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A new leader for teachers?

Derek McMillan

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Despite your excellent sounding policies; I would want confirmation that you were not going to give £70,000 of NUT members subcriptions to Militant Tendency before I cast my vote.

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I'm pleased to see the forum debating the election for NUT General Secretary and am more than happy to contribute now and again myself.

I am also encouraged that some of your contributors are supportive of my approach that a "teacher's leader should be on a teacher's salary". Certianly it is an idea that receives a lot of backing in staffrooms and union meetings alike. However principled you are, it is difficult to maintain your link with the members who have elected you if you are on a salary three times greater than they are! (The same goes for some of my opponents who also have had little or no experience of teaching in the classroom this side of the introduction of the National Curriculum. My most recent experience was Year 10 Single Science a few hours ago (Friday afternoon - always a favourite slot in the timetable!).

Welcome to the Education Forum. It is good to see someone up for election who is willing to debate his ideas with others. If you win, and I hope you do, it would be good to see you do this once in office.

I have no problems with your policies. My main concern is over how you plan to motivate members into action to defend education in this country.

Surveys of opinions in the profession show that the majority have sensible ideas on education policy. They have rightly been consistently opposed to things like SATs, Ofsted and league tables. However, the same polls show that when it comes to the crunch, teachers are unwilling to take action to defend or change our education system.

Before becoming a teacher I was a print worker. I was also an active trade unionist and we had little trouble persuading members to take action in order to defend living standards and the quality of the work that we performed (a major factor in why we took union action).

However, as soon as I entered the teaching profession I realized the unions faced a serious problem. Nearly all teachers have followed a similar route into the profession. They were successful school students themselves. They discovered at an early age that you are rewarded for obeying those in authority. Some went through a rebellious stage at university but once back in the school system they reverted to their roles of people fully conditioned into the idea of doing what they were told. Schools, unfortunately develop authoritarian personalities. They contain very few people willing to question those in authority. Those who were willing to do this, were usually late entrants to the profession and had experienced life outside educational institutions.

For example, soon after I entered the profession I was asked to be the school’s NUT representative. This was a sensible decision as no one else on the staff was willing to ask the head difficult questions in meetings.

A few months later a woman from the office told me that her husband, the school caretaker, had been told that he was suffering from a complaint that appeared to have been brought on by contact with asbestos. What is more, the doctor told him that the previous caretaker had died as a result of the same medical complaint. The doctor suggested that there was probably exposed asbestos in the school. With the help of the caretaker I inspected the school. We indeed found exposed asbestos in the boiler room. We also found evidence of it in the boy’s toilets.

I then called a meeting of the staff association and reported what we had found. The staff was appalled and called for immediate action to be taken. I then had a meeting with the head, the local union representative and officials of the local council. At this meeting I was told that the asbestos problem would be dealt with during the summer holidays. I complained that it should be dealt with straight away. This they refused to do. Nor did I get any support from the local union official. At a private meeting I told him that if immediate action was not taken members of the staff would go to the local press with the story. He smiled and told me that the newspapers would not print the story (he was right). He said that asbestos was a problem all over the country (it had traditionally been used in all school buildings) but the government did not have the money to sort it out. In order not to cause mass panic, newspapers had agreed not to publish stories about this problem.

I then called another meeting with the staff. They remained united in trying to get this sorted out and insisted that the head addressed them on the issue. This he did. The head and the first deputy launched an attack on the professionalism of the staff. This was mixed with threats about the possible consequences of taking unofficial action. After being harangued for fifteen minutes they stormed out.

The staff then voted overwhelmingly to drop the issue. I realised then that teachers were completely incapable of standing up for their rights when under pressure from their masters. The problem still remains. Unfortunately, I don’t know how you are going to change that.

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  • 4 weeks later...

I'm going to throw in my tuppence worth as a union leader here in Australia, albeit a much smaller constituency than the NUT.

Here, we have one national union with each state being a branch of the same union. We have 95% membership in some states and we are the strongest union in the country - BECAUSE WE ARE UNITED and do not have to waste time on fighting/disagreeing with competing unions. We achieve conditions for teachers which are the envy of other countries because our union is not split on issues and we represent all teachers, including Principals. I would suggest that is one of Britain's teacher unions' major problems. However, whether it could ever be achieved is another question.

My salary as President of the State Branch, as in the other six states, is about the same as that of a large-school principal or what we call a "district superintendant". It probably equates to 45,000 pounds, plus a car, in real cost-of-living terms.The salary is set at this level so that any member winning the position will not be disadvantaged. (I am the first unpromoted classroom teacher ever to be elected) As the position means that I am the officer responsible to the whole membership, the one who can be "sued", and that I have to liase with the Education Minister etc. I believe this level of salary is appropriate.

I agree with many of the comments here that teachers' conditions in Britain are appalling. I have taught there and am amazed with what they have to endure. I fervently hope that whoever the next NUT Secretary is, he (no women, I gather?) will fight for and win some better deals for teachers, because all I hear on various teacher chatlines I belong to, is the overwhelming desire among British teachers to get out before the profession kills them.

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We have 95% membership in some states and we are the strongest union in the country - BECAUSE WE ARE UNITED and do not have to waste time on fighting/disagreeing with competing unions. We achieve conditions for teachers which are the envy of other countries because our union is not split on issues and we represent all teachers, including Principals. I would suggest that is one of Britain's teacher unions' major problems.

An enviable position to say the least. You are absolutely right about the weakness of British teaching unions. It always appears easier for one to fight the other rather than concentrate their efforts on representing and forwarding the interests of teachers. I believe there were "unity" talks between the NUT and the NASUWT recently but with two such big vested interets at stake I cannot see merger ever becoming a reality.

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I have been noticing since I am member of this Forum that in it are used of acronyms in plenty.Who does not live in the U.K. does not understand completely,even if catches the sense of the debate.

Sorry Giuseppa!

NUT is National Union of teachers. NASUWT is National Association of Schoolmasters and Union of Women Teachers. They make up the 2 biggest teaching unions in the UK

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  • 4 weeks later...

17 March 2004 Over the "threshold"!

Bexley NUT and Enfiled NUT Associations tonight voted to nominate Martin for the NUT GS election.

These are Martin's tenth and eleventh nominations and put him over the "threshold" in the Union rules to

assure his place on the full ballot in June.

Roger Gow, Enfield Secretary has contacted Martin to say: "I thought that you'd like to know that, at the

E.T.A. General Meeting this evening, you got Enfield's nomination - hands down against the other 2 candidates


At the Bexley meeting, John Bangs and Martin attended. Sue Kortlandt spoke on behalf of Ian Murch.

(Steve Sinnott and Ian Murch were at an inquorate meeting in Rochdale).

The final vote in Bexley was very tight - Martin 8, John 7, Ian 1 - but was certainly won on the night on

the strength of the arguments put by Martin and the nomination speech by Bexley NUT Committee member Jan

Hoggan, which helped to swing teachers to support Martin's nomination.

(Robin Pye, who spoke on Martin's behalf in Rochdale, reports that Ian Murch mentioned that he was impressed

that Martin had travelled all the way back from speaking in Exeter to speak in Ipswich the following

night. Robin pointed out that he had also gone into school to teach in between ! )

Actually the latest news is on the website elect-martin.tripod.com and also a leaflet about teachers' pay which is relevant to this campaign.elect-martin.tripod.com

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About TLAs (Three Letter Abbreviations)

The NUT has gone through various name changes over the years and the present initials have been a cause of much innocent hilarity.

For the past ten years the Sun newspaper in the UK has had a headline at Easter on the lines of "They are all NUTS" or "They must be NUTS". They never tire of the same old joke or cannot come up with a new one.

Look out for this Easter.

1) The tabloids will headline a "sex scandal" involving a teacher

2) The Sun will give its one joke an annual airing.

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  • 5 weeks later...

Thought you might be interested in our union website (which displays me in much the same photo as here!!!) I've been reading interesting things about the NUT conference on the TES staffroom chat site. It's such a pity that you don't have one joint union as we do here.


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The hustings at NUT annual conference were very good for the campaign. People came up to Martin's supporters afterwards to say they had nominated other candidates but intended to vote for Martin now.

They want a change in the union. They want to oppose the government's plans effectively. They want a teachers' representative on a teacher's wage.

All the leaflets used at conference have now been uploaded to the website


It did us no harm that socialist Linda Taaffe was re-elected to the executive prior to the conference!

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  • 1 month later...

One of Martin's campaign pledges is that he would make visiting schools a priority, building teachers confidence to stand up for themselves.

Martin is already putting that policy into practice as part of his election campaign by taking up invites to visit teachers in their staffrooms and school union meetings as well as at larger NUT Association meetings.

Reports from Martin?s campaign can be found on the "on the campaign trail" section of the campaign website http://www.electmartin.org.uk

Here are some extracts from the latest reports:

Robin Pye, Secretary of St.Helens NUT, reports that ?the response to Martin's visit was excellent. Teachers were very impressed by the fact that he had been round schools. The Ex-President said nobody has ever done that before. In discussions with me after the visit, teachers in all the schools reported how they felt that the current Union leadership was out of date with how things were in schools and out of touch with the membership. They found Martins approach a refreshing change.

Martin visited a primary school in Leicester to thank NUT members for nominating him to stand in the General Secretary election. This was followed by a cross-union meeting organised by the Leicester Social Forum where Martin was the invited speaker to discuss how to build a united campaign against the threat to make public sector workers work on until 65 if they are to be able to claim a full pension. Martin?s campaign has written to every school in England and Wales to advertise the TUC demonstration against the pensions robbery on Saturday, June 19th in Central London?

Martin spoke at a lunchtime meeting at Caterham School in Ilford to explain how the Union can defeat the threat of remodelling. One advert for *cover supervisors* in a nearby secondary school recently stated that *this post might attract retired police officers or ex-service personnel * (!). Martin made clear that, if this is the Government?s vision for the education of the future, it's one we have to stop !

*Martin also spoke to staff at Davidson Infants' School, Croydon. Lorraine Hunte, school rep reported that NUT members were happy to welcome Martin Powell-Davies to our school. We found him approachable and liked the way he wanted the Union to be more accountable to its members. He listened and was supportive of our concerns. It was also refreshing and encouraging to have a prospective candidate actually talking to us in our own staffroom. We wish Martin all the best in the coming elections.

After half-term, Martin will be visiting schools in the Bristol area on Monday June 7th, the opening day of the election.

Edited by derekmcmillan
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I have a problem getting to sleep at night because I worry about what I would do if I had insomnia.

Andy can't sleep because of all the reds under his bed. ;)

I expect teachers will decide how to vote on the basis of the policies of the candidates.

Incidentally Martin is

the only candidate who is prepared to do the job for a teacher's wage.

the only candidate who has highlighted workload as the key issue for teachers

the only candidate who has no links with the failures of the past.

There is a single transferable vote system

You can vote Martin Powell-Davies 1 and Ian Murch 2

That is what I intend to to. I am aware that a number of Ian Murch's supporters intend to vote Ian Murch 1 Martin Powell-Davies 2.

At conference we had delegates who came up to us saying that they had nominated other candidates but they now intended to vote for Martin. This was after the hustings. Some of them had not heard Martin's case before.

I agree with Andy that ppl should read the websites of all the candidates and weigh up who they think will best represent their interests.

There are links to all four at http://wsta.tripod.com/gensec.htm

Derek McMillan

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I have a problem getting to sleep at night because I worry about what I would do if I had insomnia.

Andy can't sleep because of all the reds under his bed. ;)

I am more concerned about the blues under the loo ;) or even entryists at the front door ;)

I am intrigue by the reference to "failures of the past". I have been rather impressed by my union's performance under both Messrs MvAvoy and Jarvis and will be voting for the candidates most likely to continue their policies.

I think it is important for voters to know exactly what they are voting for, which is why I never hesitate in revealing the party affiliation of Mr Powell-Davies. Supporters of Militant Tendency are thus able to vote for their man without fear of making an error.

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I know I live in a much smaller place, but I am amazed that a Union candidate visiting schools is looked upon as innovative and wonderful. If I HADN'T visited schools and listened to teachers during my campaign for the Presidency of our Union it would have been considered a definite reason not to vote. Now, as President, I get out into schools as often as I can. Right round the country, Australian Education Union Presidents or Gen-Secs (the title varies from state to state) earn about the same as a Principal of a fairly large school, plus a car. I think that's absolutely reasonable as we are the responsible officer for the organisation, working with top bureaucrats and politicians, and the public media spokesperson. I would not want to be doing all that on an unpromoted teachers' pay.

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