This has got me thinking well , that and several other things like the strike today (24th March) and some discussions I’ve had around the whole IFL thing, a particularly bitchy email from our UCU reps (albeit now apologised for) and of course my own £68 subscription to IFL for basically having QTLS.

I am, at the moment, a fully paid up member of UCU, costing just over £200 a year. I will probably shortly pay a further £68 to IFL. I’d like to be a member of NATECLA ( which would be £50 plus a further £10 for the journal subscription. Plus, perfect world time, membership of IATEFL would also be good to have.

We’re now in the £300 per annum region for what exactly? Objectively speaking NATECLA offers the best value for money – money off conferences and workshops, two issues of a journal for a reduced price, a teacher training special interest group. In fact as I write this, I am wondering why I didn’t renew my membership?

Compare this to UCU. I get basically an insurance policy against being badly treated at work. And that’s it. Sorry but if I measure this in real “stuff I get terms” then my membership isn’t about solidarity (sorry but I am being brutally honest) although I do support my colleagues, but is covering my back, just in case. I voted against the current strike because I don’t think strike action is terribly effective in the public sector, as the hardest hit people are the learners. It’s not, after all as if colleges will lose a day’s production. In my case the college gets to dock me a day’s pay for a day I don’t normally teach, so all the admin and other stuff I need to do will be left backing up until next week. And no, college won’t notice and I’ll be the one catching up, not someone else. I support the union because we need a political body, and because I want their support. That’s why I am striking.

Anyway that aside what else do I get in tangible terms? The just in case support is of course immensely valuable. But I’m not an active member in any real sense, the magazine (which was rubbish, to be fair) seems to have dried up, there is an academic journal out there but they hardly mention it, plus it costs more to get this.

IFL ought to be brilliant. The idea is great. There are some ideas there, support for CPD, the idea of a proper professional body, focussed on teaching and learning, which UCU is not (don’t get me started). But what have i really gained here? Access to Reflect? Hurrah. Can’t stand all the swishy screens and Flash heavy pages which crash browsers, and frankly I get a million times more from this blog and twitter. This year’s CPD declaration will be external events plus a link here and a link to my twitter account. But the idea of Reflect is good, on all sorts of levels. As is the idea of a professional organisation to support the day to day teaching bit of my job, not just the political side. I like that they support trainee teachers, support research (hewett driver bursaries, collaboration with LSIS) and carry out research.

My wife is healthcare professional. She is a member of the Health Professions Council, which is about £150 a year. She is also a member of her particular specialist organisation BAOT which is a further £240 per year, although, and UCU take note, this includes UNISON membership. that’s £400 a year just to do her job. When I bitch about paying my fees she looks at me like I’m cracking up. The BAOT membership (conference, quarterly journal with proper peer reviewed articles, newsletter, union membership – including reduced UCU membership for trainers and academics) is pretty good, actually. In comparison UCU and IFL membership is pretty crummy.

But it needn’t be. A bit of joined up thinking here would be brilliant. Join IFL and get UCU for free. Or vice versa. They are two different organisations with a different agenda. So why not work together and help your members more? And throw NATECLA in as well. What I want from you is some support for research and CPD (IFL) plus political and so on support (UCU) plus a decent journal and subject specific support (NATECLA). Instead we just have squabbling and bitching like kids in a playground.


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