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First-timer is not disappointed by the men with beards

Nathalie Anderson expected to meet hordes of middle-aged men with beards when she attended her first conference of the National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers, writes Michael Shaw.

The English and drama teacher was not disappointed. "The conference was dominated by men 'of a certain age' - several who did have beards," she said. "But I began to understand there was a reason for that. Younger people, especially women, are just not getting involved."

Nathalie, 30, was talked in to attending the conference at an NASUWT event held at her school, St Aidan's county high in Carlisle.

She joined the union after qualifying four years ago and was keen to discover how it made its decisions and whether it represented her views.

"The speeches were a lot more entertaining than I thought they were going to be," she said. "Apart from the bits on finance."

Nathalie shared the concerns of delegates about workload, stress, and over-testing. She was also excited by the proposal from Terry Bladen, NASUWT president, that mathematics be made non-compulsory for 14 to 16-year-olds.

"Perhaps it's just because I'm an English teacher. Also I've never been a natural mathematician - I struggled in the subject."

One disappointment that Nathalie and a group of other first-time female delegates noted was an apparent lack of eligible men.

She hopes to return to conference next year though and speak. "Everyone kept saying I should go up and speak, and I said 'What about?' But I understand how it works now, and I've always been a bit of a big mouth."

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