If the National Education Union is formed, it will be a “broad church” which will represent equally the interests of members in the state and independent sectors, its prospective general secretaries have said.
The ATL is currently the largest teaching union in the independent sector, with more than 20,000 members working in private schools.
This has led to questions about whether its merger with the NUT – which some people view as more left-wing and willing to strike – could alienate private school members.
However, Mary Bousted, general secretary of the ATL, says that state and independent school teachers often share the same concerns and there is no longer a “Berlin Wall” between the two sectors. “It’s a new union and it’s a broad church,” she says. “When I go and talk to members in independent schools they have many of the same concerns and issues that members in the state sector do.”
Kevin Courtney, the NUT’s general secretary, challenges the “caricature” that his union is “strike-happy”, and points to the “thousands” of independent school teachers in its membership. “The notion of a broad church really matters in the whole idea of trade unionism. Trade unionism is about uniting all of the workers…that’s where you get your strength from,” he says.
“It’s perfectly possible to have the range of opinions that we have in the staffrooms in our country and have them in one union.”
The place of independent school teachers would be enshrined in the new union, the two leaders say, with their own section and a dedicated seat on the executive.