Tim Dutchman, 1st June 2018

NUT18: A report on the Presidential Address at the Annual Conference (NUT Section) 2018

Appropriately enough, given our venue by the seaside, Kiri Tunks' speech had a theme running through it like the wording in a stick of rock; teaching, building, fighting.

The theme was illustrated first through her family background, then her experiences as a teacher and union activist and finally the international work of the NUT.

Kiri described the struggles of her parents, her Mum as a teacher and union activist. She reminded Conference about the injustices her Mum fought that existed in many of our lifetimes; women not being allowed to wear trousers to work or being unable to get a loan without the permission of her husband. Her Mum's example inspired Kiri to fight when she, in her turn, became a teacher. She fought for a wide and inclusive curriculum against those who thought the arts, pastoral care, critical thinking and so much else we recognise as part of an education were and still are derided as fluffy learning.

She spoke about the inspiration provided by her Dad, his persistence in taking the test to drive double decker buses. He was turned down because he had a beard so he turned to the union. The union secured him a test and, when he failed, got him a second test. So, if Mum inspired Kiri to be a teacher, Dad inspired her to be a builder which requires persistence. Referencing the work of international solidarity done by the NUT Kiri used the Arabic word sumud which means persistence or steadfastness. If this can be shown by our comrades in Palestine and other parts of the world we need to practise the same quality in our battles over workload, pay, funding and all the other challenges we face. Kiri's speech emphasised that we have and must continue to fight on many fronts whether it be for the rights of women within the profession, against prejudice in all its guises and in solidarity with teachers around the world.

Bringing these strands together she insisted that we have a duty to teach by example and that being a trade unionist and standing up for justice is the best role model to give our young people. She insisted on a better world and that it is possible if we teach, build and fight.


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