Left wing is plotting to get rid of me, says teachers' leader

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The leader of Britain's biggest teachers' union claimed last night that an attempt was being made to oust him in favour of his deputy.

Doug McAvoy, general secretary of the National Union of Teachers, said the centre-left ruling group on the executive wanted to bring forward the election for his successor to January, six months before he had planned to retire.

The intention, he said, was to improve the chances of Steve Sinnott, the deputy general secretary. Mr Sinnott would have an advantage in campaigning, having been in high-profile union roles, he said. The election would take place before other candidates could present their policies to the national conference, due in April.

Mr McAvoy, 64, has been in his post for 15 years.He said the move to bring forward the election was being made by supporters of the Broad Left, a coalition of Labour moderates and former Communists.

He told The Independent: "I am angry and hurt that a political faction ... should seek to terminate my contract earlier than the date determined by the membership." He said his letter of appointment in July 1999 made it clear he was in office for five years. But, under the new plan, his successor would be announced on 1 February.

Mr McAvoy then said of the Broad Left: "They hate me for my independence. I don't mind being hated but I'm not going to get stuffed." Three candidates have declared themselves as successor - Mr Sinnott; John Bangs, head of education at the NUT and known to be Mr McAvoy's favoured successor; and John Illingworth, a primary headteacher from Nottingham.

Supporters of the change argue that the union's rule book says the election "shall be held at least prior to the end of every fifth year following the previous election", with the date determined by the union's executive. Jerry Glazier, Mr Sinnott's campaign manager and a member of the Broad Left, said: "This act is in the interests of the NUT. It has a neutral impact on any of the candidates."