I am standing to represent disabled members on the NEU executive 2019 -2021.
If you are eligible to vote you will be receiving your ballot paper in November which will include my biographical details and election address. I’d like to take the opportunity now to explain why I think I am worth your vote.
I have been a disability activist since the early 1990s when I realised my lived experience of being discriminated against was best described by the social model of disability which calls on society to dismantle the barriers which exclude the full participation of disabled people.
I became a teacher at around the same time. I struggled to find work due to my medical label – Cerebral Palsy. Over the years, as my impairment has changed and I have acquired the further medical label Generalised Anxiety Disorder (GAD) I have had to seek reasonable adjustments in order to stay in the classroom. I have benefited from the support of the NUT – now the NEU in securing these accommodations.
I believe it is every disabled educators’ right to be able to work effectively without detriment to their impairments whether they are apparent or hidden. For too many disabled people, the experience of education whether as a pupil or as staff is far from supportive. Most people who acquire an impairment, such as cancer or a mental health condition find themselves being expected to leave the profession.
Over the last six years I have worked hard on the NUT executive to ensure that disabled members are supported as individuals and organised collectively in order to flourish in their schools and college.
The NUT, now the NEU has committed to employing an organiser of disabled members. Many lay officers, members and union staff have benefitted from disability equality training based on the social model.
Probably the most difficult challenge to educators is the threat to their sound mental health. I believe that the overwhelming pressures of workload, anxiety over inspection and bullying management are some of the causes of mental ill health of educators. It has been good to see the development of the Mental Health Charter and local, regional and national courses which help members organise around mental health.
Looking to the future of the NEU, it is clear that disabled educators will need to continue to fight for full equality. Over the last six years, I have learnt that sometimes it is easy for others to want to hand out equality on their terms rather than be challenged by and have to listen to the authentic voice of those who experience disability discrimination on a daily basis.
I am fully committed to the NEU campaigns on workload and funding. We all know that disabled pupils, including those who are labelled as SEN, are not able to access learning fully in the current environment of cutbacks and exam factory testing. It is vital that the union continues to demand fully funded, inclusive education for all. This will need to be supported by strike action.
I believe I am the only candidate with the national experience of speaking up for disabled educator’s rights both inside and outside of the union. We need to continue to organise ourselves and settle for nothing less than equality demonstrated by disabled educators being free to genuinely thrive at work.
Please vote for me.