Four former presidents of the National Union of Teachers have warned members that hard Left groups are making a bid to take control of the union.
In a letter to London members they say a member of the Socialist Workers Party, Shaun Docherty, must be opposed in the election for the union's national officers and have put forward their own moderate candidates. They also name others in a "hard Left" alliance, including Carole Regan, also a former NUT president.
In a press release on official union notepaper, they said: "Alarmed by the incursion of Trotskyist groups into the NUT, four past national presidents, Max Morris, Malcolm Horne, Barbara Lloyd and Gordon Green, have written to London members urging them to vote for the moderate slate and decisively repulse the attempt by the Socialist Workers Party to gain power in the NUT."
Two years ago Doug McAvoy, NUT general secretary, in a speech at the union's annual conference, admitted extremists posed a serious threat. He had been embarrassed by the delegates who jostled and jeered David Blunkett, then shadow education secretary. Mr McAvoy also saw virtually every motion put forward by the leadership being defeated, including a set of modernising reforms aimed at reducing the influence of conference and deciding policy by membership-wide ballots.
Tony Brockman, who is being challenged by Shaun Docherty for the vice-presidency, said: "The problem has been the decline in interest in attending union branch meetings. The people who become delegates to annual conference are most likely to be volunteers rather than elected and may not represent the views of ordinary members."
He accused the hard Left of blocking moves to increase democracy within the union.
Carole Regan denied that her group, the Socialist Teachers Alliance, was campaigning alongside Shaun Docherty and the Socialist Workers Party. She said her opponents were trying to whip up a "reds under the beds" scare.
In her election address for the post of national treasurer, Ms Regan calls for the abolition of national tests, the replacement of OFSTED by an independent inspectorate, an active campaign to increase teachers' pay and the right to retire at 50.