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A Tyneside teacher is to take over the helm at the biggest union representing teachers in the UK.

Phil Kemp will today become National President of NASUWT – The Teachers’ Union.

He said: “It is truly an honour and a privilege to have been elected to be President of this great Trade Union that has represented our fantastic profession for over 100 years.”

Phil lives and works in North Tyneside managing a successful programme of alternative provision for Key Stage 4 children who have been or are in danger of being excluded from mainstream education.

Born in Darlington and raised in Newton Aycliffe and then later in Richmond, North Yorks Phil said teachers in the North East and across the UK had been “tested to the full” in the last year during the Covid-19 pandemic but have gone “way beyond what would be expected” and adapted to give the very best possible education for the nation’s children.

The 57-year-old is passionate about education and its ability to help people change their life circumstances, particularly young people from disadvantaged backgrounds and communities: “I think the people in society who can make the biggest difference when it is done well are teachers. If you want to make a real difference to people’s lives then become a teacher.” 

He said he first realised he wanted to work with more challenging children when he started working as a teacher at the then West Denton High School in Newcastle. 

He said: “I straight away realised that my interest was in those students who are very much disengaged with education, those more challenging youngsters.”

He then went on to work in Northumberland and later ran the exclusion unit at Churchill Community College in North Tyneside.

After working there for nearly a decade the local authority wanted to build on that provision across the authority and since 2010

Phil has ran the key stage 4 alternative curriculum provision programme for North Tyneside.

Describing his work he said: “ The key thing is around that mutual respect relationship. I think it’s that fine balance between being supportive and caring but also quite forthright with the need for them to engage in what they are doing. 

“The skill of dealing with these youngsters is understanding where that balance for each child is. It’s all to do with relationships. I think you have to have a particular interest and a particular personality to be successful, it is one of those jobs you either love or hate.”

Phil has a deep sense of the importance of trade unions and particularly the NASUWT coming as he does from the North East: “I come from a region that is immersed in trade union history and I always wanted to be a member of a trade union.” 

He first became an NASUWT school rep in North Tyneside at Langdale Middle School and was later a Secretary for North Tyneside and then National Executive Member before being elected NASUWT Junior Vice President two years ago.

On teachers adapting to Covid-10 and new ways of working he said: “Our members have quickly adapted to a digital age of delivering remote learning, on-line learning, and blended learning whilst keeping schools open to varying degrees. 

“We have had a very intensive period as a profession during the pandemic. But we have also been so nimble as a profession to adapt to do the very best that is possible for our children.”

“The profession has been tested to the full with the NASUWT firmly by its side, never flinching from taking the measured and professional approach our members expect. 

“Our great Union has emerged as the only real and credible option to support the teaching profession into this potentially uncertain future.”

In some areas of the North East and other parts of the country schools were not embedded within their communities but within their Multi Academy Trust, which often meant it had different priorities which could be detrimental to the community the school served, he claimed.

“This is probably the biggest and outrageous change that is a detriment to the education of children and young people.

“A lot of the schools now in the North East and across the country, their allegiance could be said not to be to the local community but instead to a disparate regional or national organisation that is far removed from the local community. I sometimes wonder how those schools in those structures can serve their communities appropriately.

“So what you end up with is a corporate ethos and that might come from the leafy suburbs and may have no bearing on what might be a council estate in the North of England or anywhere in the country. 

“I am not saying that is the case in all schools but I can see it happening more and more and schools are often not working collaboratively in a particular areas anymore.

NASUWT General Secretary Dr Patrick Roach said:

“Phil’s experience in teaching and a career spent working with young people will make him an excellent and effective national champion of the cause of teachers and headteachers during what will be a very challenging year for the profession.”


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