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Delegates at the NASUWT’s Annual Conference were told they were “the last best hope on the planet” to continue to deliver high-quality, free education to their pupils.
David Edwards, General Secretary of Education International, said that the values and ideas of the NASUWT along with other education unions was crucial in a rapidly changing world.
Teachers and trade unions had to “absolutely defend” their core values, often in the face of threats from governments and also multinational corporations, Mr Edwards said.
The former High School languages teacher from Pensylvania had chosen the NASUWT Conference as the setting for his first major international speech since becoming General Secretary in March.
Education International is the federation of 32.5 million teachers and other education staff affiliated with education unions and associations, including NASUWT, in 173 countries across the globe.
In an inspiring and confident message to a packed conference hall in Birmingham, Mr Edwards told his audience they had “solidarity in your core, in your blood”.
He said in the world of Presidents Vladimir Putin, Donald Trump, Recep Erdoğan of Turkey and others, unions have to “assert our rights, not just defend them”.
He said: “We have to assert our rights not just defend them. We have to push for the rights of our students, our communities, the vulnerable. And we have to lead. We have to lead with our ideas and our convictions and we have to lead with our actions.
“We have to be close to our members and you are close to your members. There is no alternative than that.
“You must be where they are that, you must be listening to them as you know and you must be organising and bargaining and negotiating and fighting for them as they feel the distress and the burnout and all the bureaucratic things this administration is putting on them. You need to be with them right now.
“But we also need to be able to communicate to our members, our analysis of what is happening. It is very easy and very dangerous because of all the noise and all theTrump and all the other stuff that is out there for people to tune out.”
Mr Edwards praised the NASUWT for its international work and its support and solidarity in particular for unions and civil and human rights organisations in its priority countries of Burma/Mynamar, Colombia, Iraq, Zimbabwe and Bahrain.
He said: “Part of what you have to do is get the rest of the world caring as much as you do. That is part of why we need you in EI, because you care so much.”
And he stressed that in the current climate there were certain imperatives unions, including the NASUWT had to hold true to.
He said: “We have to absolutely defend our core values now more than ever we have to defend our values.”
Mr Edwards said EI had fought and won a battle with multinational corporations who he said only saw education as a means of selling services to governments and setting up chains of low-fee schools which could charge the poorest in societies to access education.
He said: “The companies and corporations would very much like to privatise what we do – at same time as EI was pushing for the right to a free, inclusive quality education for every child, which we got, they were pushing for something called learning, not education.
“They wanted more testing – instead of more kids having access to school they wanted an indicator of words per minute. That somehow the entire planet was going to agree that the indicator of our success is how fast a seven year old can read.
“They also had the assessment system to track it – they had the tests to sell to governments and they also had the teacher training modules and protocols and a whole monitoring regime.
“That was their vision, their ideas were so bankrupt but their coffers were so full. But we won that one based on our values, based on our assertion of rights and based on our ideas.”
Mr Edwards referred to a recent meeting of the International Summit on the Teaching Profession. He said UK teachers work “far more hours than any of your colleagues in any of the other countries”.
But he said that even even in the face of “really compelling evidence” the ideologies that underpinned an “anti-teacher, anti-union view of the world” was strong.
He added: “In order to lead, in order to make a difference in the world we need to resist the urge to only look inwardly. We must understand that to make a world of difference in a different world we must build local, national and global solidarity.”
And he concluded with an uplifting message to the delegates in the hall, telling them: “We must know what is happening in the broader world because we are out in the broader world, we are part of the broader world. The broader world is part of our classrooms, it is part of who we are, it is part of who are students are and what our identity is.
“I know that is something I need to tell NASUWT. You have solidarity in your core, in your blood but it is absolutely what is going to help us win. Solidarity doesn’t have a pricepoint.
“I am humbled and honoured to represent you globally. On behalf of the 32.5 million teachers around the world who stand with you in this struggle as you stand with them, thankyou very much.”


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