Which teachers’ union?

Are you confused about which teachers’ union to join? We’ve summarised the big seven to help make your decision easier

Tes Editorial

Teachers At A Protest

Choosing which teachers’ union to join is an important decision. With more than 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 their 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 depend on your role in your school and your own personal preference. Here are seven of the big hitters for you to pick from.

Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL)

The pitch

“The 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 4 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:

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


Paying membership: 19,000 people

The cost: £23 per month for headteachers and executives, £19 for deputy heads, £15 for assistant heads, £14 for business leaders (costs are increasing after December 2018 to £33 per month for headteachers and executives, £27 for deputy heads, £21.75 for assistant heads, £20 for business leaders)

For more information visit the ASCL website

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. 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.
  • A specialist discount scheme.


Paying membership: 53,000

The cost:  £117.92 for full-time teachers paying by direct debit. Some teachers will pay an additional local association subscription, ranging between £10.80 and £25.20. Free for student teachers.

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: 29,000

The cost: £408 a year for headteachers, £326.40 for deputy heads, £228 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: 300,000

The cost: all teachers who join NASUWT will have free membership for the first year. For the subsequent years, membership will be from £186.40 per year. Membership is also free for members in their first year and for students and NQTs. There is a 50 per cent discount for the second year of membership. 

 For more information visit the NASUWT website

National Education Union (NEU)

The pitch

The NEU stands up for the future of education by bringing together more than 450,000 teachers, lecturers, support staff and leaders working in maintained and independent schools and colleges across the UK.

Combining the expertise and experience of both the ATL and NUT sections, the NEU is the UK’s largest education union. We are an effective and powerful voice – championing everyone who works in education.

We’re committed to making education a great place to work, a great place to teach and a great place to learn.”

The benefits include:

  • A wide range of money-saving benefits and services.
  • Monthly and quarterly magazines.
  • Professional development, training and events.


Paying membership: 450,000

The cost: Free for trainee and student teachers, and then from £183 per year, with a £1 offer for NQTs, and a 75 per cent discount offer for new members not previously part of the NUT or ATL. 


The pitch

“Voice is the union for education professionals and we speak up for everyone, from teachers, lecturers, nursery nurses and nannies, to headteachers 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: 17,500 people

The cost: £199 by direct debit for full-time teachers, lecturers and headteachers, free for students and first-year newly qualified teachers and practioners (£89 for second-year). 

For more information visit the Voice website