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A recruitment crisis, pay and conditions in freefall, the obsession with results: three reasons why 2016 must see the creation of a single union for all teachers

The profession must learn stand up for itself – and moving towards a unified education union would be a major step in the right direction, writes one celebrated head

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As we approach that time of year when we make resolutions, my thoughts turn to whether there are any resolutions I would make for the teaching profession in general.

Let's face up to some facts. First up, we are right in the middle of a recruitment crisis, and no matter how difficult it is to hear, very many sound people have decided they do not want to be teachers any more.

It is certainly not regarded as the job for life it once was. Poor pay, and in too many instances poor working conditions, do not help.

Many factors combine with the outcome that more-or-less all heads are struggling to fill posts and are resorting to whatever means we can to do so.

Other parts of the profession are also broken. There is no continuity at all in our system; free schools, academies, non-academies, the demise in so many areas of the local authority has created a disparate system where everyone appears to look out for themselves. What is too often forgotten is that in each of these establishments there are good teachers daily trying to do the best they can – but they are becoming disillusioned.

Almost all teachers – if not all – had a common vision when entering the classroom that focused on the enthusiasm and commitment they brought with them, but which bit by bit has been eroded.

Another fact we must accept is that we now have an education system driven by results. No matter how individual schools attempt to provide the broad and balanced curriculum needed by our pupils, we are, and will always be, judged by a narrow set of result-driven criteria. Within these constraints, what can a creative teacher do? The answer to this question is very little, which is a very sad reflection on education and schools.

Why can't we therefore see 2016 as the year we create one teaching union for all? I don't care what we call it, I don't really care how we achieve it, but what I do know is that now more than at any time in my 37 years in teaching we need it.

Teachers of all ages and at all stages in their career, and in whatever type of school or learning establishment, need a body that can be their voice. This voice can then truly represent us and explain the complexity of this job, rather than continually allowing the media to portray us as a glorified babysitting service.

It is my firmly held belief that we should always support our union. I have always attended meetings – but it is now sad to see total apathy from new teachers. Maybe this is due to a lack of time, or some other reason. However, what we are left with is our local union branches run by ex-teachers who do a sterling service but cannot really represent the views of all members of the profession – and especially the younger teachers.

These groups have to become once again the life blood of our profession. A new, unified union would, I hope, allow teachers to feel that they are being listened to and that they can make a difference.

Numerous unions, competing for time on the airwaves and for members, fail to influence the government, or represent our needs in pay negotiations or explain the changes that are needed to improve our profession.

What we need is one union for all teachers and heads (that's right; us school leaders are no different), a vibrant group that will make the government and media listen and be a true voice for us all.

Now that's my resolution for 2016.

Colin Harris is headteacher of Warren Park Primary School in Havant, Hampshire 

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