The NASUWT is proud to announce that an Oxfordshire citizenship teacher has been inaugurated as the first black National President of the NASUWT.
Michelle Codrington-Rogers, who teaches at The Cherwell School in Oxford, officially took over as President during the NASUWT Annual Conference, which was held on 10 April.
The 42-year-old said she was “truly honoured” to become President and proud to be representing teachers working on the frontline of the coronavirus crisis.
She said that separate to the current coronavirus emergency, society had to look at how it treated children and teachers and not lose sight of what education was for.
“For me education is about empowering the next generation to be able to see how we can make the world better. It is about how we move forward as a society and as a species,” she said.
Despite their fears about working on the frontline during the coronavirus emergency, teachers are “facing the storm together” as they work to provide the best possible education for children and young people, she added.
And she said teachers were making sure they were “providing a calm port in the storm for millions of children” across the UK.
Praise for teachers during coronavirus crisis
As she begins her year as President the 42-year-old praised the professionalism of teachers and said the profession across the globe was responding to the crisis, sharing experiences and resources and developing new skills.
She said: “At the start of the academic year there was absolutely no way we could have predicted the coming of a global pandemic that would impact on every aspect of our lives.
“This situation has affected us all as professionals as individuals and as members of a wider society. Within a few weeks, we have become acutely aware of the role we play as individuals that will impact on the lives of others.”
Teachers had their own fears and like everyone else many would be impacted by the spread of the virus and the toll it took on their families.
But despite this she said: “We will make sure that the children and young people we teach are given as much a sense of ‘normal’ as possible. This time has been a true testament to the professionalism of teachers.
“We kept calm and carried on, providing a calm port in the storm for millions of children across England, Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland, the Channel Islands, Gibraltar and the Isle of Man.
“It is us as NQTs, subject leaders, form tutors, school leaders, classroom teachers and pastoral support who made sure both our vulnerable and gifted children were able to focus on something other than the unknown.”
Teachers had stepped up to the challenge of providing learning for vulnerable children and the children of key workers in school, while setting programmes of work and providing support and encouragement for children at home.
She said: “We upskilled with exceptional speed the tools needed to engage with the on-line learning community, using unfamiliar resources and developing new skills quickly, professionally and collegiately.
“But we knew we weren’t on our own as we saw colleagues from across the world sharing their experiences and resources in ways we have never seen before. We are part of a global profession and I have never been prouder to be able to say I am a teacher.”
She said that teachers would always rise to the challenge and had a “level of resourcefulness and resilience that comes from being treated and respected as a profession built on trust.”
And speaking directly to NASUWT members she said: “As we move into the uncertain times, I hope you, like me, will be proud to be a part of a union that works 24 hours to support us in whichever setting we find ourselves in.
“I am proud to be part of a union that keeps us informed, that continues to speak truth to power, represents our members and protects our rights. But most importantly, I am proud to be one of the members that makes NASUWT the best and only UK-wide union for teachers. We can face this storm together and will come out the other side, and stronger.”
Ms Codrington-Rogers, whose parents hail from the Caribbean island of St Vincent got into teaching citizenship in part due to her love of media, film, and gender and identity politics, which she had studied at university. She completed her PGCE at the University of Leicester.
The Cherwell School where she has taught in the 15 years since she qualified places a lot of emphasis on the subject, making it a compulsory subject for pupils in Year 9 and 10 and at GCSE level.
She said: “Our school has a reputation for being free-thinking, we are one of the few secondary schools in Oxfordshire that doesn’t have a uniform.
“We are liberal in the positive sense and we don’t put restrictions on the children when it comes to expressing their thoughts and opinions. We are a diverse school and we want the children to challenge us in terms of ideas as well as challenging themselves.”
'Command and control'
In her role as a senior officer in the NASUWT Michelle said she had seen how in some schools though there was too much of what she called a business model being imposed, to the detriment of teachers and their pupils.
She said: “There is too much command and control in some schools, they are not businesses, we are not churning out sausages and we have to resist this model creeping in to too much of our education system. The only way to resist this is as a collegiate teaching force.
She said the creation of a “premier league, football manager” situation whereby head teachers were pressurised and often removed if they fell foul of Ofsted could mean senior leaders then pressurising teachers and harming education.
“The heads take all the pressure and they can disseminate that pressure because of the system. The best schools are that isn’t happening.”
And she warned that teachers were too often taking on the role of police officer, social worker, counsellor, nurse, and carer as well.
She added: “Education has to be shaped by those of us who work in it. We can’t be made to pick up and fill the gaps of every failure in society.
“If we are being expected to reduce to children to data and numbers on a page, when children are talked about in a homogenous way, where they are expected to be sausages, that goes against everything teaching is about.”
Teachers deal with societal fallout
Ms Codrington-Rogers said she had concerns for teachers to continue to have the ability to deliver a high-quality education when they are dealing with the fallout more widely in society.
“For me it is a case of no two children are the same. We have to take into account where they are coming from. I am deeply concerned about where are young people do not feel safe. It seems that it’s getting easier for the government to blame children and schools.
“If our children don’t feel valued in who they are and where they have come from and where their communities have come from then how can we get them to take pride in that and see they do matter and are valued.”
She was concerned there had been an “artificial divide” created in too many schools between teachers and senior management, despite the fact the majority of school leaders came into teaching because they had a love of teaching and the classroom and seeing their pupils learn.
She said: “We have to recognise at the end of the day we are all teachers and we have to find that way of connecting with each other.
“We have to work out how to bring back the collegiate approach where we are working together for the best interests of our students.”
Become a school rep to make a difference
And she urged NASUWT members to consider being a school rep or at least the contact in their school, stressing that being active in the union shouldn’t be seen “as a negative” by schools.
The best leaders recognised the value of a good relationship with the NASUWT and of a school workforce recognised as professionals.
“Every single meeting you go to where you argue on behalf of the wider teaching group, every time you write a consultation response, every time you speak up in a meeting, you are having a direct impact on the lives of your colleagues.
“This feeds into your work as a teacher. Every time you negotiate a pay increase for teachers in your area, you are helping improve their lives.
“So whether it’s big or small, coming to a Consultation Conference, or sitting on an advisory board, you are having an impact in the lives of teachers."