Friday morning began with the Special Executive, to approve the membership offer for NQT (£1 for four terms) that will be officially launched at Conference. We also debated the Executive recommendation for certain motions- including whether attitude should change to the “Main” Motions if certain amendments were or were not carried.
Conference was opened by outgoing President Bill Greenshields, who then installed the new President Martin Reed (pictured) to chair the conference. John Holmes of the Executive proposed a vote of thanks for Bill's contributions over the year, noting his commitment to unity, solidarity and internationalism.
Bill responded in turn by paying tribute to the late Steve Sinnott, as a unifier and a campaigner: an untimely and sorely missed loss to the union and to Education. Bill recalled how proud he was to have led the Pay Campaign action in April: it was necessary and right, and allowed us to build alliances across the public sector unions, such as PCS and UCU. Bill was also proud that, during his presidency, we hosted our joint conference with NAHT on assessment, which looks as if it will form the basis of a joint boycott of the KS2 tests: "Finally we'll end this child abuse !"
A number of guests addressed the first session of Conference: Ronnie Smith brought fraternal greetings from Scotland's largest teachers union the EIS, while Jane Hutt, Welsh Assembly member highlighted the new curriculum, and reminded us "there are no SATs in Wales !"
Anne Wass, the president of the Massachusetts Teachers Union brought international greetings, and emphasised how pleased she was that Barak Obama is now President- "inspiring our hopes rather than playing to our fears !"
Wes Streeting, president of the National Union of Students also paid tribute to Steve Sinnott, and told us of the great pride he takes in the strong campaigning relationship between NUS and NUT. There is considerable common ground, as the NUS is constantly forced to campaign against the marketisation of Higher Education. Wes also urged us to take the fight to the fascist BNP ("modern day Nazis") in the forthcoming election period. Jessie Seal also addressed conference on behalf of the English Secondary Students Association.
Fiona Millar was unable to attend to receive the Fred and Anne Jarvis award for her services to education- especially in her work campaigning for a good local comprehensive school for every child, and against Academies. The award will be presented at the Union's National Education Conference in the summer.
The session ended with tributes to those who have been lost from the union family this past year, including: Steve Sinnott, Max Morris, Bill Anderson, Gordon Green and others. Martin Reed noted that, while they are gone, they are never lost, as they are part of the history that shapes the Union today.