Mandy Hudson and Shohreh Gorbanian attended the NUT Disabled Teachers’ Conference in Manchester on Saturday July 16th.
The day began by welcoming the new General Secretary Kevin Courtney who outlined the challenges the union will face as it moves forward in resisting education cuts, the fragmentation caused by academisation and apparently never ending curriculum changes.
Delegates were invited to share their celebrations and wishes which included welcoming new delegates to the conference and recently gaining QTS. The need for more disabled people to enter teaching was noted. Many delegates wished for a safer space, both inside and outside the union where disabled teachers could be free to disclose their impairments without fear.
Louise Regan, our senior vice president addressed the conference of a headteacher who has been committed to inclusive education and the social model for years. She praised organisations such as Disabled People Against the Cuts (DPAC) for resisting cuts in benefit payments through direct action.
Conference was pleased to welcome Debbie Abrahams, a local MP and shadow minister for the DWP. She vowed a labour government would repeal the changes to Work Capability Assessments and Disability Living Allowance. She answered delegate questions honestly and frankly.
The conference debated three motions:
- Securing a Future for Disabled Teachers
- A Call for more SENCOs
- Intersectionality : from individual to collective action.
The conference chose the motion entitled ‘Securing A Future for Disabled Teachers’ as the motion to take to conference. This called on the union to provide more specialist support to disabled teachers who faced discrimination in the workplace.
Vin Wynne led two discussions during the day. One about mental health in school and the other about organising disabled teachers at a local level. Delegates spoke passionately from their own experiences about the stress caused by excessive workload and bullying management. We were encouraged to use the following flow chart to work as school groups to ensure a healthier workplace for all.
It was good to get together with other London colleagues to discuss how we could support each other. We agreed a simple meet up would be helpful. Hopefully, this is something the regional office could help us organise in the autumn term.
As part of the Teach Meet section of the conference Shohreh shared a PSHE lesson based on the Invictus games. Alex Marshall, a colleague from the Northern region shared an assembly for Y10s involving drawing pictures on black sugar paper with toothpaste to illustrate that once our words were out of our mouths they could not be put back in again. Other colleagues shared their “empathy spectacles” and tips on how to encourage non disablist language.
Paulina Blackstock, the new Black Teachers’ representative on the national executive spent some time in conversation with Mandy Hudson discussing their hopes for equality work as the union moves forward with unity talks with ATL.
Mandy Hudson also took questions on her report to conference. She was particularly emboldened by being part of a DPAC day of action on July 13th in which the demand for justice for disabled people was carried to Capita, the DWP and Parliament. We occupied a part of College Green as the media were reporting the change of prime minister. A poignant roll call of disabled people lost to suicide after Work Capability Assessments was performed.
The conference ended by joining LGBT+ colleagues and sharing messages of hope. We are the powerful ones.