Sheila (right) on the picket line as part of the NEU national pay and funding strike. Photo: Bristol Socialist Party
Sheila (right) on the picket line as part of the NEU national pay and funding strike. Photo: Bristol Socialist Party

For a consistent, bold national lead

James Ellis, Hastings NEU member

There was a clear message coming out of the Sheila Caffrey for VP campaign meeting on Sunday 21 January: we need a combative socialist voice in the National Education Union (NEU) leadership! 

Introducing the meeting, Sheila laid out a programme to win lasting gains on pay, funding and workload through consistent and bold leadership. She has been a member of the union’s National Executive (NEC) since 2021 and has used that position to argue for a serious national strategy of strike action to win better pay and conditions for all NEU members.

Sheila explained how proud she was of the action taken by NEU teacher members last year, and how with bold leadership even more could have been won. In the autumn, Sheila had argued at the NEC to use our existing ballot mandate to strike over broken funding promises. She has argued for preparing an escalating programme of action this academic year to win better pay and funding, and to fight on workload.

All members

It has also been important to speak up for support staff and supply staff members, and Sheila has argued that the upcoming ballots should aim to bring out all our members in a joint campaign.

Her commitment to building a lay-led union was emphasised, where members are both listened to and trusted to take the necessary action to defend education. The NEU needs a leadership that has confidence in our members and that can galvanise them around a bold, clear strategy.

Another recurring point in the meeting was the need to stand up for education workers’ terms and conditions regardless of who is in government. Sheila warned against scaling back action in the event of a Labour government coming to power. Quite the opposite in fact, with Starmer warning of ‘tough choices’ ahead, it is essential that the NEU is willing to maintain any strike action and put pressure on a future Labour government to properly fund education.

There were many supportive contributions from the floor, with Sheila’s record of following up words with action being noted by several speakers. Both supply and support staff members thanked Sheila for her unwavering support for the lowest-paid members of the union.

Get involved

If you agree that the NEU needs a bold socialist vice-president, who can lead from the front and build from below, then help us campaign!

  • Order leaflets for your school or your district: [email protected]
  • Give them to members, hand them out in meetings, put them up on noticeboards and in staff rooms. Talk to everyone!
  • Share online resources from Sheila’s facebook page: Sheila Caffrey for NEU Vice-President

The ballot runs 1 February – 1 March

NEU NEC discusses plans for action

Socialist Party member on NEU NEC

Socialist Party members on the NEC have consistently argued for a serious campaign to prepare for action this academic year over 2024 pay and funding. So January’s NEC was an important meeting.

It is crucial that we build for action. We can organise to win for pay and funding this year, but we need to all work together to re-engage our fantastic members. An indicative ballot of teachers in England will run from 2-28 March. Let’s get a stronger turnout than last year and show any incoming government that we need to be taken seriously!

Unfortunately, support staff will not be balloted at the same time. Socialist Party members supported an amendment to ballot support staff over term-only contracts and school funding, to be able to fight alongside teachers. But the majority of the NEC voted to wait until the other support staff unions announce their plans, to take action in support of those unions’ pay claims.

General election

General secretary Daniel Kebede said that we all want a change in government, but while some unions may choose to wait, we need to take action to show Labour that we want an improvement to pay and conditions in schools. Socialist Party members welcome this approach.

In meetings around the country, Sheila Caffrey has made this point as part of her vice-president election campaign, and electing a vice-president who understands the need to fight for members no matter who is in government will be vital in helping ensure this approach is maintained.

The ‘workload taskforce’ set up by the government has published an initial set of recommendations – this is a direct result of the pressure of our industrial action. There will be a list of tasks that teachers cannot be asked to do. Performance-related pay will not be compulsory from next year – but we need to campaign against schools still using it.

Feeling on the ground is that members in the NEU are ready to fight again, and that we need to send a strong message, particularly to a potential Starmer-led Labour government.