The NASUWT is a TUC-affiliated trade union representing teachers, including headteachers, throughout the United Kingdom.
The early years 1919–1976; breakaway and the formation of a new union
The origins of the NASUWT can be traced back to the formation of the National Association of Men Teachers (NAMT) in 1919, which formed as a group within the National Union of Teachers (NUT) to promote the interests of male teachers . The formation of the NAMT was in response to an NUT referendum the same year, approving the principle of equal pay for women.
The NAMT continued its campaign to further the interests of male teachers, changing its name in 1920 to the National Association of Schoolmasters (NAS). In 1922 the NAS broke away from the NUT and established it own organisation . The secession came about indirectly following a decision at the NAS Conference that year, to prohibit NAS members from continuing to also be members of the NUT after the 31 December 1922.
The NAS aimed to recruit every schoolmaster into the NAS, to safeguard and promote the interests of male teachers, to ensure recognition of the social and economic responsibilities of male teachers, and to ensure the representation of schoolmasters on matters concerned with education, with both the Local Education Authorities (LEA’s) and Government. The NAS also maintained that all boys over the age of seven should be taught mainly by men and that schoolmasters should not serve under women heads.
As the secondary education sector expanded, the NAS built its organisation among male secondary teachers, it adopted the methods of collective bargaining and militant industrial action in pursuing a narrow range of pay and conditions issues related to the interests of full-time male 'career teachers'.
By the 1960s, the union was still opposed to admitting women as members, but it was concerned that the unions open to women teachers were all hostile to its objectives. As a result, it encouraged the formation of the Union of Women Teachers (UWT).
In 1976 the NAS merged with the Union of Women Teachers (UWT) and the Scottish Schoolmasters' Association (SSA). The merger was largely a consequence of the Sex Discrimination Act 1975, which made it unlawful to exclude from membership on grounds of gender. It then became the National Association of Schoolmasters/Union of Women Teachers (NAS/UWT). The 'slash' separating the two sections of the union was later dropped and the name usually appeared subtitled 'The Career Teachers Union' – a reference to the life long commitment of the 'career' classroom teacher.
Although from many years the union had officially registered its name with the Certification Office for Trade Unions and Employers Associations as the NASUWT, it is only since 2015 that the union has adopted its name in the short form using only the initials NASUWT and subtitled 'The Teachers' Union'. The change reflected that 84 per cent of its members were now women and it was effectively able to remove from its name the now archaic term 'schoolmasters'.
Industrial relations, bargaining and strikes
The union as the National Association of Schoolmasters (NAS) with 21,000 members attempt to seek representation in national pay negotiations known as the Burnham Committee was rejected in 1960. The Burnham Committees however were dominated by representatives of the much larger National Union of Teachers (NUT) with a membership of 201,000.
However following a series of strikes and rallies the NAS achieved recognition for national pay bargaining on the Burnham Committees in 1962. Despite a successful campaign, the NUT continued to hold the majority of seats. In 1969 for instance, the NUT had 15 members on the Teachers’ Panel, with the NAS holding the 2 seats it achieved on joining the Committee in 1962. The NUT general secretary also held the joint secretaryship of the main Burnham Committees and the leadership of their Teachers' Panels for most of their existence.
By the mid 1980s, the pay rises for teachers of the previous decade had been considerably eroded by inflation In February, 1985 the NASUWT along with other teaching unions withdrew 'goodwill' in pursuit of higher pay. Members refused to supervise at lunchtimes, attend meetings with parents outside school hours, or cover for absent colleagues. The dispute escalated and a series of strikes followed for a period of the next two years.
By 1987 the divisions over strategy with other unions, notably the NUT, brought the dispute to an end. The result was the 1987 Teachers' Pay and Conditions Act, which abolished the national pay negotiations and replaced them with an Interim Advisory Committee on School Teachers' Pay and Conditions, on which the unions had no representation. This was in turn replaced in 1991 by The School Teachers’ Review Body (STRB). An independent body to examine and report on such matters relating to the statutory conditions of employment of school teachers in England and Wales.
Social partnership and work force reform
From 2003 to 2010 the NASUWT was involved in "social partnership" – a programme of meetings between union leaders, the Labour government and employers' organisations. The meetings were initially to discuss pay and workforce issues but developed into a forum for broader discussion on policy proposals. The National Union of Teachers chose not to participate in social partnership. The NASUWT argues that social partnership brought about benefits to teachers' terms and conditions through the "National Agreement – Raising Standards, Tackling Workload", especially the introduction of defined planning and assessment time for all teachers.
Social partnership was confined to the Labour government, and did not continue after the establishment of the Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition in 2010. Instead, the union lodged a formal trade dispute with the government over workload, conditions of service, pensions, and jobs. In November 2011, members of the NASUWT voted by a 4-to-1 margin (on a 39% turnout) to take strike action, and begin working to the letter of their contracts. The NASUWT set aside historical differences with the National Union of Teachers; a joint declaration in May 2012 led to a co-ordinated work-to-rule and strike action in autumn 2013.
The NASUWT has initiated a number of influential campaigns in recent years, including a campaign leading to the abolition of a code of conduct proposed by the General Teaching Council, a campaign recognising the effects of cyberbullying, a campaign to preserve the anonymity of teachers from malicious or false allegations, and a campaign to bar members of the British National Party from the teaching profession.
After 2010, the union joined campaigns against the coalition government. It asserted that "the Education Act 2011 heralded the break-up of the entire state education service" and subsequently lobbied under the slogan "Reclaim the promise", harking back to the Education Act 1944. NASUWT encouraged its members to join marches sponsored by the TUC, and participated in the Robin Hood tax campaign.