Which teachers' union?

28th March 2017 at 12:30
Teachers at a protest
Are you confused about which teachers’ union to join? We’ve summarised the big seven to help make your decision easier.

Choosing which teachers’ union to join is an important decision. With over 850,000 teachers joining one of the UK’s seven main unions, they are a powerful collective body.

As well as calling for industrial action, influencing government policy and campaigning for better conditions, the unions also offer members legal and financial advice and insurance. Many offer discounts for students or new members so it pays to look at different options. Asking more experienced colleagues is also a good way to help make your decision.

Choosing which teachers’ union to join will also depend on your role in your school and your own personal preference. Here are seven of the big hitters for you to choose from.

Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL)

The pitch
“The Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL) speaks on behalf of members and acts on behalf of children and young people. ASCL is Britain's leading professional body representing over 18,000 school, college and system leaders, across the UK, including primary schools, multi-academy trusts and those working across phases.

“Our members are responsible for the education of more than four million young people. ASCL works to shape national education policy, provide advice and support to members and deliver first class professional development across the sector.

“Inspired by a vision of high quality education for all young people, ASCL aims to be the first choice professional body for all school, college and system leaders.”

The benefits include:

  • Hotline staffed by former leaders and regional support
  • Legal advice from specialist law firm
  • Discounts on a programme of CPD
  • Personal insurance cover

Paying membership: 18,371 people

The cost: £20 per month for heads and execs, £16 for deputy heads, £13 for assistant heads, £12 for business leaders

For more information visit the ASCL website

Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL)

The pitch:
ATL recognises the link between education policy and our members’ conditions of employment. Our evidence-based policy making enables us to campaign and negotiate from a position of strength. We champion good practice and achieve better working lives for our members.”

The benefits include:

  • Legal advice and support
  • Opportunities for professional and personal development
  • Insurance for personal accident, loss or damage to property or damage to vehicles in work, absence from work

Paying membership: 123,054 people

The cost: £103 for full-time teachers. Students and NQTs in their first two years pay nothing, while teachers in their third year pay 50 per cent.

 For more information visit the ATL website

NB. From 1 September 2017 the NUT and the ATL are due to merge to create the largest teachers’ union in Europe. With over 450,000 members, the newly formed National Education Union (NEU) will be the fourth-biggest union in the UK.

Educational institute of Scotland (EIS)

The pitch:
“We have developed a central role as one of the most respected voices in education in Scotland. We have developed policies covering the full range of educational and professional issues which impact on teachers in nursery, primary, secondary and special schools.

“We campaign for quality continuing professional development for all teachers and, in partnership with a number of university providers, have responsibility for delivering a growing number of CPD opportunities.

“We negotiate on all matters of pay and conditions of service on behalf of school teachers with local authority and government representatives within the Scottish Negotiating Committee for Teachers (SNCT). We are the largest union represented, and have the overall majority on the teachers’ side.”

The benefits include:

  • Supporting your career development
  • Legal, professional and financial advice
  • Insurance
  • Specialist discount scheme

Paying membership: 52,833 people

The cost:  £112.26 for full-time teachers, some teachers will pay an additional Local Association subscription ranging between £10.32 and £24.72.

For more information visit the EIS website

National Association of Headteachers (NAHT)

The pitch:
“NAHT is an independent trade union and professional association representing over 28,500 members in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.  Members hold leadership positions in early years; primary; special and secondary schools; independent schools; sixth form and FE colleges; outdoor education centres; pupil referral units, social services establishments and other educational settings.”

The benefits include:

  • Specialist advice and support
  • Expert resources
  • Financial services

Paying membership: 28,855 people

The cost: £390 for headteachers, £312 for deputy heads, £216 for assistant heads.

For more information visit the NAHT website

National Association of Schoolmasters (NASUWT)

The pitch
“Our philosophy of putting teachers first means that we will campaign on your behalf and support and represent you to ensure that you are recognised and rewarded as a highly skilled professional and have working conditions which enable you to focus on your core role of teaching, leading teaching and learning.
“In addition, as a member you will have access to professional advice and guidance, a wide range of opportunities for professional development and training and many other benefits.

The benefits include:

  • A range of legal, benevolent, financial and legal insurance services
  • Professional advice and guidance
  • Professional development and training

Paying membership: 284,990

The cost: from £172.44 per year, free for new members in their first year and for students and NQTs, 50 per cent discount for second year of membership. 

 For more information visit the NASUWT website

National Union of Teachers (NUT)

The pitch:
“Our concern is for the proper funding of the education service ─ for smaller classes, more books and equipment and properly maintained school buildings. For teachers we seek better pay and improved conditions, with time to plan, mark and prepare. Above all, we seek improved educational opportunities for all our children and young people.

“At the heart of the union’s endeavours is its commitment to the promotion and recognition of the professionalism of teachers. The NUT is the only teachers’ organisation to set such standards for admission.”

The benefits include:

  • Benevolent fund for those suffering from sickness, accident or injury, unemployment or bereavement
  • Legal services
  • Insurance for personal accident, hospitalisation, personal property and malicious damage to vehicles in school premises

Paying membership: 333,704 people

The cost: £177 for full-time teachers. NQTs in their first year pay £1 and in their second year receive 50 per cent off. Students pay nothing.

For more information visit the NUT website


The pitch
“Voice is the union for education professionals, and we speak up for everyone, from teachers, lecturers, nursery nurses and nannies, to head teachers and school support staff, including teaching assistants, technicians and administrators and students* (*free membership).

“Voice represents a united strength that will support, protect and listen to you throughout your career, and we believe that every professional in education, early years and childcare has a right to be heard.”

The benefits include:

  • Advice, support and legal representation
  • Insurance benefits
  • Discounted legal services
  • Free attendance to conferences

Paying membership: 17,132 people

The cost: £199 for full-time teachers, lecturers and heads, free for students and first year NQTs and £89 for second year NQTs.

For more information visit the Voice website

Find your dream job

Looking for your next role? Search from thousands of teaching jobs both in the UK and overseas.

Find a job

Want to take a more prominent role at your school? Our CPD courses can help you climb the career ladder.

Find a course

Get Tes online and delivered to your door – for less than the price of a coffee

Save 33% off the cover price with this great subscription offer. Every copy delivered to your door by first-class post, plus full access to Tes online and the Tes app for just £1.90 per week.
Subscribers also enjoy a range of fantastic offers and benefits worth over £270:

  • Discounts off Tes Institute courses
  • Access over 200,000 articles in the Tes online archive
  • Free Tastecard membership worth £79.99
  • Discounts with Zipcar, Buyagift.com, Virgin Wines and other partners
Order your low-cost subscription today