members of the teaching profession — said 'no' to the government's proposed changes to the Teachers' Pension Scheme," Alice said. "Many outsiders thought ATL would not carry out our threat. That our members would not stick to their principles. That they would not go on a national strike for the first time in our 127-year history. How wrong they were."
ATL has continued to be at the forefront of the pensions debate and chaired the joint meetings in December with the unions and government, to ensure that the improved offer negotiated with the government remained on the table when some of the other unions stalled.
Alice also spoke about the continued challenge of trying to work with a contradictory government that downgrades vocational qualifications while claiming to strive to regenerate the manufacturing industry; and proposals for regional pay — which Alice suggested was trialled by MPs first. "After all, they did such a good job leading by example in cutting their pensions," she drily observed.
Academies also remain topical. "The impact of the government's academies programme will have ramifications on state education for many years to come. We are already seeing significant changes to pay and conditions in many academies," Alice said. "Whilst ATL continues to have grave concerns around the way the government has introduced academies and free schools, we are all too acutely aware that our members work in them.
"ATL has, however, one great advantage in this respect, and that is that we are fleet of foot. It is no use wringing one's hands and saying we don't like this. Many ATL branch secretaries have led the way locally in establishing recognition agreements that would allow academies to 'buy into' facilities time, etc. Local authority policies have been adopted, and ensured the unions can work collaboratively with management in at least some academies.
"We, in ATL, continue to develop ways of ensuring that we are able to support our members whatever the setting of their school, whether that be academies, independent or free schools. Through the work of the branch secretaries and the regional teams, the support we give is second to none."