Tuesday, 18 March 2008

The Torquay Conference: second day

I am away from home at the moment, depending on my hotel's free wireless connection in order to blog! I am in Torquay ("the English Riviera") for the annual conference of my trade union.

The highlights of today:

Resolution 15 about the "Cult of Celebrity". This motion was the subject of a survey of the union's members, and then some advance publicity last week. The Times Educational Supplement, the main newspaper for teachers in the UK carried a good spread on it on Friday, following an ATL press release. The motion called on the government and other relevant agencies to take action to promote positive role models of ordinary people across the media. I missed this debate, being on a coffee break at the time. However, among the speakers, one suggested that we should try to promote alternative role models to the Britney's etc. "How about Jesus Christ, who we celebrate later this week in his Passion, Death and Resurrection?" The motion was defeated - at least in part because the person proposing it is a bit of a contentious figure. Rather amusing considering the advance media coverage!

Resolution 17 about the impact of social dysfunction and family breakdown. I referred to this motion in an earlier post. Only two people spoke to this motion, one to propose and the other to second; no-one spoke against the motion. In his speech, the proposer very clearly referred to the research evidence that children from backgrounds where they were living with their two parents who are married were likely to do better at school. The stability of family structures is a key determinant in educational achievement. Whilst we recognise that single parents often do a good job in difficult circumstances, and we do not want to stigmatise in any way other family situations, it is necessary to have an openness and honesty about this evidence at the level of public policy making. The resolution called on ATL to "press the Government to recognise fully the extent to which social dysfunction and family breakdown are damaging the educational achievement of children and the performance of schools and colleges". It will now be interesting to see what the association's Executive Committee do with this one! The resolution has been proposed, and spoken to, with considerable political skill - the next stage will be to make sure that the Association delivers on what it has voted for here. I suspect that there may be some interesting reactions when people begin to recognise the implications of the resolution, and it will be important to make sure that the agenda addressed in the proposing speech is respected in the response of the Association.


miss book said...

This has been taken up by at least some, of the media, and I agree that it will be interesting to see where it goes..

Joe said...

When I get home, I will have a look out for the media coverage! During subsequent debates at the conference, the resolution was referred to again, and again (at least three occasions I can recall) - including as being one of the questions asked of the Minister of State for Schools, Jim Knight, after he had spoken on Wednesday.

When I spoke to the proposer, his intention in proposing the motion was to try to make sure that Conference did not identify only child poverty (subject of a resolution on the last day of conference)as the key determinant of pupil achievement. If my union is fair to its Conference motions, it will address the issue of dysfunctional families and family breakdown alongside/as part of the issue of poverty.