Blair Peach and NUT reform (December 1977)

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With NUT conference taking place this weekend, it is nice to be able to republish a piece Blair Peach wrote for the teachers’ newspaper Rank & File, 40 years ago calling for the liberation of the union’s structure, which were then dominated by headteachers.

As previous critic of the union’s structures, Duncan Hallas, had written in 1969, “The outstanding feature of the NUT is its complete domination at the top by the privileged minority of full-time administrators called headteachers. Not only is the executive completely controlled by them, they also dominate the great majority of local associations outside the London area and hence the national conference.”

By the way of further context, I should explain that the reform of the Executive was made necessary by rule 8 of the NUT constitution, which provided that “No Constituent Association or Division of the Union, or members or member thereof, shall organise or engage in a strike or industrial action without prior approval of the Executive” and was backed up by other rules providing for the disciplining or expulsion of teachers who struck unofficially. At a time (unlike today) when most strikes in Britain were local, unofficial, short and successful, the left was campaigning hard to introduce into schools the unruly spirit then dominant within industry.

You can double click on the image to read the whole piece, for the moment I quote the last two paragraphs:

“Is there no hope? Are teachers doomed to be members of a union controlled by our employers (or their agents)? If that were the case, Rank & File wouldn’t be bothering. We believe that firstly we must expose the situation as it really is, and secondly we can do something about it. How? By union action based on school union groups.

We won’t change the Executive until our actions force the change, until Rule 8 is simply a number between 7 and 9 and until heads are viewed as the paper tigers they really are. After all there’s 96 of us to every 4 of them. In the meantime make sure you know who headteachers are in the next NUT election. Make sure they don’t get your vote.”

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