Weary of constant union bashing

4th November 2011 at 00:00

It is becoming tiresome to read so frequently in TES such an unremittingly negative view of the teaching unions. While I wholly concur that we would be in a much better position with a single union, I find many of the criticisms unreasonable and inaccurate. Gerard Kelly's editorial (28 October) represents the apogee of this approach. Were it written by Michael Gove himself, its contents would not have been a surprise.

Of course the unions "promote self-interest". It just so happens that in the overwhelming majority of cases this has a happy coincidence with the delivery of effective and progressive education. Being bludgeoned into submission with an ever-increasing workload is a case in point. If unions are so consumed by self-interest, why would my union (the NUT) waste time, effort and money running courses linked to teachers' professional development, or spend time at a conference discussing early-years reading?

It is perfectly possible to enjoy (indeed, love) many aspects of the job without abdicating the responsibility to point out issues of deep concern. That the unions may be in a vulnerable position is much more a consequence of realpolitik than their own actions. Teachers, broadly speaking, tend to have political views that are left of centre. The Government believes that attacking their pay and conditions is a safe bet in political terms. Do we really expect a Conservative-led Government to do anything other than undermine and weaken unions?

According to Mr Kelly, it is some sort of sin to be middle class and a member of a union. A future union of the type he seems to find desirable would be entirely emasculated - absolutely and completely ineffective.

Nigel May, Waltham Abbey, Essex.

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