Tamsin Clube is a dance and drama teacher who’s passionate about helping teachers come together to make their working lives better. Here, we ask her a few questions about her story …
Hi Tamsin, what do you do?
Four days a week, I teach music and expressive arts at a school for children with severe and multiple learning difficulties. One day a week, I’m the lead rep for my area for my union, the teaching union NASUWT. I help members that have got into difficulties, negotiate with the council and with schools too.
How did you get involved in your union?
I was working at a very challenging school. I sort of knew things weren’t right. As a newly-qualified teacher, I went along to a NASUWT women’s conference. For the first time, I realised, “It’s not just me who feels like this – it’s not just me who’s struggling”. Afterwards, I volunteered to be my school’s rep. I got very involved very quickly and had some early successes.
Can you give me an example?
My school was heavy on observations, like mock Ofsted inspections. The teachers said it was too much work, too stressful, but management just didn’t listen. I looked at our formal pay and conditions document, and it said that extra observations had to be agreed.
So I met with the staff and we came up with a plan. We printed out our pay and conditions document and the school policy (which said the same thing) and put them on a desk by the door. When the mock inspectors came in we just drew their attention to it. They called off the observations. It wasn’t confrontational, but it was very effective.
Is that why you like being in a union?
There are so many advantages, you just have to make the most of them. For me, it’s about being part of a community of teachers and not feeling isolated. And the training’s great. There are courses like wellbeing and assertiveness – crucial life skills! I think of my subs as a subscription, not a fee.
A union does what it says on the tin. It’s all about being united and working together.