Reps should regularly bring members together to discuss and take forward employment, policy and professional matters of common concern. All National Education Union members are entitled to attend these workplace meetings.
However there may be situations when it might not be appropriate for all NEU members to attend all parts of a meeting, perhaps because of the content or the power relationships within the workplace. This guidance aims to assist reps in planning both in-person and remote member meetings.
Reps should provide members with a brief agenda prior to the meeting so members are aware of what is being discussed and can excuse themselves if it is not something they wish to be party to. For example, a member of SLT may choose not to attend a meeting where the student behaviour policy they wrote is to be discussed, both for their own comfort and to ensure that other members feel able to speak freely.
Reps should make sure all members are aware that union meetings are closed meetings where members can speak freely without fear discussions will be relayed back to management. If a collective union position is agreed which needs to be relayed to management this will done by the NEU rep.
NEU meetings should be an inclusive space where all members feel comfortable to express their views. Reps should consider establishing an agreed set of rules for meetings to help give a clear message on expected behaviours. Additionally the NEU behaviour statement applies to all NEU meetings. Good chairing of meetings is important to facilitate participation and to encourage relevant and concise contributions.
Members in leadership positions should be mindful of their position when making contributions and be aware that some members may be less willing to challenge them given their seniority in the structure.
Splitting the meeting
Although every workplace is different there are often members who do not feel comfortable speaking honestly on some matters in front of those in a position of authority within the school. Therefore it may be appropriate to arrange the agenda items, so that there is time for teacher/support staff members to discuss issues without leadership members present.
Likewise there may be issues that leadership members would prefer not to discuss in front of teacher/support staff members. In these circumstances, reps may wish to offer leadership members an additional meeting of their own.
If a vote is taken on a collective position in a part of the meeting where leadership members are not present reps should ensure said members have an opportunity to have a say and vote via alternative means.
Many reps now utilise virtual spaces such as WhatsApp for member discussion in addition to meetings. Expectations regarding confidentiality and behaviour should apply in much the same way as they do for union meetings. Equally, reps should consider providing separate spaces for leadership and standard members in addition to a shared spaces. Read our full guide on the effective use of WhatsApp for union communications.
If you require further advice about including Leadership members in member meetings please contact your local NEU Branch/District.