I think it’s safe to say that teachers do need a bit of protection nowadays.
The stresses of the job, the unruly kids (if we believe the reports saying that exclusions and the like are always on the rise), the constant pressure of Ofstead, exams, militant parents…. I could go on.
Naturally, teachers find some way of making sure that they get a fair deal by ensuring that they are appropriately represented by a union. Currently the two largest teacher’s unions out there are the National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers (NASUWT) – which has currently 282,890 members – and the National Union of Teachers (NUT) who have over 300,000 members. Both have a public voice and can influence a great deal of things, from the day-to-day running of schools to entire government policies.
In higher education we hear from the Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL) who represent some 121,400 staff up and down the nation, and the Universities and Colleges Union (who have been very active recently with problems surrounding pay for staff at uni).
In the recent weeks we have heard from the ATL about:
- Mental health issues among teachers – backing it up with a sizeable survey and some interesting data. There’s nothing dangerously militant, but it’s more of an eye-opener and calls to remove the stigma attached to mental health.
- The mindless culture of education targets and the damage to well-being that it causes students in their education. The data shows clear evidence that the target-based approach to learning, with lots of exams, is simply not working and causes stress to students and teachers alike. I’ve always been a opponenent of such a culture and the ATL has absolutely nailed it in their report.
- I wrote very recently on the lack of basic provisions in schools and the need for parents to contribute to the cost of textbooks and other basic needs. Guess where the data came from? Exactly, the ATL and their report, stating that ‘more needs to be done to support those families [who are struggling to afford such necessities] so that their children do not miss out on important learning activities.’
This union has hit the nail on the head. It conducts important research into various difficult topics and manages to make a reasoned points about the UK education system. I look forward to hearing more from the ATL in the future.