It may be hard to imagine but the next few years could well prove even more difficult than the past few.
Among the many problems facing schools that are likely to get worse before – if – they get better are the financial squeeze that is a result of the government’s fiscal policy, the recruitment crisis and the mess that is the testing regime.
As a profession, the past few years have seen us battered almost into submission, battered so badly that we are nearly all aware of the bruises inflicted upon us.
But this is why I welcome with open arms news that the ATL and the NUT are looking to combine and then form a new “super-union”.
Of course, there is still much to debate for both organisations, but for me it's about time they talked about joining forces.
Suddenly we will have a teachers' body of over 450,000, in which all education staff are welcomed. At long last we will have a campaigning organisation large enough, and hopefully united enough, to stand up to the government and say “no”.
With the unions joining together, there will certainly have to be a tempering of views, but this is without doubt the right time for such a body.
For as long as I can remember, I have wanted a teachers’ organisation that would stand up for the united profession and force people to listen to us – but we have never had the body to allow this to happen.
'Education is in turmoil'
And it could not be more timely. Just look at the issues facing schools, teachers and all our children:
- We have, without doubt, a recruitment crisis. As teachers, can we honestly encourage people into the profession at the moment?
- We certainly have poor pay, compared with other graduate professions, and undoubtedly poor conditions of service.
- The testing regime is undermining our profession and is in turmoil.
- Changes in education direction happen almost weekly, and they are mostly poorly thought-out and, without doubt, politically led.
- We have a curriculum not fit for the future needs of our pupils.
- We have insufficient resources to deal with the complexities offered to us in our schools.
- And we have an accountability system which relies on Ofsted… enough said.
There has never been a better time for disillusioned teachers to have a voice; one that can truly represent all teachers and staff in the education system.
We need a body to stand up to the government and stop the ill-thought-out and hair-brained ideas they have.
We need a body that will give all teachers belief again.
We need a body that will take on the media with all it's ill-conceived ideas about schools and teachers.
We need a body that will work with parents so we all work together to achieve the best for their children.
We need a body that will inspire young people into the profession.
Lastly, we need a body which actually recognises the worth of teachers and that pay, conditions of service and professional respect are crucial elements and ones to be fought over in 2016.
We must put these elements squarely at the centre of this new union’s work. We should congratulate the NUT and ATL for getting to this stage: now let's all get behind them, hopeful that the next few years can be more positive than recent history.
Colin Harris is a former primary head and is now supporting teachers and headteachers
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