Friday 17 March 2017

Opportunities to be Realised

On Wednesday, I delivered the political report and led discussion at the Education for Tomorrow editorial board. I focused on the opportunities presented by the possibility of a new union next week.

If ATL and NUT members vote yes to the creation of a new union, this will present us with a huge opportunity to build a stronger, more united voice for education workers, built on a foundation of greater engagement of members in workplaces up and down the country.

However, there are also risks. Possibly the greatest of these is that the new union, with all the challenges of bringing together different cultures and experiences, turns inwards and fails to recognise the need to act. In this scenario, if we allow internal matters to dominate over external activity, we may find ourselves not stronger but weaker than before. Similarly, there is a danger in any process of amalgamation that the best of the constituent parts may become lost in a process of compromise and trying not to 'rock the boat'.

These are real risks that cannot be dismissed out of hand. At the same time, they are not arguments for a failure to act and preserving the status quo of divided multi-unionism.

Instead, they provide guidance as to how we should approach the process of building the new union. It must be born into activity, activity backed up by carefully-thought-through strategy. The current strengths of a radical educational critique, issues-based organising and a focus on building broad alliances that characterise in different proportions the work of the ATL and NUT must be retained.

The best way to retain them will be to use the energy and optimism generated by the process of creating a new union to further engage members and workplace structures in our campaigning work. The initial successes and ongoing potential of the School Cuts funding campaign, the proposed collectivisation of the ATL's Make One Change campaign and the developing joint work on primary assessment will be important not just in advancing the immediate demands of education workers but also in determining the nature of their largest democratic organisation going forward.

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