Britain’s biggest teaching union has seen a surge in membership of more than 50,000 new members since the coronavirus pandemic began, HuffPost UK can reveal.
The huge spike in members for the National Education Union, which means it can now boast nearly half a million teachers among its ranks, emerged as schools in England prepared to go back to full time classroom teaching of pupils next week.
Other trade unions in education and the wider public sector have also seen rises in membership as workers seek greater protection and rights amid the uncertainty caused by the virus crisis.
Unison has seen a net increase of at least 24,000 extra members, and sources within Unite and the GMB said they have seen “tens of thousands” more people join, particularly early in the pandemic.
Other teaching unions have benefitted from the rise in activism. The Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL) has seen a 1,500 jump on top of its 20,000 membership. The NASUWT has also seen an increase, although it could not say by how much.
The TUC and union leaders said that the surge ought to dispel the government’s claims that unions are part of the problem rather than the solution to tackling the pandemic and putting health and safety at the heart of workplaces.
Pressure from teaching unions and heads partly lay behind the U-turn last week from education secretary Gavin Williamson to allow discretionary use of face coverings in communal areas in English schools, with mandatory use in lockdown regions.
Weeks Of Government U-Turns
The NEU became the biggest union of teachers in Europe after the National Union of Teachers (NUT) and the Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL) merged in 2017.
In one week alone at the start of the pandemic it put on 10,000 members, an unprecedented rise.
Internal estimates of the NEU’s rise in...