The time has come for change

Written by: Dr Mary Bousted | Published:
Dr Mary Bousted, joint general secretary, National Education Union

This month the National Education Union came into existence. Dr Mary Bousted sets out its aims and ambitions for the coming months and years

Teachers and education professionals know, more than anyone else, that something needs to change in their professional lives.

For too long, governments have paid insufficient heed to the aspirations and concerns of education professionals. Professional experience and expertise have been undervalued and downgraded.

Politicians have introduced policies which, while appearing superficially attractive, have been bad for children and education professionals.

The teaching profession is in a state of crisis, undermined by appalling retention rates. The stress of enormous workloads is driving teachers from the profession. More than half of England’s teachers have less than 10 years’ classroom experience. Teacher recruitment targets have been missed for the past five years.

Despite the government spending more than £700 million a year recruiting teachers and training them, they are leaving in droves after three or four years, ground down by excessive workloads, interminable bureaucracy and stress caused by an inflexible and unjust school accountability system.

And the unfair and excessive pay of multi-academy trust CEOs is adding dismay on top of the other concerns of education professionals. This at a time when staff pay rises have been limited to zero or
one per cent and when education is so underfunded that jobs have been lost, the curriculum reduced and class sizes increased.

All of which leads to one conclusion: things have to change in our education system. We need a game-changer – and that is the National Education Union (NEU). Formed from an amalgamation of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers and the National Union of Teachers, the NEU, with more than 450,000 members, is the largest education union in the UK. It has members working in primary and secondary schools, in the state and independent sectors and in post-16 and further education colleges working as teachers, lecturers, support staff and school leaders and college managers.

The NEU is committed to making schools a great place to work, with sustainable workloads, attention to wellbeing and a collegiate approach.

It will work to make schools great places to teach, which value and promote professional expertise and learn from relevant data.

It will work to ensure schools are backed by an inspection system which strikes the right balance between holding them properly accountable for the education they provide, and working in a collaborative, professional way, sharing good practice so that the standards of education rise.

The NEU will fight for a fairly funded education system. One with enough qualified and continually trained teachers and education professionals, working in well-maintained schools. One with enough places for every learner at every level which will provide an education that enables children to engage fully with the world around them, enriching their lives.

The NEU, will be a strong, confident voice for education professionals well able to challenge received orthodoxies and to propose new ways of looking at the education world. Strong on scholarship and research, and a major provider of CPD, we will work to strengthen the education system and improve the quality of education. It should be impossible for politicians to ignore the new union’s policy statements, which will be based on evidence and member experience.

The NEU is not daunted by the challenges ahead. We are confident that our members, informed, committed education professionals, want to do more for themselves, with the support of their union. Together we can make the change that is so badly needed in the world of education.

  • Dr Mary Bousted is joint general secretary of the National Education Union. Visit


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