Recruitment advice

Having recruitment conversations. 

When and where to recruit

You can recruit members at any time of year but start of the academic year is when most NEU recruitment activity takes place.

You may have new ECTs (England), NQTs (Wales) or new trainees on school-based courses like School Direct or Teach First starting in your workplace. There may be other new starters too; experienced staff who’ve moved to your workplace from another.

Just talking to your colleagues is an important part of making yourself visible as a union rep and letting people know how to join the union. Posters for your staff noticeboard and membership forms are sent to all NEU workplaces in September and January each year so keep an eye out for these. If you don’t have posters for your noticeboard and there’s no rep in your school, you can contact your district to request noticeboard materials.

If you meet new colleagues in the staff room, on INSET days, or at staff social events, don’t forget to ask them if they’ve joined the union yet.

Getting started

If you’ve never recruited someone to the union before, it can feel a bit daunting opening up a conversation about joining. Even if it feels awkward at first, remember that it gets easier having these conversations with practice.

Talking to people about joining shouldn’t be difficult though. Think about why you joined. What do you value about the union? If you know why you joined then you already know how to talk to a potential member about joining. You can tell them:

Who we are and what we do

It’s important not to make any assumptions about what people know already. If someone doesn’t really know what the NEU is or what we do, that’s fine. You don’t need to be an expert on the history of the trade union movement. You just need to be able to clearly explain what the NEU is and what it does. You might want to explain that the NEU is the largest education union in the UK.

What tangible benefits they get out of membership

Talk about a few benefits of joining. Members benefit from being able to address workplace issues collectively as well as getting workplace representation if they have a problem at work. There is also a free AdviceLine for members, legal representation, and free insurance if they are injured at work or if their property is damaged or stolen at work. The NEU’s national professional development programme with short webinars and longer CPD courses is also an important benefit.

What it costs

You don’t need to know all the different membership rates. You can simply point them to the join pages to find out how much they’ll pay. It’s worth remembering that it’s free for students or trainees to join and it’s only £1 for members in their first year after qualifying to teach. There are different rates for standard, support, leadership, retired, and associate members.

That it’s normal to join

The NEU is the biggest education union in the country and the education sector has one of the largest trade union memberships in the UK. Reassure them that joining the NEU is not an unusual thing to do – it will not mark them out as a troublemaker.

That it’s easy to join

There’s nothing to stop someone from joining straight away. Even if you don’t have any membership forms to hand, you can point them to to sign up online. Joining for trainee teachers is even quicker.

How to deal with objections to joining

When you’re asking people to join, you’re likely to come across lots of reasons for not joining. Some of these are based on common misconceptions so it’s worth thinking about how you might deal with these objections.

“Unions go on strike all the time”

This isn’t true. Even at times when there is a lot of media coverage of industrial unrest and strikes, the reality is that these are still unusual occurrences, and it is rare to be balloted on strike action. Strike action is a last resort for unions, and it is the members who decide whether or not to vote for industrial action. Legislation governing industrial action means the threshold to call a strike is extremely high.

“I can’t afford it”

NEU benchmarks its membership fees against other unions every year and affordability of the rates is a key consideration for the Executive when they set the fees. Many people would say you can’t afford not to be in a union because the protection and support offered is so important in a profession like teaching. Part time rates are available as well as subs holidays for members on maternity leave.

“Everyone is happy here”

That’s great but even in a happy workplace, there are often issues with workload and pay. It’s also worth remembering that things can change quickly in any workplace, even a happy one. If a new manager decides to change working practices or takes against a member of staff, the workplace may not feel so happy. Or if a parent makes a complaint against a member of staff, they will want the support of a rep. The NEU cannot help members with issues that pre-date them joining the union so you cannot afford to wait until you have a problem to join.

“I’m not interested in politics”

The NEU is not affiliated to any political party and members may hold a range of political views or simply not see themselves as political. If you are interested in some of the issues that the NEU campaigns on – be it child poverty, school funding, or teacher workload – there are lots of opportunities to get involved but you don’t have to.

“I’m scared to put my head above the parapet”

There’s no reason to be scared. Education is one of the most unionised sectors in the UK. There are likely to be many members in your workplace. Your senior leadership team may also be members of the NEU. Union members are protected in law from being treated unfavourably because of their union affiliation. It’s also worth remembering that you don’t have to put your head above the parapet – your employer does not know who is a member of the union and who is not.



The NEU’s strength comes from having a strong, active, and engaged membership in workplaces up and down the country. No union can exist without its members. And no union can take its membership for granted.

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Who can join the NEU?

The NEU is a union for all education professionals so everyone in your workplace is welcome to join.

NEU2280 Join us leaflet

Recruitment materials

Order all trainee and general recruitment materials including application forms, flyers and posters, along with recruitment publications for leaders and educational professionals

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Reps’ guide to recruitment

This guide covers everything you need to know to recruit new members – from how to have recruitment conversations, to ordering recruitment materials for your noticeboard.

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