This afternoon’s Joint Executive Council (JEC) meeting of the National Education Union was short and uneventful, in the sense that none of the papers before the council proved controversial. In many ways, its was a continuation of the Joint Officer Group process that has led the creation of the National Education Union over the past two and a half years.
The major difference is that the paperwork we were looking at today (which won’t be formally agreed until September 1st, when the JEC officially comes into existence) relates directly to the operation of the JEC up to 1st January 2019. In many ways, today represented a milestone in the creation of the National Education Union. So, what does that mean for NUT (and indeed ATL) members?
Well, firstly, you will be members of the biggest education union in Europe, the fourth biggest union in the TUC, representing the majority of teachers in every local authority in England and Wales. This means not only increased industrial strength (the ability to negotiate effectively with employers, knowing we represent a majority of their staff) but also the ability to speak authoritatively on behalf of teachers and the other education professionals we represent. Divide and rule will be that much harder for government now that there will be a single authoritative voice for the majority of teachers.
Secondly, the National Education Union will not just represent teachers. The involvement of the ATL brings with it school support staff and FE lecturers, as well as additional independent sector and leadership members. We will truly be an education union, representing all education professionals. This is a significant step in the development of education trades unionism.
The campaign on primary assessment shows how important it is to align the interests of teachers and headteachers. Unfortunately, primary headteacher trades unionists are split between membership of the NAHT, the NUT and the ATL. As Kevin Courtney has argued in the past, where there is a multiplicity of unions, there will be a multiplicity of tactics. This has significantly weakened the campaign. The creation of the National Education Union is an opportunity to forge closer relations with the NAHT and to bring together primary headteachers with primary classroom teachers.
Similarly, the recent campaigns by teaching assistants in Durham and Derby show how important it is for education professionals to fight together against attacks on pay and conditions. In many ways, these campaigns, led by Unison and ATL members, are an inspiration to teachers in the action we need to take to defend our pay. Our new union will be made considerably stronger by the inclusion of support staff.
Today marked another step towards the creation of the National Education Union on 1st September but that date is itself only the beginning of a process. We must work actively, from the 1st onwards, to build real unity in education to represent the interests of all education professionals and the children they work with.