Chalk Talk: For the last time - my teaching union is bigger than yours


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The Independent Online

I knew when I quoted Chris Keates saying last year's teachers' union ballot on pensions proved her union was the biggest in the land, that would not be an end of the matter.

To the uninitiated, declaring one teachers' union to be bigger than the other is the educational equivalent of declaring that Islam or Christianity is the right path to follow or whether or not we were right to go to war with Iraq. It's that controversial.

Last week, Ms Keates, general secretary of the National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers (NASUWT) revealed that her union had balloted 227,000 members and the the National Union of Teachers (NUT) 218,000 on strike action. What more proof do you need than that, she asked?

Sounds convincing, until you get the response from the NUT that the NASUWT balloted all its members because it was asking them to vote in a national work-to-contract as well. The NUT, for instance, didn't ballot its supply teacher members. If it had, it would have bumped the figure up by 20,000.

My usual stance (lily-livered, I'll admit) has been to report on the activities of the two unions and not worry about the size of their respective memberships. I think I may go back to it.

Of course, there is a solution to all this. Why don't the two of them join together and make a decisive move towards having one strong union representing all the profession?

Don't go down that road, though. It's potentially just as divisive as the other,

By the way, before anyone reaches for the telephone, there is a third teachers' union, the Association of Teachers and Lecturers, which is jolly strong, too. Then there's Voice (formerly the Professional Association of Teachers) – which doesn't seem to have had much of one of late.

Oh dear, I think I can hear the telephone ringing again.

Good to hear that live music was blaring out from Canterbury College all day on Monday and that students and staff were enjoying free cakes. The reason? It was "Blue Monday", the day in the year when Britain is said to be at its most depressed because Christmas is over, winter is still here and people are filing for divorce in droves. Nice to hear someone was enjoying themselves!