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Worthwhile gains won by the union

The essentially negative attitude of The TES towards teachers' unions shines through in the editorial "Worth the journey?" (TES, April 5). It is quite extraordinary for The TES to describe the "[national curriculum tests] boycott victory" as dependent on "outside help". Some help!

I remember the National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers being vilified by The TES for its brave and courageous stand against the Government-inspired challenge of the London borough of Wandsworth in the courts. "The rocky road to nowhere" was how The TES described the NASUWT boycott. The NASUWT stood alone. There was no outside help. Quite the contrary. Every "outsider" predicted the NASUWT would lose, and indeed some gladly gave publicity to legal views to this effect.

Equally extraordinary is your claim that the campaign against spending cuts only succeeded because of outside help from parents and governors. All the teacher unions quite deliberately cultivated such support and that was an essential part of the campaign.

The TES seems to criticise unions for not taking more action to implement conference resolutions. Yet it would be the first to condemn us, were we to do that.

The TES conveniently ignored huge areas of union activity where we do an enormous amount of good work on matters connected with the School Curriculum and Assessment Authority, the Office for Standards in Education, the Teacher Training Agency, indiscipline, legal aid, compensation for injuries, redundancies, grievances, and so forth.

We may not have held the line on class size and school premises, but with parents and governors we have exacted a political price from the Government for its obduracy.

Yes, despite vigorous lobbying, we were unable to persuade the Government to withdraw its amendments to labour law which cut unions out of the statutory consultation process over redundancies. However, the NASUWT, together with GMB and UNISON, has challenged the Government in the courts. A decision is still awaited and, indeed, long overdue. I was surprised that an article on the subject in the same issue as the leader made no mention of the judicial review.

The motion carried at the NASUWT conference asked the leadership to consult with members over the possibility of establishing a social partnership between Government, employers, unions, governors and parents, with a view to developing a co-operative approach to solving the nation's education and economic problems. Would The TES dismiss that as "pointless discussion"?

Is it all worth it? I will leave that judgment to others. However, I would certainly say that belonging to a teacher trade union is at least as worth while as reading The TES.


General secretary


London WC2

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