Call off the hounds, Carol's here;National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers conference

23rd May 1997 at 01:00
Carol Fox is not the archetypal official. A single parent with a daughter aged five, she has a social work background and no teaching experience. She was also, whisper it, a bit of a rebellious pupil in her Lanarkshire school days, no doubt perpetrating the kind of disruptive behaviour the National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers is determined to scourge.

The "get thee to the sin bin" approach, espoused by Tino Ferri, the union's most prominent advocate, might just have ensnared the young Fox during her Hamilton school days.

The NAS view is that it is first and foremost a UK union. And she takes exception to anyone calling it the NAS. "I like to add the UWT bit," she chides. Women's issues are never far from her thoughts.

Ms Fox won the post of Scottish official, which she took over last October, on the basis of her skills in union negotiation and organisation. "The expertise of advocacy on behalf of union members and fighting for their rights is what I am bringing to the job and I am sure I will rise to the challenge of representing teachers," she says. Dealing with a flood of enquiries about changes to early retirement was an early chore.

New Scottish official, new start for the union in Scotland. Ms Fox takes her files into new offices in Glasgow this month as she sets about intensifying the recruitment drive and eating away at the membership of other unions.

She once wanted to be a maths teacher but moved into related spheres through circumstance. She has been a student at four Scottish universities, taking a BSc at Glasgow, a social work degree in Edinburgh, a certificate in women's studies at Strathclyde and a master's in social research at Stirling. "I feel I know the Scottish education system," she says.

It was while taking a year out doing voluntary work in Glasgow that she found a vocation in social work. After spells in Strathclyde and Lothian, she gravitated to London and union officialdom, latterly representing 10,000 Unison members in the health service, local government and voluntary sector. Her beat extended to private contractors and non-teaching staff, which meant close encounters with school governors. Their inexperience of employment law left her less than impressed.

Serendipity determined her appointment as NAS regional official. She wanted to return to Scotland before her daughter's schooling committed her irrevocably to London and the Glasgow job came up at the right time.

Ms Fox is enjoying her higher profile and being a big fish in the small NAS Scottish pond. She was one of 35 Unison officials. Last week's smoothly run conference provided ample demonstration of her organisational talents. Keeping in line the free spirits in the Scottish union and presenting a fresh union image will detain her longer.

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