Regrettably, I was unable to keep a commitment to speak at the Hammersmith and Fulham NEU end-of-term social last night, but sent a message which I am told went down well. So here's what I sent - and would have liked to have said in person:
"I am really sorry that I can't be with you tonight but, as some of you know, life has dealt me some unexpected cards and I am having to learn to follow Den's wise counsel and 'put family first'.
The end of the school year is always a good time for reflection, and ending my post as London Regional Secretary even more so - so here are some brief parting reflections for you to consider.
As school trade unionists we know we are organising in challenging times, with the Union merger adding extra challenges that have not always been sufficiently recognised in advance.
The high level of staff turnover in London schools is a concrete expression of the damaging effects of school cuts, inadequate pay, excessive workload, academisation, and the stress on staff and students alike of working under an 'exam factory' culture.
Yet those challenges also provide opportunities for trade unionists to make a difference to our members and the communities we support. The 49% turnout across the London Region in the primary assessment ballot that closed this week gives another example of how London NEU can lead by example and show how, if we organise and give a correct lead, the underlying discontent could be turned into successful action.
Hammersmith and Fulham NEU can certainly be proud of its latest indicative ballot results – a 58% turnout plus over 40% of your primary members voting ‘YES’ to industrial action.
These results are further testament to the work that has been done over years by local reps and Officers to build and maintain the Union. I am sure that all of you here will continue to build the NEU where a Union's real strength lies - not in Union Offices, although they are needed too - but, above all, in the workplace. With trained and confident workplace reps, backed up by well-organised school groups, we can not only successfully defend those individuals who may sometimes need Union support but, above all, we can organise collectively to make gains for every Union member.
And finally, when staff and schools are being unfairly graded, blamed and criticised, we need our colleagues to understand that even our best efforts will never be able to fully counteract the poverty and inequality which will remain the main influence on educational outcomes. That's why as trade unionists we must always remember to also play our part in the wider labour movement to build a society that puts an end to inequality, here and across the world.
So, please think of me as I strive to dust off my teaching skills when I return to the classroom in Cumbria and I will, in turn, rely on you to continue to make a difference for both the educators and the educated in Hammersmith and Fulham".