The Teaching Council elections took place last week and I was happy to see that almost all of the primary candidates I would have voted for were elected in their respective regions. However, I did have a bit of a beef with the campaign running up to the election and the results demonstrated that they possibly had some merit.
Every single one of the elected candidates at primary level were INTO representatives. For any teacher who wasn’t affiliated with the union, this made their campaign much more difficult from the very start. It would be akin to a situation if we lived in a country where there was only one political party. While everyone would have the right to vote for people not affiliated with the party, these candidates were at a serious disadvantage.
For example, in my staffroom, I had at least 100 pieces of paper asking for me to vote for an INTO-backed candidate and none from others. There were glossy A2 posters from the INTO asking me to vote in the elections and only the INTO candidates were on the poster. I received several text messages asking me to vote for my local INTO candidate. True democracy? I certainly wouldn’t have put myself in the position as it meant an almost certain loss.
Does this raise questions over the Teaching Council if all of their candidates are affiliated with their union? For example, if there was a union directive to remove support from a particular initiative advocated by the Teaching Council, would these candidates be in a difficult position, particularly if they introduced it? Can the candidates go against their union at the risk of expulsion? Perhaps these are extremities, but with industrial action coming down the line, who knows where the union and Teaching Council will clash?
Having said this, it does appear that the union does allow for differing views up to a certain point. Therefore, candidates on the Teaching Council, may have the ability to speak their own mind or one that differs from their union’s stance. Again, one has to wonder, up until what point this is allowed by union leadership?
It seems that the only way to get on to the Teaching Council is to be a member of the INTO, and not only that, someone who has earned their stripes in the INTO, which is a real pity for those who might wish to be on the Teaching Council without union affiliation. It also prevents newer teachers from having a fair go at being on the Council. While experience of teaching is obviously desirable, there are many recently qualified teachers who would be brilliant on the Teaching Council because of their backgrounds.
For me, I believe the only solution is to give all candidates an equal budget to work from in terms of their electioneering campaign. I believe that they should not be allowed to be affiliated with a union or other body. In other words, I really don’t think there should be union-backed teacher representatives, there should simply be teacher representatives on the council especially as the Teaching Council already has union representation. Teachers who put themselves forward should fund their campaigns solely from a budget given to them from the Teaching Council.
Thankfully, we are lucky to have a number of representatives on the Teaching Council, despite all this. However, it could have been a very different story.