Message from new NASUWT General Secretary:  Dr Patrick Roache


Dear NASUWT Members

I am deeply honoured to be taking up office as General Secretary of the NASUWT on 12th April, although with the current emergency situation, it will not be possible to do so as planned at our Annual Conference. Nevertheless, I wanted to convey to all NASUWT members my thanks for your continuing support and my determination to ensure that we continue to work for you.

I can think of no greater privilege for me than to have the job of General Secretary of a union that is dedicated to putting teachers first. Indeed, there is no job more important in our world today than teaching and I want to express my gratitude to our members for the fantastic work you do. I will be proud to lead a union that is the representative voice of teachers across the UK, the Channel Islands, Isle of Man and Gibraltar.

So much is asked of teachers. No more so than during the crisis that has engulfed the UK and the rest of the world this year with COVID-19 (coronavirus). Teachers around the world, including NASUWT members, are in the front line in battle to defeat this virus and to protect public health. I have never been in any doubt about the huge debt that the nation owes to teachers, and never more so than today.

At the start of my tenure as NASUWT General Secretary on 12th April 2020, I want to make it clear that it will be my priority, throughout the COVID-19 emergency and beyond, to ensure that we remain true to our core purpose to support our members. That is why we have ensured that even with the Government’s emergency measures, we are here to answer the many thousands of questions we have received from members about what the COVID-19 emergency measures will mean for you, and also as we strive daily to ensure that the voice of NASUWT members is heard and listened to by governments and administrations, as well as by employers, schools and colleges.

Meeting the challenges facing the teaching profession

Before and since the onset of the COVID-19 crisis we have seen the best of teachers; but, regrettably, we have also seen the worst of some employers who have put at risk teachers’ health, safety and wellbeing and used this national emergency as an opportunity to seek to terminate jobs, initiate restructuring proposals, and to force through disciplinary hearings (in some cases insisting on face-to-face meetings with members in breach of the Government’s stay at home/social distancing rules). And, we have had yet more stark reminders of how some employers continue to abuse their freedoms, demanding that members with underlying health conditions go into the workplace or face the prospect of having their pay docked. All NASUWT members should be in no doubt of our commitment to call out and challenge these and other unacceptable practices which threaten the lives and livelihoods of our members, because nothing is more important than protecting teachers - not only at a time of national crisis but every day.

Whilst we are in a period of national emergency, we cannot lose sight of the deepening teacher recruitment and retention crisis that preceded this crisis and the reasons for it. In the last decade, teachers have endured a 20% real-terms loss to the value of their pay, coupled with the need to work longer and pay more for their pensions. Privatisation and deregulation across the education landscape have led to increasingly precarious employment options for many teachers, with thousands of supply teachers denied equal pay or the right to work due to exploitative and profiteering practices by supply agencies and umbrella companies. Thousands of NASUWT members have told us of abusive and bullying employers who believe they can treat teachers badly and get away with it. This is no way to run an education service and it will continue to be our aim to challenge these policies and the practices which flow from them.

The coronavirus pandemic has prompted many to speculate on whether we will now see a “new normal”, where the brutal and divisive practices of the past give way to a more collegiate and cooperative approach. Let’s hope so. But, more than hope for a better future, we will be striving to make it so. Governments have lauded teachers’ efforts in response to the COVID-19. Now, Ministers need to recognise that the decade spent undermining the pay and conditions of teachers must now end, by valuing teachers:

  • trusting the professionalism of teachers;
  • tackling the policies and abusive employer practices that are driving many teachers out of the job;
  • restoring the status of teaching by securing the pay and rewards for teachers that are competitive with other post-graduate professions;
  • ending the misery of crushing and debilitating workload pressures on teachers;
  • ensuring that schools and colleges are held to account for the right things in the right way;
  • ensuring that teachers and headteachers can go to work every day without the fear of being bullied, harassed, discriminated against or verbally or physically assaulted.

The importance of treating others with respect and dignity has been a resounding message over the last few weeks. Those on whom we rely the most – our nurses, doctors, teachers, care givers and other public service workers – deserve the very best. And, the public and politicians cannot continue to expect you to be there for them unless they respect and value you.

In the worst of times, it is you – our members – who show the best of us: demonstrating each and every day as teachers and as NASUWT members your commitment to the public good; showing what it means to have the moral courage to do what is right, even when the stakes are high and in spite of the risks you may face when you are asked to stand up and be counted.

That is what our members do the length and breadth of the country. It’s what makes us. It’s what it means to be NASUWT – The Teachers’ Union.

Thank you for choosing the NASUWT and thank you for putting your trust in us. We will endeavour to repay your trust, being at your side and ensuring always that we put you, our members, first.

Yours sincerely
Dr Patrick Roach
General Secretary (Designate)

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