It is important to be sensitive to the strength of feeling about the transfer to a new employer. Some school or college groups will have opposed the transfer very actively. Others may have been less vocal or even ambivalent. Below are some general points to be aware of depending upon circumstances.
Meeting with members who are opposed to academy status
When meeting with members who are opposed to academy status but where the governing board has nevertheless resolved to pursue academy status or the school is threatened with becoming a forced academy it is important that representatives are sensitive to the confidence of the school or college group. You may wish to contact your branch secretary for assistance.
- It may be necessary to re-motivate members; this is especially true if they ran an active campaign against academy status and feel deflated. It is crucial that members still see the sense in acting collectively.
- Give some time to addressing the concerns members have. The union group will need to reposition itself to engage in the next stages of the process constructively and to ensure they get the best out of the situation.
- Use any set-backs as an opportunity to re-shape union activity. It needs to be reinforced that a strong active union group is the only mechanism to ensure teachers' voices are heard within the new academy. Ask people to get more involved, and agree diary dates for future union meetings.
If your school governing board is consulting on whether to convert as well as consulting on the implications of a transfer, then your school group, with the support of your division secretary, may be able to extract concessions out of management during this period.
Meetings with members who support or are less opposed to academy status
When meeting with these members, the issue of the NEU's principled objection to academies cannot be avoided. It is vital to explain that whilst we are opposed to academy status for schools because of the fragmentation of the education system that it brings, we nevertheless remain committed to supporting all NEU members, including those who work in academies.
Explain that the working environment and culture in schools that become academies often changes, and that it is important for the union group to:
- Meet regularly to ensure teachers' voices are heard in the new academy,
- act together to ensure members' voices are listened to during and after the transition, and
- act together to ensure that agreed terms and conditions are adhered to as the school or college moves forward through the TUPE process.