Friday, 10 September 2021

Why Martin for DGS?

I am standing to be NEU Deputy General Secretary because our Union needs clear and determined leadership if we are going to withstand the serious challenges ahead of us. 

More than any other DGS candidate, I believe that I have the  skills, experience, and campaigning record that can make us a stronger team.

Here's a video that gives just a flavour of the campaigns I have been involved in over many years:



If you'd like to listen to a longer interview, here's one I gave for a recent podcast for 'Lay Led Unions':

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In order to 'declutter' my DGS campaign website, some of its extensive content needed to be removed but, to show that I have remained consistent, I've pasted below the text that I posted when we first launched the site in January. I think it still holds true now, as we prepare for the members' ballot in October that will decide who is the first ever elected DGS of the NEU:

 Years of funding cuts, pressure from Ofsted/Estyn and ‘exam factory’ conditions have already taken their toll. Now teachers and support staff face further attacks from a Government hoping to make us pay for their failures.

As DGS, I will work to build a Union that has the confidence, strength and organisation to defend the pay, jobs, safety and working conditions of education staff and, in doing so, defends education as whole.

Use union strength to defend staff and community safety.

Throughout the pandemic, I have consistently provided analysis explaining why we need to use our collective strength to defend safety.

The successful use of Section 44 in January showed what could be done when a clear national lead is given, giving confidence to members to act together. I will be a DGS that calls and organises for that collective approach to be followed in future too.

Where do the main differences lie in this election? 

Every candidate will propose changes that could improve our conditions, and pupils’ learning conditions. But the key question is, how can they be won?

The NEU has not been slow to make demands. Our problem has been that they have too often been ignored by employers and Ministers:

Our ‘5 tests’ for Covid Safety were not met - putting our health and safety at risk.

For years, we’ve complained about unreasonable workload - but it keeps getting worse.

Now we face a ‘pay freeze’ - are our demands for improved salaries going to be ignored too?

We need a clear national strategy. My ten campaign points set out what we need to organise and win.

A genuinely ‘lay-led’ democratic union.

Many are concerned that the Union is becoming too ‘top-down’ in its decision-making. I’ll be a DGS that says we must be “a lay-led Union” in practice, not just on paper.

I will strengthen our efforts to have trained, confident reps in every workplace, but I also know that reps need well-supported Districts to back them up. We need to better defend NEU Reps and Local Officers and their rights to facility time.

I will be a DGS that works to bring our union together in our workplace groups, Districts and Branches – alongside NEU staff  – with a belief that we can, and must, succeed in winning our demands.

A Deputy General Secretary you can trust to turn words into action

As a member of the NUT National Executive from 2010-15 and then as a successful NEU London Regional Secretary from 2016-19, I have worked within the Union at its highest levels.

I also have long experience of working at a local and workplace level too.

As Lewisham NUT Secretary for over 20 years,  I doubled local membership and supported hundreds of colleagues. I have organised many successful campaigns, opposing cuts and academisation, defending pay, jobs and workload, challenging racism.

I am still a teacher and local NEU officer today, now in the North-West, experiencing the pressures on members at first hand. I am regularly invited to put our case across to the press and media. 

The clear, determined leadership we need.

In short, my record shows that I can be a DGS that you can rely on to provide clear leadership.

I will listen and consult, keeping up a dialogue with Reps and Local Officers.

I will be a DGS that proudly builds our Union, that works as a full part of the NEU leadership team – as I did as Regional Secretary – but I will also be a DGS of independent mind, ready to question decisions and speak out when necessary.

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Thursday, 26 August 2021

NEU officers and reps need firm advice on Covid-19 for the new term

National NEU too slow in issuing updated advice for reps

In July, the NEU issued a Covid-19 update, assuring members and leaders that new advice would be published before the start of the new term. Reps were also advised to remind their leadership that risk assessments will need to be revised in time for the new year. But, with some schools and colleges already open after the summer, as yet no new advice has been issued. Instead, the latest NEU press releases lack the clarity and firmness that its reps and members need.

Today's National Union’s “Back to School” press release rightly states that the Government’s announcement of £25 million to procure CO2 monitors for schools is an admission that risks remain, but that they “will not arrive soon enough, and only diagnose problems not solve them”. But, if that’s the case, then NEU reps need clear advice on actions their schools should be taking right now.

Scotland already shows that infection rates will rise once schools reopen

Staff, school students, and their families understandably want the new academic year to be a return to ‘normality’ without the stress and disruption of the last eighteen months. But the transmissibility of the Delta variant, and the failure of Government to invest, means that sadly won’t be the case. Just as in September 2020, we will be returning to the same poorly ventilated, closely packed classrooms operating throughout the day, prime conditions for spreading an airborne virus”. (Why union groups must insist that schools reduce Covid risk’, 20/8/21) 

Since I posted that warning last week, news from Scotland has confirmed how the reopening of schools after the summer break is inevitably going to drive up infection rates again. In July, Independent SAGE had linked a decline in Scottish infection rates to the earlier start to their school holidays. But now, young people are mixing in schools again, 'fuelling' record case numbers according to BBC Scotland. Tellingly, around a third of the new cases have been in the under-19s age group.

Does this matter when so many adults are vaccinated? Absolutely it does. Yes, vaccinations have helped ensure that hospitalisation and death rates are much lower than they would have been, but protection is not guaranteed. A proportion of our diverse population will still suffer serious illness, and more again from long Covid, especially those who have existing conditions that leave them at greater risk. Even a small percentage of a large population of vaccinated adults - or unvaccinated children – still equates to significant numbers.

In the absence of National NEU advice (*see update below), here’s some suggested advice for risk assessments

Just as previously in the pandemic, schools have a responsibility to assess the ongoing risks from Covid-19, and then to take steps to mitigate them. In my earlier post, I outlined three key areas to consider for the new term:

(1) - Ventilation and Face Coverings

(2) - Isolation, Outbreaks and Contact Tracing

(3) - Staff and families at greatest risk

I have now compiled more detail on the above as suggestions for NEU Officers and Reps to raise urgently with their schools and employers. The advice - posted below - can be downloaded as a double-sided A4 briefing here.

Together with the workplace representatives of recognised trade unions, schools and colleges must act to reduce the ongoing risks from Covid-19:

(1) - Ventilation and Face Coverings

“Good ventilation is now widely accepted as being key to preventing the spread of Covid” (Paul Whiteman, General Secretary of the NAHT, joint union press release, 17 August 2021)

The DfE have belatedly announced that they will be procuring £25million of CO2 monitors over the next term but, for now, few schools and colleges will have them in place. Even then, monitoring is only the start. Action then needs to be taken where poor ventilation is identified:

1.    Conduct an immediate audit of all classrooms and workspaces to assess the adequacy of ventilation and to set out the steps that can be taken to improve air flow in each case based on the HSE advice on ventilation & air conditioning during the Covid-19 pandemic.

2.    To assist this urgent risk assessment, rather than waiting solely for DfE promises, an initial supply of portable CO2 monitors should be purchased immediately by LAs/MATs.

3.    As was mandated for the start of term in Scotland, face coverings must similarly be worn by staff and students in secondary classrooms.

4.    Staff working in circumstances where there are particular risks, such as from children known to spit or bite, where children require intimate care or where staff may need to administer first aid, must be provided with appropriate PPE, including correctly graded face masks.

5.    Across all sectors, an assessment of other transmission risks, such as in corridors and communal areas, staffrooms, and at lunch and break times, should also be made, and steps taken to mitigate risks. Staff meetings should continue to be held online at present.

(2) - Isolation, Outbreaks and Contact Tracing

“[DfE guidance] appears to suggest that everyday contact in education settings …  is not going to be deemed close contact. This increases the risk that infections will go undetected, subsequently leading to more disruption and illness with the virus spreading more widely across schools”. (Letter from UNISON to Gavin Williamson, 18 August 2021)

If settings and employers only put in place the steps set out in the DfE’s latest operational guidance and contingency framework, Covid transmission will inevitably occur, leading to more disruption to education and infections amongst staff, students and our wider communities.

1.    The PHE guidance on actions to be taken by a ‘close contact’ should also be applied to unvaccinated young people who are below the age of 18 years 6 months in educational settings. They should NOT “continue to attend school as normal” as the DfE guidance advises but should “stay at home and self-isolate” as with other unvaccinated persons.

2.    Schools/Colleges should NOT rely only on a positive case or their parent to specifically identify close contacts as suggested in the DfE guidance. Instead, they should continue to identify close contacts on the following basis:

    anyone who lives in the same household as another person who has COVID-19 symptoms or has tested positive for COVID-19

    anyone who has had any of the following types of contact with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19:

o   face-to-face contact including being coughed on or having a face-to-face conversation within one metre

o   been within one metre for one minute or longer without face-to-face contact

o   been within 2 metres of someone for more than 15 minutes (either as a one-off contact, or added up together over one day)

    A person may also be a close contact if they have travelled in the same vehicle as a person who has tested positive for COVID-19.

3. Schools/Colleges SHOULD make plans to take “extra action if the number of positive cases substantially increases” as the DfE guidance suggests but SHOULD NOT wait for the DfE’s suggested thresholds – such as 10% of pupils and staff in a class – to do so. Those plans should include remote learning with funding to cover additional staffing/supply costs in order to manage the resulting workload. These are costs we must also all demand the DfE meets.

(3) - Staff and families at greatest risk

“School staff, some of whom will not be double vaccinated, or are in a vulnerable group, are also in some cases still at risk of serious illness”. (Joint Union letter to Gavin Williamson, 17 August 2021)

The absence of mitigations and the DfE’s reckless guidance will be causing real concern to staff and students who are at greater risk to serious illness, as well as to those who live with family members who face those risks too.

1.    Every member of staff who believes they, or a person they live with, are at a higher risk of illness from Covid-19 should be provided with an individual risk assessment.

2.    Individual risk assessments should list the protective measures that will be put in place to address those risks. These should include being able to work from home and funds should be set aside to cover for additional staffing/supply costs required to meet those needs.

3.    Schools/Colleges and employers should advocate the benefits to 16-17 year olds, as well as to adults, of getting vaccinated and drive for the widest uptake of vaccinations as possible.

4.    All children aged 12 to 15 years eligible for a vaccine – either those with a condition that means they’re at high risk or who live with someone who is more likely to get infections should be included in this drive too.

*Update: National NEU advice

After this post was published, offical joint union advice was issued on the NEU website - you can read it here.

I remain concerned that the advice lacks the firmness and clarity needed. For example, rather than clearly stating that unions are calling for face coverings to still be worn by staff and students in secondary classrooms, it only states that "secondary settings should ... urgently consider the case for continuing to require their wearing". It also fails to recommend that 'close contacts' isolate, as I have done above.

The joint union advice also links to some useful detailed guidance on ventilation and on individual risk assessments for those at higher risk.

Friday, 20 August 2021

Why union groups must insist that schools reduce Covid risk

Please also read further updated advice from 26 August on this blog here: 

We all want ‘normality’ but Covid risks are still far from ‘normal’

“We are heading into a new school year with infection rates 25 times higher, and hospitalisation rates 10 times higher, than this point last year and with most mitigations removed” (Letter from UNISON to Gavin Williamson, 18 August 2021)

Staff, school students, and their families understandably want the new academic year to be a return to ‘normality’ without the stress and disruption of the last eighteen months. But the transmissibility of the Delta variant, and the failure of Government to invest, means that sadly won’t be the case.

Just as in September 2020, we will be returning to the same poorly ventilated, closely packed classrooms operating throughout the day, prime conditions for spreading an airborne virus. Few young people have been vaccinated. Without mitigations in place, an acceleration of transmission in schools, and then back into school communities, is inevitable.

Relying on vaccinations alone is not a sufficient strategy

“Staff who are fully vaccinated are still at risk of catching the virus and potentially developing Long Covid, which is already afflicting tens of thousands of school staff” (Joint Union letter to Gavin Williamson, 17 August 2021)

Yes, vaccinations are certainly making a difference. They have helped make sure that hospitalisation and death rates are much lower than they would have been given our ongoing high infection rates. But protection is not guaranteed. A proportion of our diverse population will still suffer serious illness, especially those who have existing conditions that leave them at greater risk. 

Death and hospitalisation numbers have been rising since June. Even a small percentage of a large population of vaccinated adults - or unvaccinated children – still equates to significant numbers. These are risks that schools have a responsibility to assess – and then to seek to mitigate.

Insist on reducing risk (1) - Ventilation and Face Coverings

“Good ventilation is now widely accepted as being key to preventing the spread of Covid” (Paul Whiteman, General Secretary of the NAHT, joint union press release, 17 August 2021)

Education unions have called on the DfE to urgently invest in ventilation measures in our schools, just like education authorities in countries like Germany and the USA have already done. The DfE have since belatedly announced that they will be procuring £25million of CO2 monitors over the next term but, for now, few schools and colleges will have them in place. Even then, monitoring is only the start. Action then needs to be taken where poor ventilation is identified. 

Having correctly identified the risk, unions now need to insist schools act to protect against airborne transmission. If CO2 monitors and air filters are not in place, the simplest and most effective mitigation is the wearing of face coverings in classrooms. As US ventilation expert Professor Shelly Miller advises “universal masking without portable HEPA air cleaners will do more to slow the spread of Delta variant than portable HEPA air cleaners without universal masking”.

Insist on reducing risk (2) - Isolation, Outbreaks and Contact Tracing

“[DfE guidance] appears to suggest that everyday contact in education settings – even when sitting alongside a positive case – is not going to be deemed close contact. This increases the risk that infections will go undetected, subsequently leading to more disruption and illness with the virus spreading more widely across schools”. (Letter from UNISON to Gavin Williamson, 18 August 2021)

Everyone wants disruption to education to stop. But declaring that close contacts under 18½ don’t have to self-isolate won’t stop disruption. Nor will failing to carry out contact tracing in schools, and nor will waiting until 5 individuals in a class test positive for COVID-19 before taking any action. Yet this is exactly what the latest DfE guidance advises, without providing any scientific justification.

As Unison’s letter to Gavin Williamson correctly warns, following DfE guidance simply means that infections will go undetected and transmission will spread, leading to more disruption and illness.  But again, having correctly identified the risk, unions now need to insist schools have in place safe systems for isolation, contact tracing and, when necessary, staffing to support online learning.

Insist on reducing risk (3) - Staff and families at greatest risk

“School staff, some of whom will not be double vaccinated, or are in a vulnerable group, are also in some cases still at risk of serious illness”. (Joint Union letter to Gavin Williamson, 17 August 2021)

The absence of mitigations and the DfE’s reckless ‘schools COVID-19 operational guidance’ will be causing real concern to staff and students who are at greater risk to serious illness, as well as to those who live with family members who face those risks too. The guidance does at least state that “no pupil should be denied education on the grounds of whether they are, or are not, wearing a face covering” and certainly no school management should prevent the voluntary wearing of masks.

Unions have made clear throughout the pandemic that high risk or vulnerable staff have a right to an individual risk assessment and protective measures being put in place to address those risks, including being able to work from home. But individual union members can best be backed by the strength of the collective union group insisting on an overall risk assessment that protects both individuals at greater risk as well as the health, safety and welfare of staff and students as a whole.

Download this advice as an A4 double-sided document here.



Tuesday, 17 August 2021

Oppose the Pay Freeze - but with action, not just words

After all that educators have done throughout the pandemic, the ‘reward’ that we have received from this Government has been a pay freeze for teachers and a miserly 1.75% for support staff. When inflation is heading towards 4%, these are real-terms pay cuts.

If we fail to respond to this insult with action, we will only be inviting more attacks - like a lengthening of the school day and yet further cuts being made to school and college funding.

Letters and petitions are not enough. We need to learn the lessons of how we forced a U-turn over Covid safety - by using the collective strength of the whole union acting together.

That's why I say:

Download and share as a leaflet
BRING UNIONS TOGETHER in a joint campaign to defend pay and public services

ORGANISE at every level of the Union so we are ready to win A NATIONAL BALLOT 

SUBMIT A CLAIM FOR A NEW NATIONAL CONTRACT for all staff - with binding pay scales, no performance pay, legal limits on overall working hours and class sizes

FULLY FUND SCHOOLS to meet needs

Accepting these pay cuts will only invite further attacks

The Government left it to the very end of last term to confirm that their ‘thank-you’ for all of the exhausting work we carried out throughout the pandemic would be to impose a 0% pay freeze on teacher salaries. 

Support staff had already been offered just 1.75% and teachers in Wales 1.75% too. Even NHS staff have only been awarded 3%. With the Bank of England predicting inflation at 4% by the end of the year, these are all actually pay cuts. 

But this pay injustice should come as no surprise. The pay freeze was first announced last November. Ministers waited to see what response they would get from the NEU and other unions. They obviously concluded that they could get away with it. We need to prove them wrong!

We are facing a callous, conniving Government that, having looked after their friends during the pandemic, now wants school and college staff, and the communities we support, to foot the bill through cuts to our pay and conditions - and to the learning conditions for our students.

If they succeed with imposing pay cuts, Ministers will only gain in confidence to deal us another blow. They are already threatening to extend the school day, worsening our contracts and workload yet further.

Letters and petitions alone will have no real effect. Instead, we need to learn the lessons from last January when, faced with NEU members invoking their Section 44 Health and Safety rights union-wide, Boris Johnson was forced into a U-turn over his unsafe school opening plans.

That’s why I believe we now need to act with confidence and determination and prepare for national action.

Organise to win a national ballot

The NEU rightly stresses the importance of building workplace strength. Important victories have been won by individual school and college groups taking strike action over the last year. But when we face a national attack, as we do over pay, then winning at a workplace level is not enough. We need to organise together nationally.

Of course, the Government has deliberately put a significant hurdle in the way of unions by imposing a 50% postal ballot turnout threshold for industrial action to proceed. But, if the NEU is going to be able to defend educators and education, it has to overcome that barrier. The job of a union leadership is to work out a plan to make sure we can do so. I am standing as NEU Deputy General Secretary to provide such a lead.

Martin’s strategy to win

Immediately, we need to make clear to both Ministers and educators that we aren’t accepting this attack lying down. Meetings and rallies need to be organised to explain and to convince NEU members of the need to act. They should be backed up with campaign materials for colleagues - and for parents and the public too.

Locally and nationally, we need to bring colleagues together from other unions, including in the NHS, to build a co-ordinated campaign of action, starting with  setting a date for a national demo.

We need to organise meticulously at every level of the Union to put in place the steps needed to ensure we are ready to proceed with a successful ballot, learning from NEU groups and other unions who have successfully met the thresholds.

If we are going to build for national action, we should also widen our demands beyond just the pay award. We should submit a claim for a new National Contract for all staff that includes binding pay scales on all employers and an end to performance pay. But our working conditions are just as important - perhaps more so for many staff given levels of workload. Our claim should also include a call for legal limits on both class sizes and on overall working hours, not just on teachers’ ‘1265’ directed hours. 

Finally, for schools to be able to both pay us properly and employ sufficient staff to meet pupil needs, our action needs to be part of a campaign to reverse cuts and win the funding that our schools and colleges need.

#Martin4DGS - ZOOM MEETING

Turn words into action - Build for a national ballot

Sunday September 26th - 16.00

Meeting ID: 890 2272 9469


Monday, 9 August 2021

IPCC issues "Code Red" for Humanity. We need global planning, not politicians' hot air

Today, the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released its latest report confirming the disastrous damage that has already been done to the world's climate - and that the ongoing failure to seriously tackle global emissions means that the climate crisis is going to get worse.

Sadly, nothing in the Report should come as any surprise. But it is further evidence, if any is needed, that tackling climate change needs more than politicians' hot air, it requires rapid action to cooperatively plan global resources. As a socialist, I believe that means taking those resources out of the hands of big business who, in their drive for short-term profit, will never be able to act globally in the long-term interests of humanity.

Climate change was one of the topics I was asked to discuss as a guest on Nottingham's local Radio Dawn last week - here's what I had to say:

Saturday, 31 July 2021

Schools and Covid: Government needs to act to reduce risk, not ignore it.

The summer school holidays are providing a much needed break for staff and students alike from the stressful conditions of teaching and learning in the midst of a pandemic. The fact that school communities, not least unvaccinated young people, are no longer closely mixing in poorly ventilated classroom spaces, is also likely to be a significant factor in the drop in reported Covid cases over the last fortnight. 

But the current prevalence of the Covid virus, even without any new variants developing, remains a serious threat to health. While vaccination of much of the UK's older population has certainly helped reduce the risk of death, a proportion of a diverse population will inevitably still face hospitalisation, particularly those who have existing conditions that leave them at greater risk. Many more again will join the hundreds of thousands already reported in the Government's own data as suffering from the debilitating effects of "Long Covid" many months after their likely date of original infection.

A Government that was serious about protecting communities, and to stop the disruption to lives and livelihoods caused when outbreaks occur, would be taking the opportunity offered by the school holidays to make sure measures were in place to reduce the airborne spread of the virus in schools at the start of the new academic year. 

For example, they could be following the example of New York, where "to help curb the spread of COVID, all 56,000 New York City public school classrooms will be equipped with two air purifiers by September" ... "In addition, custodians have been given monitors to measure carbon dioxide levels, an indicator of how much fresh air is circulating". They could also extend the vaccination program to children over 12, for whom the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine has been authorised for use.

Instead of acting to reduce risk, the Conservative Government is removing what limited mitigations have been in place in schools. In May, they removed the requirement for face coverings in secondary classrooms. They have now said that there will no longer be any requirement to teach pupils in consistent 'bubbles', and that pupils will no longer be required to self-isolate if they are 'close contacts' of a positive COVID-19 case. 

Of course, especially when the levels of infections and school outbreaks were as high as they were at the end of last term, isolation requirements have severely disrupted education. However, the steps taken by schools will also have helped contribute to the fall in infection rates now being seen:

Slide taken from independent SAGE weekly update, 30.07.21

Removing isolation requirements alongside other protective steps in schools won't prevent disruption to education when outbreaks inevitably occur. Instead, they risk making those outbreaks more likely, accelerating the spread of infection, and put at risk the falls in infection rates that will hopefully be sustained over the summer. These rash steps will also endanger the health of students, staff and the wider school community, particularly those medically at the greatest risk.

Instead of demanding Ministers invest in ventilation measures in our schools, or exposing their failure to provide workers with full pay when they have to isolate, or the ongoing lack of  properly functioning community test-and-trace schemes, sadly Labour leader Keir Starmer seems more interested in criticising Ministers for not acting fast enough to remove measures that can help protect against Covid transmission.

Once again, the responsibility will fall on school unions to use our collective strength to defend health and safety. We will need to insist that risk assessments are in place that ensure a safe environment for staff and the students we teach. If those steps are not in place then, once again, unions must advise members accordingly not to work in an unsafe environment.

Why the risks are far from over - iSAGE 30.07.21

As an addendum to my post, I am posting some of the key slides taken from the analysis from this week's briefing  by Professor Christina Pagel on behalf of independent SAGE:

1) Yes, vaccination has made a massive difference:

2) But we are still far from having a fully vaccinated population, especially when around 20% of the population are children:

3) Vaccination greatly reduces the risk of death and hospitalisation - but doesn't eliminate the risk entirely:


4) Encouragingly, the reported numbers of cases is falling - with one cause of the more prolonged decline in Scotland likely to be their earlier start to the school holidays:


5) However, although this PCR based survey can show a lag behind reported infections, the latest ONS Infection Survey does not yet confirm any overall decline in England, with rates still rising amongst younger unvaccinated age groups in particular:


6) Another factor in increasing rates in June/July may have been mixing - particularly of young men - during the Euros:


7) There is a danger that the further lifting of restrictions may cut across the gains made from schools being on holiday. However, surveys show that most people are cautious and appreciate that risks remain. It is Government failures that are to blame, not the public:



UPDATE: I was able to make many of these points - and more besides (!) - as a guest on this week's "Safe Education for All" broadcast on 'Socialist Telly'. Have a look here:




Sunday, 25 July 2021

Prepare for action to oppose the pay freeze!

Here is the video statement that I released on my Martin4DGS campaign Facebook page, immediately after the STRB confirmed a pay freeze was to be imposed on teachers for 2021/22 (with a paltry 1.5% award already separately imposed on support staff). You can watch it here on YouTube.



The school teachers' review body (STRB) report was finally released, predictably late at the end of term, and predictably inflicting a pay freeze on the vast majority of school teachers.

And we knew that was coming. Because the government has made absolutely clear that it wants us to pay for the crisis that it has created. This is despite all the work we have done throughout the pandemic, alongside our colleagues in the rest of the public and private sector.

And so the NEU's press release is absolutely correct to say that it is unacceptable to be imposing a pay freeze. When inflation is rising, it is, in reality, a pay cut. But it's going to need more than a press release to stop these kinds of attacks.

We need to learn the lessons of how we forced the prime minister into a U-turn over Covid-related health and safety, and that's by using our collective strength and using it nationally.

That's why in November, when the pay freeze was first mooted, I called for unions to call a joint conference to put together a plan of action, of meetings, rallies, demonstrations and industrial action, to oppose the attacks that were coming on pay.

In the hustings for the NEU deputy general secretary election similarly I've consistently explained that we need to organise that kind of a plan. To go out to inspire and explain to our members the action that's going to need to be taken. To make sure that we put in place the steps that can help us to meet the ballot thresholds, with addresses being checked, so that we can return those ballot papers with the maximum turnout that we can.

And I've also said that we need to produce materials for parents and the public to explain why, when the review body says that already a fifth of teachers are leaving the job within the first two years, a third within the first five years, a pay freeze like this will make things even worse and create even more instability in the classroom.

But some of my opponents say: the problem is that Martin underestimates the difficulties ahead of us. He thinks we can win a national ballot very easily. Well actually no, the opposite is the case. I know the hard work that is required to win a national ballot and that's why I'm so frustrated that the preparations haven't been done.

And we cannot delay now. The preparations have to be made so that we can defeat the pay cuts and win the demands that we also have to get rid of performance-related pay; and also to win on workload, a limit on overall hours - all things that are covered by the remit of the STRB and the School Teachers' Pay and Conditions Document.

And last but not least, we also need urgently to bring the unions together to work out a joint plan of action so that we can work together to defend our conditions and our pay and also defend the services that we work in. Let's get on with it, let's not delay.

Martin Powell-Davies, candidate for National Education Union Deputy General Secretary - 21 July 2021