Meet Daniel Kebede, the new far-Left head of the NEU
The UK's largest teaching union is being taken over by an extreme ideologue
In September, NEU, the largest teaching union in the UK, will have a new leader: new academic year, new start. It has not been a good couple of years for teaching unions, who have been accused of hijacking the pandemic for political leverage and failing to put children first by calling for longer, more stringent lockdowns; the damage to their reputation was neatly summarised by Gavin Williamson’s text message that ‘teaching unions really do just hate work.’
Yet the incoming General Secretary Daniel Kebede does not seem to be the moderate, temperate figurehead needed to persuade the public, and teachers, that the NEU is about prioritising pupils over politics.
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Last summer, Kebede said at a Socialist Workers Party’s Marxism conference that strikes were about “taking back control of an education system from a brutally racist state… It is much more than about the issue of pay, it is about reorganising society, where we are free from racism and free from oppression.” Kebede has also previously compared private schools to “apartheid”, accused ministers of “whitewashing” and “removing socialist ideas from the classroom,” and declared that the British education is “fundamentally and institutionally racist.”
This inflammatory rhetoric and political posturing is dangerous. It not only undermines any claim NEU has to represent the majority of its members (I certainly would not want Kebede to speak on my behalf), but it also skews public perception of the profession and overlooks the real reasons why teachers are striking. By suggesting that the strikes are part of some ideological revolution — and, implicitly, because of deep and visceral hatred of the Tories — Kebede and the NEU pervert the real, important point: that teachers’ pay has been eroded over the last decade and workload demands are unsustainable.
The toxic politicisation of the NEU is also alienating public support at a time when we need it most. Teacher vacancies in England are currently 93% higher than pre-pandemic, and, despite lowering its recruitment targets, the government has failed to hire enough teachers in the last nine out of 10 years. This crisis in teacher recruitment and retention means that far too many schools are being forced to rely on non-specialist staff, and this high turnover will inevitably impact the quality of teaching and learning.
Yet instead of focusing on domestic educational policy, the NEU is instead using its current conference to table motions on topics such as whether or not to oppose the expansion of NATO or back Ukraine’s war of self-determination against Russia. At last year’s conference Kebede also said that he was “proud that the NEU is affiliated to Stop The War” as “the strengthening of military alliances in Eastern Europe will do nothing to bring peace.” Whether or not you agree with Kebede’s views, what has this got to do with the urgent issues facing schools at the moment? Are we checking how schools’ behaviour policies can apply to Putin?
Kebede won 28,000 votes in the NEU election, but turnout was only 9% (there are around 500,000 NEU members). Therefore, once again, the apathy of the silent, moderate majority has meant that the largest teaching union will now be led by an extreme minority voice: someone who used an antisemitic slur while defending Jeremy Corbyn and will possibly be investigated after attending a rally where the crowd allegedly chanted a song calling for violence against Jewish people.
Teaching unions often accuse the government of using education as a political football. And yet, they continue to play a dangerous game where they are more focused on attacking the government than thinking about their supporters. The irony is that electing Kebede is simply another own goal; perhaps it’s time to try a different tactic altogether.
At 9% turnout, teachers deserve the representation they get.
It’s not rocket science is it?
If teachers are so apathetic about who represents them to the media and public at large, i can’t see how they’re fit to teach in the first place. Anyone who’s been to school in the UK i.e. the vast majority, will be able to recall multiple examples of lazy, bad-tempered, poorly-prepared time servers. They’re impossible to sack for incompetence, but their union will naturally support them above the interests of pupils.
There are some great teachers too, but they must tear their hair out trying to repair the damage done by their ‘colleagues’. I wonder what the repercussions will be for the author?
Possibly, but really a no-vote should be counted as a ‘none of the above’ and if nota wins then the post should be left vacant, with a new election after specified time.
Probably should also be a STV system till one candidate has 50+% of total possible votes.
But do the students deserve these teachers?
Most teachers join a union simply for protection when, almost inevitably, a child or parent makes an allegation against them or the school starts disciplinary/capability proceedings against them. Sadly, the teaching unions are generally useless at standing up for their members as they are far too busy running political campaigns about NATO and plotting to unseat the “wicked Torees”.
Can I recommend to any teachers reading this that they resign from the NEU and join Edapt, a teaching union that grinds no political axes and focuses on robust and effective protection of its members in the workplace?
Yes but there are non political alternatives available like Edapt. Sadly not widely known.
Thanks for that, Iris. I’ve just switched to Edapt.
NEU are coming across as a bunch of maniacs.
Progressives view ANY organization that they control as a vehicle for spreading their progressive agenda in all its forms. Whatever the actual purpose of the organization was before is irrelevant; it’s purpose is not Leftism.
that means that such organizations can not be reformed. They must be burned to the ground and replaced. The Tories are not the party to do that though.
Great, another race warrior.
The country is dying death by a thousand cuts.
Yet again I’m left wondering how one can be deemed clever enough to be a leader in our society whilst also proclaiming to be a Marxist. Oxymoronic? Or just plain moronic.
I don’t have any children of my own and reading this article reminds me of one of the reasons why I made that choice. I do have 3 step-children one of whom is still in school and my wife and I have made it a mission to challenge the toxic neo-racist and postmodern gender bullshit they’ve been spoon fed every time it comes up before it warps their perception, minds and lives.
We’re noticing that the Gen-z kids seem a bit more discerning and less credulous than their predecessors though. Perhaps there is hope.
I do hope you are right. At my daughter’s school the children have to work their way through a fair volume of frankly insufferable DEI initiatives and materials. The students furthermore, of their own accord, held bake sales and sponsor runs for stonewall of all organisations. The official DEI lady has organised a massive event for International Womens Day ( I shall look forward to an equivalent do for men at some point in the year), has published various newsletters full of inconsequential newspeak waffle sprinkled with the odd political opinion such as full blown admiration for Khan (former Pakistani pm), how we can all be ‘allies’ to minorities, how reparations are justified, the constant assumption of white privilege etc. More recently a classroom was commandeered for a ‘try a hijab’ get together where non veiled students could be wrapped in a hijab – symbol of freedom and expression, needless to say – and see how it feels. One does despair and I think it is sad that students like my daughter who – in fact a minority now – observe with bemusement feel acutely aware that absolutely no questions can be asked or the woke mob would make their life miserable at school. I am referring to the student body not the staff many of whom I know to be very hardworking and sensible people. The students (and the DEI officer) are doing this themselves with their reliance on buzz words such as ‘inclusion’ stifling any debate or discussion. Nobody dares say anything.
This union leader reminds me of a teacher at the school I attended in the late 70’s, he told a group of us that the purpose of a school is to employ teachers not to teach pupils. What did we think of him. That he was a fool.
The state education system is like the NHS. It benefits the employees not the customers!
O’Sullivan’s law in action. Employee capture of organisations through union activists leads to them being run for the benefit of employees and the public can go hang.
Hard times create strong men
Strong men create good times
Good times create weak men
Weak men create hard times
Wonder where we-are in this cycle?
‘accused ministers of “whitewashing”’
This is just systemic racism. Please call it ‘Blackwashing’
If teaching unions are taken over by the far left … how will we tell?
The state should not be involved in education beyond ensuring, ideally through a voucher scheme, that everyone has access.
Sounds like a good idea but if the state does not supply, or at least regulate, education, all sorts of unsuitable types will supply it and all sorts of unsuitable parents will subscribe. More madrassas, anyone?
Only parents, not the State, should decide what propaganda is fed to pupils.
The problem with state schools is mainly the lack of variety or independence so parents have little choice.
I have a great deal of sympathy with what you say, but I am very concerned that there are many parents who are totally unsuited to making these decisions. Extreme examples, perhaps, but what do you do about parents who want their children taught ONLY the koran, or the torah, or the bible? What about creationists who do not want their children exposed to the dangerous and evil doctrine of evolution? Society (i.e. the government) has a responsibility to protect children.
You are assuming that most parents understand or care. They don’t. Most parents are barely educated themselves and don’t value education. The average reading age of adults in the UK is eight. A reading age of thirteen is required to have the capacity for abstract thought.
The best thing that schools can do is educate children to escape from ignorant parents.
I’ll accept that the state should regulate education. My real concern is with standardisation of the curriculum, which means that one bad idea dreamt up by ivory tower academics can ruin an entire generation.
Do not sensible candidates who want to both protect the interests of teachers against unreasonable demands and ensure salaries and working conditions are sufficient to attract decent teachers to the profession rather than engage in loony leftist posturing? Why else are teachers so indifferent to the quality of the leadership of their Union that 91% can’t be bothered to vote. If there are no sensible candidates standing why is that?
I know that teaching seems to attract left leaning individuals but why not chose a sensible leftist who has their interests at heat rather than political stuff that is irrelevant to the purpose of a Union?
Teaching does not so much attract leftists as people who think they understand school because they used to be pupils, and think it will be an easy way to make a good salary with long holidays and a guaranteed pension. They are also deeply scared of what they would have to do to learn new skills and compete in the outside world.
In many ways you would feel sorry for people so profoundly stupid and deluded if it were not for the importance of what they should be doing.
Of course they are not all like that, but many (and I know several of them) are. The other sad thing about these is their self delusion and sense of entitlement : quite a few of them genuinely believe that if they left teaching they could make a success in commerce – and I am sure we all have experience of just how clueless and incompetent ex-teachers can be in business!
Yes, but students don’t deserve the politicized Woke indoctrination mills that the teachers’ apathy will inflict on them.
My B-i-L, a senior teacher at a large (2,000 pupil) secondary, has just been handed a list of 80 pupils with their preferred pronouns and adopted names. He’s genuinely concerned for his job if he gets this wrong, and is glad he’s retiring this year.
Teachers are teachers because they never had the courage or motivation to actually leave school and get a job
They don’t even have the energy to vote for their representatives
Now they are unhappy and remain demotivated, so we let them teach our kids???
“teachers’ pay has been eroded over the last decade and workload demands are unsustainable”.
Join the club. There are very few people whose pay has not been eroded or who have not seen their work load increase. Moat of us do not have the option of striking.
What I do know is that if I had my time over again I would have become a teacher. I would would be able to retire soon on a health pension
Public Unions, of any stripe, are a huge hinderance to society. What kind of negotiations will ever be held when the unions are a funding source, and a voting source of the very politicians who are bargaining with the union leadership. It is a complete fiasco in the U.S. and it appears in the U.K. as well.
Daniel Kebede is a communist. So he’s a fascist.
Some good points, particularly about the NEU’s position on lockdowns and on Kabede’s hobbyhorses getting in the way of some genuinely important issues, especially the huge current problem with recruitment and retention. But there was an election, NEU members could have voted, 91% didn’t (me included as it happens). Sometimes in life you end up being represented by people other people have chosen who you don’t agree with, them’s the breaks.
If you didn’t vote does one assume that you were happy with whoever won the vote? Which means you are happy with Mr Kebede representing you.
Not really, I’m a member of a teaching union in NZ and I don’t support the current leaders so don’t usually vote. However, it’s the same issue many people have with general and local elections – no decent candidates to vote for.
It is hard to imagine that anyone else is as unsuitable for the job as this guy. Plus these hard left progressives create daily problems for teachers.
I come from Cape Town. An area of Cape Town, known as the Cape Flats, are in parts violent and gang ridden and gang driven – almost lawless. I remember years back hearing a teacher from this area who had just worked in London saying he preferred teaching on the Cape Flats, because the children at the schools he worked in in London were more out of control.
Not quite sure how you worked that one out. I didn’t vote in the last London mayoral election either because all the candidates were all totally useless, doesn’t mean I feel Sadiq Khan represents me there either. Quite a lot of the time one ends up being represented by people one doesn’t agree with, that’s life.
Out of interest did you consider spoiling your ballot paper? If more of us did that in elections where we feel disenfranchised then perhaps some notice would be taken. Or perhaps not.
So why are you not with Edapt instead of with the horrid activists?
Who are Edapt?! This chap’s only just been elected, so let’s wait and see. More broadly, one pick’s a union, in the same way that some people pick a particular political party. Sometimes you agree with their leadership and policies, sometimes you don’t. I happen to disagree with the NEU’s position on school closures during lockdown, but strongly agree with their current policy on taking industrial action over pay, school funding and the very significant associated issue of teacher recruitment and retention. That’s the way things go.
It is the non political option to ensure that you have legal representation but without the Marxism of the big unions. If you googled you would see a myriad of options, so no legal representation is not an excuse to be part of the NEU.
“If you googled…” , “no excuse…” “you would see…” Thanks for the lecture, your infinite wisdom has set me straight. Life’s just too short for these sorts of antagonistic conversations below the line.
You can get angry and accuse others of antagonism, or, you could actually take a look and see that there are, indeed, other options to protect yourself.
If you really are a teacher then God help the children.
I say fair play to Kebede. Radical union leaders are the ones who put up a fight. Union leaders who try to be nice and moderate are as useful to their members as chocolate teapots.
My experience is that politically motivated people are more likely to aspire to union leadership either because they wish to implement their own politics or they see Union leadership as a preparation for becoming an MP. The care for their members’ interests comes way down the list of concerns.
When I was working I eventually left ‘my’ union because I realised I got little for my subscriptions and would rather pay for my own legal representation if needed (one that worked for my interests).
There are probably some worthy unions out there… but if I was a teacher I wouldn’t be happy to be represented by an ideologue.
Quite right. I was for a time a member of PCS in my working life. but left for exactly these reasons.
The responsibility of union leaders is to the teachers they represent, not political posturing.
Kebede could in many ways be a writer for UnHerd. He is right on gender self-identification, right on Brexit, right on Ukraine, and right on economics, including the increasingly successful strikes. He is still only in his mid-thirties, to the mild disbelief of those of us who have known him for years, and he is no longer in the Labour Party. A luta continua.
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