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Friday, June 4, 1999 Published at 23:08 GMT 00:08 UK

'We need a change'

Christine Blower is campaigning to be elected as leader of the largest teachers' union in England and Wales. Members of the National Union of Teachers will choose between Ms Blower and Doug McAvoy, the current general secretary, in a ballot which opened on 7 June.

Teaching is a great job. My 26 years in the classroom have seen highs and lows, but my enthusiasm for teaching remains.

But teaching is a hard job being done under increasingly difficult circumstances. Teachers have always worked harder and for longer hours than was probably good for us. We did not resent the hours spent on preparation because it was a creative activity. The government used to listen to teachers, it did not ignore and vilify them. We must reassert our professionalism and make the government listen again.

I am standing for the post of general secretary because we need a change in the leadership of the NUT. Sixty-five union associations, including many of the largest, have nominated me to provide that change.

I believe my experience as a teacher, and as an officer of the union, means I can do the job and I can do it well.

'Greater vigour'

We are a union with great human and material resources, but, quite simply, we do not use them effectively enough.

As general secretary, I will ensure that the people elected in schools, local associations and on the national executive are given the tools they need to do the job of representing colleagues.

The staff whom members' subscriptions employ will be given better training, resources and leadership so that they offer even better support.

The NUT has fine policies on salaries, education, conditions of service, equal opportunities and unity with other teacher unions. As general secretary, my job will be to ensure these policies are promoted and implemented with greater vigour and commitment.

'No backroom deals over pay'

It has fallen to the NUT to lead the fight against performance-related pay. The government will not recognise that its own consultation exercise demonstrated an almost total lack of support. I will pursue that campaign effectively, energetically and openly. There will be no backroom deals with the government.

At the same time, I will not lose sight of the importance of the union's other priorities. I will advance our agenda for equality of opportunity for all children and teachers. I will defend the need for a coherent, properly funded and free comprehensive education system as the better alternative to the fragmentation of education action zones, the private finance initiative and the bidding culture.

On the national executive, I argued that the union should campaign for a national contract for teachers, to give minimum employment rights and conditions of service for all teachers. As general secretary, I will ensure the NUT gives this the priority it deserves.

My aim as general secretary will be to lift the unreasonable burdens on teachers, to ensure we are decently paid and that our views on education are heard and respected.

'Not an extremist'

My job will be to ensure that the union's policies are supported, disseminated and implemented. I will unite members behind those policies and build support by forging closer links with parents and governors, by working for co-operation and unity with other teachers' unions, and by improving the union's media strategy.

I have been accused of being "controlled and directed" by extreme left-wing organisations. I am not a member of, nor am I controlled by, any extreme organisation. Colleagues who have met me in schools and in meetings recognise that I am a serious candidate who can lead and represent them.

If elected, I will be controlled by the membership through the democratic processes of the union. I will promote the agreed policies of the union.

I am standing for general secretary on my own qualities, my own priorities and my own record.

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