29th March 1996 at 00:00
Association of Teachers and Lecturers

Contributing members 140,616 (December,1994)

Membership fee Pounds 77-85

HQ 7 Northumberland Street, London WC2

General secretary Peter Smith (55).

Salary Pounds 72,999 plus Pounds 14,308 superannuation (1994)

Executive members 77 (29 women, 48 men)

Financial position Income in 1994: Pounds 7,607,000; expenditure, Pounds 6,942,000

Power base Secondary and independent schools

Potted history Like the NASUWT the Association of Teachers and Lecturers grew out of two single-sex associations, the Assistant Masters Association and the Association of Assistant Mistresses, which merged in 1982. The most moderate of the big teacher unions it gained thousands of members as a result of the 1980s' industrial action.

In 1992 it changed its name to the ATL to reflect the fact that it was recruiting in further education - it now has 6,000 FE members. Peter Smith, a one-time opera producer who became general secretary in 1991, is seen as the most important factor in the union's rise to prominence. A former colleague once said he had "dragged a Victorian union into the second half of the 20th century".

Achievements It has taken the lead in the campaigns for minibus safety and proved good at winning compensation for members who took out personal pensions after being wrongly advised to leave the Teachers' Superannuation Scheme. Its legal and stress helplines are, unfortunately, heavily used and it has invested heavily in publications and research.

Weaknesseslow points Its regional structure remains less developed than its rivals.

Prognosis Although its days of rapid growth appear to be over the ATL is in a strong position. Peter Smith, a card-carrying member of the Labour party, has never attempted to shift the union to the Left but he welcomes the forthcoming conference discussion on affiliation to the TUC. "If John Monks can reform the TUC so it becomes a serious, influential and sophisticated body in the way the CBI has organised itself then any union should think seriously about the advantages and disadvantages of joining." The statement is carefully worded, but there may yet be ructions.

Factfiles written by David Budge

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