A new education “superunion” will be a “game changer” that reins in Ofsted and forces the government to listen to teachers’ concerns about workload and qualification reform, its two prospective general secretaries have said.
This week teachers began voting in a historic ballot that will allow hundreds of thousands to say “yes” or “no” to the creation of a new education union.
A “yes” vote will mean the end of the NUT and ATL teaching unions and the formation of a new organisation with nearly half a million members – the National Education Union.
In an exclusive first joint interview, Mary Bousted and Kevin Courtney – the general secretaries of the ATL and NUT, respectively – set out their case for the NEU.
If the merger goes ahead, both will serve as joint generals secretaries of the NEU until a single leader is appointed in 2023.
Ms Bousted said the union would be a “game changer” that would “transform professional voice and professional agency”.
It would speak “for a majority of all teachers, and a significant proportion of other education professionals,” Mr Courtney said. “Politicians will have to listen.”
He said that a larger union could potentially have stopped the introduction of performance-related pay: “I think that was a margin call for [the government] to some degree…I think we could have persuaded them on that.”
The two union leaders listed the “unstable” academies system, qualifications reform, workload (their “key agenda”), and the school accountability system as priorities for the NEU.
Within the accountability system, Ms Bousted was particularly critical of Ofsted, which she called an “under-theorised, under-researched and certainly under-evidenced” agency.
“It is outrageous that an agency that for over 30 years has been giving supposedly valid and reliable judgements on schools has not itself published any research yet into the reliability, never mind the validity, of its own inspections,” she said.
“How has it got away with that? The new union would be asking those questions and producing the research evidence that would demand answers.”
Both leaders said they supported the creation of a single, universal education union, with Mr Courtney promising: “our door will be open to other organisations.”
However, they confirmed that there have been no talks with Chris Keates, general secretary of the NASUWT teaching union, which has traditionally been fiercely protective of its independent identity.