Why recruitment matters
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.
Joining a union is not automatic. Many people have never joined a union simply because they’ve never been asked. They may not even really know what a union is. That’s why we need you – a valued NEU rep – to tell them what the NEU is and to ask them to join.
The NEU is not the only union available to education professionals so we cannot afford to assume that people will simply join us when they enter the profession. If you don’t ask new starters in your workplace to join at the earliest opportunity, another union might get there first.
While many trainee teachers will join the NEU at university at recruitment events, many will go straight into the workplace through schemes like School Direct, having never been to a recruitment event at a university. The only way those new entrants to the profession will find out about the union is if you introduce yourself and invite them to join.
This toolkit covers everything you need to know to recruit new members – from how to have recruitment conversations, to ordering recruitment materials for your noticeboard.
When and where to recruit
Recruitment is a core activity of the union which should take place all year round. However, we know there are times of year when you are more likely to have opportunities to recruit new members. The 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.
Get access to new staff
Most schools and colleges will have an induction day or meeting for new starters.
Depending on the size of the workplace and the number of new starters, these may just happen once at the beginning of the academic year or there may be events throughout the year.
In schools, the Burgundy Book (Burgundy Book, Appendix III, 7 (b)) sets out provisions for reps to receive lists of new teachers appointed in the workplace and to communicate directly with new starters. You should ask the head teacher directly for the list of new starters.
If you do get a slot at an induction event, you don’t need to make a long speech. It’s simply an opportunity to introduce yourself, explain what and who the union is and the benefits of joining, and to invite all new starters to join if they’re not already a union member. Make sure you take membership forms with you or encourage members to join online. See page 18 for information on how to order more forms and other materials.
Even if you don’t get access to an induction event, it’s still important to request a list of new starters as you can seek them out individually and talk to them one-to-one about joining the union.
Get access to new teacher welcome events
Some Local Authorities and Multi Academy Trusts hold welcome events for early career teachers. You should get access to these events (see Burgundy Book entitlement on previous page) and use it as an opportunity to introduce yourself, explain what the union does and the benefits of joining.
Having recruitment conversations
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 and it’s worth practising because recruiting new members to the union is one of the most important things you can do as a rep.
Talking to people about joining shouldn’t be difficult. Think about why you joined. What do you value about the union? What made you want to become a rep? If you know why you joined and what makes you want to be involved in the union, then you already know how to talk to a potential member about joining.
Before deciding to join, people will need to know the five fundamentals:
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’re there to explain how unions are
democratic organisations that provide protection, support, representation, and collective voice to workers. 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
Be prepared to explain 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
It’s reasonable for a prospective member to ask what it will cost them to join. 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 and these get updated annually so check the NEU website for the most up-to-date rates. See p.18 for more information on membership rates.
Having a structured conversation
Structured conversations can be a useful tool when asking people to join the union. The following structure might help you to think about how you could talk to colleagues about joining the NEU.
Don’t assume people know you’re the rep. Keep it simple and open the conversation with “Hi, I’m [name] and I’m the NEU rep. I’d like to have a quick chat about the union.” Ask if they’re already a member of the NEU or if they’re a member of another union.
It sounds obvious but it’s really important to listen to what they’re saying. Don’t just talk at them. Ask open ended questions. If they have just started at your workplace, ask them how they’re finding it.
If they’re a new teacher, ask how their induction is going. If they’ve been working there a while ask them what it’s been like, how it’s changed, and if there are any issues they’re concerned about.
Frame the issue
Show them how through collective action, the NEU can improve the workplace. When you were asking them about their experience of the workplace and their issues, they may have mentioned
issues that you know the union has successfully campaigned or bargained on. From school funding, to Ofsted, to pay, to workload, to health and safety, the NEU has run major national campaigns, lobbied policy makers, and negotiated at local level.
Ask the question and deal with any objections
You’ve already shown them what the union is about, now for the important bit: “Will you join the NEU?” See p12 for dealing with common objections.
Commitment to join
If they say yes, that’s great. Offer to help them to complete the form on the spot. If they say no, let them know that’s fine, but you’d like to understand why not. Try to continue the conversation and find out what their objections are so you can deal with them. If they say they need more time, that’s fine too but ask if there’s anything they’d like more information about to help them to decide. Let them know how to find you if they have any questions and that you’ll check in with them in a few days/weeks to see if they’d like to talk about it again.