Teachers give mixed report for unions


Britain’s teachers are divided on how to mark the efforts of teaching unions, with three quarters satisfied with their union, only 57% happy with the way they raise the professional status of teachers, and a quarter saying they’d consider an alternative to union membership, according to new research.

The report, conducted by Cambridge education think-tank LKMco, shows only 51% of teachers thought education in the UK was better as a result of the unions’ work and also revealed that nearly half of teachers surveyed said that their views on unions had changed over the course of the past year, with opinions on the effectiveness of unions swinging dramatically - around half developed more positive views whilst half became more negative.

“There were vast contrasts in the feelings of teachers towards their unions – some might describe efforts as ‘outstanding’, others felt it was a case of ‘requires improvement’. The report shows that for some, fury at coalition reforms has led them to ‘blow my whistle and fly my flag’ for the first time, and to feel grateful for unions ‘working hard to protect me against the work Gove is doing to destroy schools in England’. In contrast, others described themselves as ‘embarrassed’ by industrial action and what they perceive as union ‘intransigence’,” said Loic Menzies, the report’s author.

The report, entitled "Collectivists, Functionalists and Critics: What do teachers think of their unions?" shows that overall, levels of satisfaction with unions are extremely high with 77% of teachers surveyed describing themselves as satisfied with their union overall.

The most important reasons teachers joined unions were to secure employment protection and support in case of an allegation. Around 44% of teachers have moved union, for a variety of reasons, but strike action is one of the most polarising.

Whilst ‘Collectivists’ want to work with each other to improve education and build solidarity, the majority of participants in the research were ‘functionalists’ and had primarily individualistic motivations.

Their high satisfaction levels therefore resulted from the skilled and effective support with which unions provided them. Teachers spoke movingly about the crucial role unions played in helping them through complex problems and personal hardship.

But high satisfaction was not limited to classroom teachers; head teachers also praised the way unions worked with them, and their relationships with union reps. However, despite such widespread praise, questions are raised by the fact that only 51% thought education in the UK was better as a result of the unions’ work.

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