Love 'em or hate 'em, it seems that teachers can't do without unions. Access to legal helplines, advice on work and non-employment issues, discounts on insurance and CPD, career advice, lobbying and negotiation are just some of the benefits the main unions offer their members and ensure that membership remains high.
Another thing worth knowing is that you may be able to claim tax relief on all or a proportion of the annual subscription, as long as it has been paid out of earned income. The union will often have a form for you to complete.
Contacts for all unions can be found in the directory on page 52.
Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL)
Representing 160,000 members - teachers, lecturers, headteachers and support staff - across the UK, ATL says it is a member-led education union. It is affiliated to the TUC, and works with government and employers by lobbying and through social partnership.
ATL has a number of products designed for newly qualified teachers including www.new2teaching.org.uk and ATL Future to represent the newest members. The website has downloadable publications on managing behaviour, tax, employee rights, bullying at work and dealing with violence.
The union has specialist staff for each teaching sector, including independent, further education and maintained. Membership of ATL is free for the first year of teaching and the second year is half price. If you will qualify to teach in 2010 and take up your first teaching or lecturing post during 2010, you are entitled to free membership of ATL for 12 months. Free membership is only available to those who join by direct debit.
National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers (NASUWT)
The politically independent NASUWT claims to be the largest teachers' union in the UK, with over 250,000 members in sectors ranging from early years to further education.
The NASUWT has a number of subscription discounts for newly qualified teachers. The current offer is when joining as full members or converting their NASUWT student membership to full membership. There is free NASUWT membership for the calendar year in which you qualify.
Then, if you agree to pay your future membership subscriptions by direct debit, you will continue to receive free membership for the following calendar year. Membership subscription for the year after that would be 50 per cent of the full membership rate.
National Union of Teachers (NUT)
The campaigning focus for the NUT is funding: it calls for smaller classes, more books and equipment and properly maintained school buildings. For teachers it seeks better pay and improved conditions, with time to plan, mark and prepare.
The union says it is committed to the promotion and recognition of the professionalism of teachers and is both a professional association and a trade union.
The NUT's network of nine regional offices and its Wales Office is operated by experienced professional and legal staff at each centre, and NUT members can access a direct personal service providing legal and professional advice, guidance and support.
Members have automatic access to the NUT's legal and professional services. All members are covered by group insurance and support services including insurance.
Voice is a not-for-profit organisation, does not operate a political fund and it not affiliated to the TUC. All subscriptions paid go directly into providing members with a dedicated, personal service of support.
Full members of Voice have access to the union's legal and professional services, and all members are covered by its insurance policy for: personal accidents, hospitalisation, personal property in workplace premises only and malicious damage to motor vehicles in workplace premises only. Voice members also have access to discounted services, which currently include: legal services, motor and home insurance, motor breakdown and recovery services, and travel services.
In addition all members have access to a 24-hour legal helpline for free non-employment related advice.