Defend Adult and Further Education

I am asking for your support for a place on our union’s National Executive Committee. I believe it is important that our NEC reflects the views and experience of local union activists and representatives who are on the front line of the defence of further education. Government cuts are having a devastating impact on poor and vulnerable community groups. As an ESOL (English for Speakers of Other Languages) lecturer at Lambeth College, where I’ve been teaching ESOL to adults and young people for the last 9 years, I see this first hand.

As a leading campaigner for Action for ESOL I work alongside students, practitioners, trade unionists and community organisations to raise awareness of ESOL and multiculturalism, both locally and nationally, speaking at local community meetings and at UCU Congress, meeting MPs, letter-writing campaigns and organising protests.

In August last year this resulted in a major government U-turn on plans to cut funding for those on benefits. The alternative would have meant up to 70% of students, mostly women from Black and minority ethnic groups, being unable to afford to learn English to improve their lives. As a result of the U-turn, thousands of ESOL students were able to continue their studies and gain the language skills they desperately need. I would like the opportunity, with your support, to help ensure at a national level that UCU remains central to the fight to defend ESOL and access to further and Adult education in general.

I joined NATFHE (one of UCU’s two predecessor unions) as soon as I started teaching and have been on Lambeth UCU committee since 2008. As Branch Secretary at Lambeth since 2010, I have helped to build a strong, democratic branch which has successfully resisted compulsory redundancies and worsening conditions, struck solidly to defend pensions, and overwhelmingly supported the IfL boycott.

This spring will hopefully see trade unions taking renewed action over pay and pensions. Over-worked college staff are under huge pressure as they are pushed to work even harder, for less. Funding cuts mean closed courses and lost jobs, while the government attacks pensions and pay and our real incomes are dropping. Teaching staff are being further undermined by increasingly punitive lesson observation policies and Ofsted inspections which do not support students or staff but are being used by the current coalition government to downgrade colleges and pave the way for further privatisation. If you elect me to the NEC I will campaign for an alternative to the restrictive regime of Ofsted and lesson observations.

I supported the election of a Democracy Commission from this year’s annual congress to look at our NEC and other democratic structures in the union.  I strongly believe that in any changes to our structures, the lay members’ voices, particularly those representing Equality, sectoral and hourly paid groups in the union, must remain central to our constitutional and democratic processes.

As a UCU Left supporter I believe UCU must remain a democratic, member-led union with a campaigning agenda to ensure it is capable of defending further education and jobs, pay and pensions.

If elected I will campaign for:

– Adult and Further Education to remain free and accessible, especially for those who need a second chance;

– reduced workloads and fair conditions for all staff, including hourly paid;

– an alternative to the punitive Ofsted regime;

– an end to marketisation, student fees and loans.

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