The National Education Union came into being on 1st September this year, following the amalgamation of the ATL and NUT unions. So what does that mean for leaders and managers in primary schools?
Well, the new union is now the biggest education union in Europe and the fourth largest in the TUC, with over 450,000 members. Size matters, of course; it gives us a bigger voice with decision makers and enables us to provide stronger support, professional development and advice around issues that matter to leaders. But that’s not the only, or even most important element in a successful trade union.
The key to success is addressing the issues of both members and the system alike. It’s about having a comprehensive and inclusive approach, which is part of the NEU’s DNA. Having more schools where the majority of staff are in the same union will enable leaders to lead successfully in a collaborative and collegiate manner, with the full support of the union.
School leaders in the NEU will receive separate expert support where required, while the emphasis will be on learning, so issues are less likely to arise again in future. Having leaders belong to the same union is a step in the right direction, away from the sense of ‘us and them’, though we will continue to work collaboratively with the other headship unions.
The essence of what we do in this sector should always be based on the principles of effective learning, which should not be confined to classrooms but extend across the organisation. This is the way to improve staff wellbeing and ensure that pupils are well balanced.
It’s for these reasons that we’re focusing our activity on two key campaigns. We’ll be lobbying for increased school funding, so that leaders can provide high-quality education for pupils, while also working to support professionals in reducing their workload.
We hope to achieve the latter by addressing both in-school issues and government-driven initiatives that increase meaningless work.
That includes working to change the primary assessment regime, stopping proposed additional tests and pressing the government to do more to address the recruitment and retention of teachers and leaders within primary schools.
Over its six-year existence, AMiE (now the leadership arm of the ATL section of the National Education Union) has garnered a track record for working in a mature and professional manner and led the way in developing ethical leadership in education.
It’s used publications, training and advice to show how leaders and managers can fulfil their professional responsibilities in an ethical way, providing professional respect combined with appropriate challenge to those colleagues they lead.
As the NEU, we’re committed to making education a great place in which to work, teach, lead and learn. We’ll champion all those who work in education, and empower professionals to work together to inspire learning in generations of children and young people.
Having a dedicated leadership section gives us a solid base from which to develop leadership policy and professional expertise, and make greater demands of the Government.
School leaders face unprecedented challenges. Having to lead and manage colleagues during a period of rapid change, while poorly thought through education policy is simultaneously imposed from above, makes an already difficult job that much harder.
As a strong voice of reason for leaders, and a source of targeted support for their needs with a focus on effective education, the NEU is a game changer.