Ballot papers have started arriving this week for the NEU Deputy General Secretary (DGS) election.

The ballot runs for three more weeks before closing on Friday October 29th.

This is an important election, the outcome of which will create the scene for the next stage of the NEU.

The transition into the new union, born out of the NUT and ATL, is coming to an end and will be complete when Kevin and Mary retire on August 31st 2023. From that point we will have a new General Secretary and Deputy General Secretary.

Since joining the NUT in 1987, I have been involved in many union elections, and this is the eighth GS/DGS election I have worked on.

I believe it is no exaggeration to say that this DGS election stands alongside the 2010 election for NUT Deputy General Secretary, which was won by Kevin Courtney.

A big claim – why do I say that?

In that election of 2010, Kevin stood on his record as a leader of campaigns and of building strong union organisation in the workplace and his list of nominations cut through the factional divide. Kevin’s election heralded a transformation inside the NUT.

Working with Christine Blower, Kevin was able to accelerate the shift in direction started under Steve Sinnott, who saw that, in order to unite the Union, he had to shift the centre of gravity in the NUT to the left.

With Kevin as DGS, and then GS, the Union took greater strides towards an organising model, with a greater emphasis on recruiting and training Reps. The Union also became more outward looking and identified itself as a “social justice” trade union.

And of course under Kevin’s leadership we took the historic step, together with ATL, of forming the NEU.

This outlook has defined the first years of the NEU and we have consolidated our approach to building the Union in workplaces, empowering Reps and members to see themselves as the agents of change.

Our work during the Covid pandemic has shown not only the necessity of this approach but also that it can be done and can be effective – the work we did with Section 44 in January is just one example.

The NEU, through its national interventions, has consolidated its position as a major trade union and player in the education debate – the fact that government and their allies have been forced back and now resort to attacking us in the way they have is testament to the fact that our positions were gaining traction and winning support. There can be no doubt now that the NEU is a recognisable “brand”.

There can also be no doubt that the NEU has become a major player in the education debate and that the combined forces of the NUT and ATL have transformed education trade unionism.

The NEU operates at a level that is well above what its constituent parts were capable of; our size, and proportional dominance of the profession, has provided a legitimacy that was difficult in a more divided union context.

This has made forming alliances easier with corresponding impact on effectiveness and on a number of campaigns and key issues the Union has built meaningful alliances with other unions, parents and other organisations.

Completing the transformation

But this work is far from complete, it must be continued and consolidated and this DGS election, and subsequent GS election, is essentially about whether that happens.

To put in bluntly, the DGS election is about whether we move forward in the way described above or turn away from that direction of travel. Do we go forward or take a backward step?

Assuming you think the Union must continue moving forward, with organising in the workplace and building at the base of the Union, in order to deliver on our core objectives, then the conclusion must be that we must vote for Gawain Little.

Of the three candidates in this election Gawain:

  • understands the importance of the outlook described above and is committed to its continuation and development;
  • understands that our power comes from our organising and collective strength – not from individuals in NEU HQ or our ability to lobby influential politicians;
  • recognises not just that we need change but how we can bring about change – in education, in schools and in the Union.


Gawain has secured more than half the nominations submitted to NEU HQ.

He has sixty-two nominations in total and is the only candidate to have a nomination from every region in England and Wales.

His total of nominations is on a par with the number received by Kevin Courtney in the NUT DGS election of 2010.

Gawain has won many of the competitive hustings, where the candidates went head to head, because he has been able to articulate a positive vision for the Union on Early Years, SEND, the curriculum, pedagogy, anti-racism and much, much more. He has also been able to convince Reps what is needed to empower them and our members in workplaces.

Getting the vote out

If you have read this far and agree with me about the importance of the election and the need to see Gawain elected, then I would ask you to consider what you can do over the next few weeks to drive up the turnout and encourage people to vote for him.

Nominations and local recommendations have an impact on voter turnout but it is workplace conversations and contacts with Reps and colleagues that can really make the difference.

This election is vital to the future of our Union and nothing you do in support of Gawain is too big or too small.

For the future of our Union I urge to you vote Gawain Little 1 in this election and to work to get as many colleagues as you can to do the same.