Join us or miss shaping the future

21st February 2003 at 00:00
THE annual season of teacher union conferences starts next month. I hope they will enable education ministers and education trade unions to celebrate a period of constructive joint work.

There will be strong debate and sharp disagreements, but these will be within the context of genuine partnership and shared purpose. We are building new, effective relationships through our national agreement on workforce reform and its implementation.

The signatories to the agreement - which include five teaching unions and the three major support staff unions - are working closely together.

The climate for change, with the investment to support it, has never been better. We have to seize this chance to secure real school improvement, to reshape the classroom and to achieve still higher standards.

My one major regret is that the National Union of Teachers has chosen to stand apart from this partnership process.

I believe that this decision is at odds with the long and respected history of NUT contribution to progressive education thinking and practice.

I hope that the NUT will come to the view that the right thing is to sign the national agreement on the same basis as the other teaching and non-teaching trade unions. I believe in trade unions and I want to see strong and engaged teacher trade unionism.

But any sound relationship must be based upon professional conduct from all. I have concluded that there is no value in my attending this year's NUT conference.

I think that this annual public spectacle, with its political sectarianism and irresponsibility, is too often highly damaging to the teaching profession as a whole and I will not assist that.

The NUT has a choice - it can look forward and help shape the classroom and school of the future; or it can remain in isolation and have no influence at all on decisions that will affect its members for years to come.

I hope that it chooses the future and not the past.

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