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Young activist wins acclaim for commitment

Dealing with the trauma of having to leave your first job after a disagreement with the boss might leave many teachers afraid of future confrontation - but not NASUWT young activist of the year Rachael Cronk, who was inspired by her first dealings with the union to become an ardent campaigner.

Ms Cronk, 29, who has been a teacher for seven years, called on her local representatives when she was faced with a "very difficult" headteacher. She ended up resigning from her post, but is now a key member of the Windsor and Maidenhead branch, organising an annual young teachers' conference.

Other local officials nominated Ms Cronk for the award, given annually by the union, for her passionate commitment to getting new teachers to join the union.

Ms Cronk now works at the Heathermount learning centre in Ascot, a specialist school for children with autism, run by the Disabilities Trust.

Ms Cronk said: "I've always been a member of the union, but three years ago I had big problems with my headteacher and I got advice from the union for that. She was very difficult and made it difficult for me to work, and I got a lot of support from the union. Now I know my rights, I would have handled the situation in a different way.

"I'm really passionate about getting more people involved in the union and getting them not to take it for granted."

The award, named after the late general secretary of the union, Eamonn O'Kane, was set up to encourage activism. Ms Cronk will receive Pounds 1,500 to spend on union activity this year.

Also nominated for the award was Paul Daly, a secondary maths teacher from Hartlepool. Mr Daly, 27, has been teaching for just four years, but is already vice-president of his local association, as well as being its lifelong-learning representative and school representative.

His time at High Tunstall College of Science has been turbulent, with teachers working to rule for almost a year up until this March because they disagreed with the management's tactics.

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