The elections for vice-president of the National Education Union (NEU) open on 1 February. Around half a million teachers, support and supply staff, from early-years to post-16 education in England and Wales, get the chance to vote for two people who will form part of the leading team in the union for the next four years. Those elected vice-president this year will become president and then past-president.
In a general election year, when we face the prospect of a Keir Starmer-led Labour government, and following historic strike action by teachers in 2023, these elections have rarely been as important.
If NEU members want a leadership that is prepared to speak up for them no matter who is in government, and who will insist the union stands firm to win lasting gains on pay, funding and workload, then they need to vote first preference Socialist Party member Sheila Caffrey.
Sheila Caffrey says
In the last year, we have truly shown the fighting strength of the NEU. I have been proud to play my part as a striking primary teacher, and as a member of the NEU National Executive, re-elected last year on a fighting programme. From my first Exec meeting, I have spoken up, and put forward motions calling for a united, national strategy.
As we prepare again to ballot this year, I argue that we need a serious strategy that prepares members for the determined action needed to win on pay, funding, and workload reductions. Token strike action is not an option – we need to fight to win!
As a lay-led union, we must build strong union groups in every workplace. But fighting school-by-school on national issues can leave members isolated and reps vulnerable. We need to ensure – from the largest college to the tiniest primary; whether we’re teachers or support staff; in early years, schools, FE, or sixth-form; have a permanent contract or agency supply – we all win together!
This year is also our chance to fight for a meaningful workload contract for teachers and support staff. This must include actual limits on hours staff can be expected to work. It should include stopping management forcing support staff to do work far above their pay grade, and an instant doubling of PPA (preparation, planning and assessment) time for anyone who delivers direct teaching.
We must campaign to replace the exam factory regime with a curriculum that is created by – and reflective of – staff and students and the communities in which we work, part of a fully funded public education system accountable to local communities.
The NEU should lead on coordinating action with other unions, especially other education unions. That includes fighting to make the new Tory anti-union laws unworkable – I moved an amendment at our Exec calling on the Trades Union Congress (TUC) to implement its agreements. Our union now has the position of demanding that an incoming Labour government immediately repeals the legislation; but also that our members who wish to take action receive the full backing of the union.
We all want the Tories out. But Starmer has promised “tough choices”, so we must put demands for fully funded education, with decent pay for all staff, on a likely incoming Labour government. I would also welcome anti-cuts general election candidates who support NEU policies.
I will be a vice-president who truly believes in building a lay-led union. This means I will be a leader who genuinely listens, including to marginalised voices; who responds to all communication and questions – whether I agree or not; who motivates and instils confidence. I will be a leader who is confident to take on the government, and the media, when they’re using education workers as a political football. I know half a million education workers can win what education needs if we adopt a bold strategy, and I will be a leader who will galvanise the membership to make sure we do!
As president, I will campaign for a union that
WINS ON PAY, FUNDING, WORKLOAD
- An above-inflation, fully funded pay rise for all
- Reverse decades of funding cuts, including SEND and Early Years
- Win on workload: a new national contract that sets a firm limit on the hours we can be expected to work. A contract for all education staff binding on all employers
- End supply staff exploitation: re-establish Local Authority supply pools with full access to teaching and support staff pensions and terms and conditions
DEFENDS SUPPORT STAFF
- Build a union that unites all school workers
- Defend all jobs against funding cuts
- Return term-time to full-year contracts. End low pay and unrealistic demands
- Win negotiating rights to win for support staff
PROTECTS CHILDREN’S LEARNING CONDITIONS
- Abolish Ofsted, SATs and league tables
- Break the ‘exam factory’ mentality
- End academisation, bring all schools into genuinely democratic control
- Create an inclusive curriculum challenging bias and prejudice