United we stand when it comes to unions and their effectiveness

16th April 2010 at 01:00

As an NUT member, school union rep and first-time attendee of the NUT conference this year, I am a perplexed at the impression given of this event in your editorial. I left the conference with the feeling that here is a body of people who care about education and the children they teach. I didn't feel that they were "adolescent".

After reading the reports by your journalists, I wondered whether you had actually read these first before composing your editorial. Your photos also clearly show a number of delegates who would object to being called "middle-aged".

I would admit to some inner cringing at the chanting described, although it is not correct to suggest that anything like everyone in the hall was involved - and it was somewhat understandable following a fine speech from Mark Serwotka from the Public and Commercial Services Union.

The credibility of the event should not be undermined by you drawing attention to a couple of questionable moments.

To suggest that "the passions vented seem in inverse proportion to the importance of issues they are expended on" is simply not the case. On the BNP, you only had to listen to the account of a colleague who has to teach in the same school as an openly BNP teacher to appreciate the seriousness of the implications.

To imply that it is "incredible" that a NUT conference should spend so long debating this issue is insulting to those dealing with this difficult problem. To further suggest that this prevented debate on Sats is disingenuous, since the BNP motion was not even in the same session.

If anything delayed it, it was a well-considered discussion of "Reading for Pleasure" - but that didn't involve any "middle-aged militants" in full rant so was presumably barely worth mentioning.

To suggest that all those who talk of "bullying" are simply complaining about "effective management" or to imply that any complaint about the obsession with often irrelevant and simply useless data is just about avoiding "accountability" are similarly well wide of the mark. Clearly you cannot have heard the moving testimony of the effect of stress and workload on several of the speakers at the conference.

Nigel May, Teacher in Essex and member of the Redbridge Teachers' Association of the NUT.

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