Use one voice to shout the loudest

THE debate about union unity "Should it be one for all?" (TES, May 24), was welcome, but sadly the exchange was predictable.

The National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers' response from Mike Johnson was very much "Why change anything? This is just a National Union of Teachers' attempt at a takeover bid. There'll be too much factional infighting, the NUT is too politicised, an amalgamation would be totally artificial, we are much more concerned with teachers' welfare than you are," and even more ludicrous, "There is strength in disunity."

The NUT official, Carole Regan, seemed to be saying: "Let's not play into their hands by being disunited, sometimes we have to evolve in order to move forward. Let's ask the teachers if they want unity," and "We are all concerned about teachers' welfare."

Carole Regan wins hands down. She is looking forward for a solution, she is moderate, practical and conciliatory. Mike Johnson gave the impression of being reactionary, fearful, and occasionally downright nonsensical, for instance his argument that there is strength in disunity because three unions are harder to pick off than one.

At the end of the preface to his book, Primary Teaching, published about 20 years ago, Professor Robin Alexander said that if teachers did not take the initiative in their profession, then someone else would. And they did. Every administration since 1979 has sought to increase the stranglehold on teachers' professional autonomy. It is time we took it back.

It is also time we stood up and shouted the obvious from the rooftops. The obvious being that as professional educators we know best how to teach children, we know how they learn best, and we know what we need to do the job. What we are not so good at is blowing our own trumpet.

Well, we might as well start, because no one else will do it for us. If we find it so hard to do it for ourselves, then we must do it for the sake of our schoolchildren before they become brain-dead from a school life of tests, assessments, a rigidly narrow curriculum, and a system which values them only for the kudos they give to a school for their exam results.

The scales are even falling from the eyes of the Institute of Public Policy Research as it realises somewhat belatedly that the teacher-pupil relationship is central to teaching. So why don't we follow the advice from the title of its latest book and move from being Victims of Change to Agents of Change?

But we would stand a better chance of being taken seriously if we spoke with one voice.

Mike Todd

27 Main Street

Askham Bryan, York

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