Put Mary on the Green

Women’s history,and the women who made it, are routinely erased from our curriculum and our society. Susie Burrows calls for support for a campaign to erect a statue to Mary Wollenstonecraft in north London.

Mary Wollstonecraft (1759-97) was ‘the mother of feminism’. She lived and set up the first girls’ schools in Newington Green, London. Her other achievements include:

  • mary b&wAuthor of A Vindication of the Rights of Woman, the first book in English arguing for the equality of women and men
  • A pioneering activist for human rights
  • Radical thinker who inspired the suffragettes a century later
  • First female war correspondent, salaried journalist, early anti-slavery commentator
  • Radical thinker influencing Thomas Paine and Benjamin Franklin
  • Early children’s author and advocate for education
  • Published books on girls’ education and civil rights
  • Mother of Mary Shelley, author of Frankenstein
  •  The Mary on the Green Campaign calls for a memorial sculpture of Mary Wollstonecraft on Newington Green.

There is no significant memorial to her anywhere in the world. Of the 573 public statues of people in UK, only 15% are of women…

Help us to get Mary the recognition she deserves a permanent commemoration to her life and her work.

Download a poster to display here Mary Wollstonecraft

mwMotion for union branches and associations

This Association supports the campaign to put a statue of Mary Wollstonecraft on Newington Green, London. The Mary on the Green campaign is part of Newington Green Action Group. Mary Wollstonecraft has no significant memorial to her anywhere. She advocated votes for women 100 years before the suffragettes. She was an educational pioneer and the first woman to publicly  argue for education for girls. Aged 24, she set up a girls’ school in Newington Green. After publishing books on girls’ education and civil rights, she wrote ‘A Vindication of the Rights of Woman’ (1792) demanding ‘Justice for one half of the human race’. She is now known as the ‘Mother of Feminism’. She was a radical thinker who debated with Thomas Paine and Benjamin Franklin. One of the first female war correspondants and travel writers, she had a commitment to broader human rights and opposed the slave trade. She is the originator of the campaign for equality of access to education and the right to schooling. The Association agrees to give £100 to Mary on the Green. 
For more information contact  info@maryonthegreen.org
Susie Burrows is Joint Equalities Officer of Hackney NUT

Thoughts on the Memorandum

The National Union of Teachers’ Conference will debate a proposal from the Executive Working party for the reorganisation of executive seats in relation to gender & geographical distribution.

Kensington & Chelsea NUT Divisional Secretary, Melissa Hind, argues why it should be supported.

While there may have been increases in female representation on the National Executive, currently only 10 of the 37 seats (excluding the equalities seats) are held by women.  Further to this, of the 27 regions making up the current executive 17 have only male executive members with another two regions having more male executive members than female. This is in comparison to 5 regions with only female executive members and 3 regions with equal numbers of both.  Overall the current Executive is 27% female (again excluding the equalities seats), which – given that 76% of the NUT’s membership are female – is woefully inadequate and certainly not representative.

The National Union of Teachers is a union that actively promotes equality and has been responsible for piloting programmes and creating resources that address inequality. The ‘Breaking the Mould‘ set of resources looks specifically at addressing gender inequality. It is a brilliant resource and one that is used as an example of how progressive we are with our teaching. However, the same enthusiasm is often lost – or silenced – when we start looking at the gender disparity within our own union’s internal structures.

There is a school of thought that suggests the disparity between the numbers of male versus female executive members can be attributed to the fact that women just don’t want to be on the Executive. If this is the case, then we should be asking ourselves why.

Reasons such as workload and raising a family spring to mind, but we are now in the 21st Century and isn’t it time that more men – from both within the NUT but also partners and friends of NUT members – start supporting their female counterparts (in a way that women have been supporting men for years); empowering those who have previously not felt able to run in the executive elections to stand?

Many candidates that stand in executive elections have the support of internal groups within the NUT. If these groups want to continue to have a voice, but do not have women from within that are prepared to stand, then clearly they need to be doing more to support women activists. Having an executive comprised of at least 50% women provides the incentive necessary for groups pushing a particular viewpoint to actively encourage female voice.

Certainly in the first few election cycles you might find that some of the female candidates don’t have the breadth of experience that their male counterparts do, but until they are given the opportunity to gain the experience this will continue to be the case. If you are looking to elect at least one female out of a pool of 20,000 members (of which approximately 15,000 will be women) it is not ok to suggest that there are no women in that region up to the job or who want to stand: it is simply a matter of engaging them so they do.

There will be people who oppose the Memorandum because of other reasons such as the sizes of regions, the lack of accountability associated with being represented by two members or using a voting system also used by Eurovision.  All of these concerns are valid. However, there is scope within the Memorandum to review these at a later point, in situ, if they do indeed cause problems.

We have already seen this issue deliberated over by the Executive for two years with no solution and, if we continue to wait for the “perfect” proposal to be put forward, we will never make the changes necessary to begin to address the massive gender inequality seen on our current Executive.  There will always be reasons to stop the promotion of equality but it is time to stop making excuses and take action.

Melissa Hind is a teacher and the Divisional Secretary of Kensington & Chelsea



Their rightful place

There is a worrying lack of representation of women and Black and minority ethnic writers on the English curriculum. Teachers and students in several schools have started a campaign to get them properly represented.

English teacher, Olivia Eaton explains what you can do to help.

On World Book Day, students and teachers at our school, The Forest Academy, launched the Curriculum Campaign, an appeal to the Government to address the lack of female and ethnic minority writers on English GCSE and A Level set text lists and the curriculum as a whole. 

Following the introduction of changes to the curriculum in September 2015, English teachers at The Forest Academy noticed a distinct lack of female authors and authors from ethnic minority backgrounds to choose from when picking English Literature at GCSE and A Level set texts. 

Research shows that female writers are represented by an average of just 31% of texts across AQA, Edexcel and OCR’s 2015-2016 GCSE and A Level English Literature reading lists, despite women accounting for 51% of the UK’s population. In addition, texts by writers from black, Asian and ethnic minorities have been marginalised. Some courses only have 5% of texts represented by authors of these backgrounds, despite them accounting for 14% of the UK population. 

The Curriculum Campaign – supported by Beal High School, Association of School and College Leaders, Woodford Country High School for GirlsThe Palmer Catholic Academy and Wes Streeting MP – has launched a petition urging the Government to ensure the curriculum includes a proportionate number of texts by female and ethnic minority writers in English and across all subjects. We are campaigning as a whole school with students and teachers involved in every aspect of the campaign.

We are calling on NUT members to support our campaign and to help us build it more widely.

Please raise this as an issue in your association and, if possible, agree to:

  • send a message of support for the campaign which we can use publicly
  • circulate details of the petition and encourage members to sign
  • help build the campaign in your schools/area

You can contact us on hello@curriculumcampaign.com

Olivia Eaton is an English teacher and a member of Redbridge NUT



Stealing the Jewels from the Crown

The government is imposing massive cuts on sixth form colleges with disastrous effects on the educational provision for many of our young people.

Tania Ziegler, Sixth Form teacher, explains why so many sixth form teachers are ready to strike.

NUT members in Sixth Form Colleges are leading the way in the campaign against the cuts in education. Nearly 9 out of 10 members who voted said YES to strike action on Tuesday March 15th.

Unlike schools, the sector was not ring-fenced, and saw its funding cut by 14% in real terms by the Coalition. With another 8% of cuts happening in real terms over the next 4 years, it’s no wonder that one third of principals say their colleges may soon be financially unviable.

One third of young people at sixth form colleges come for the most disadvantaged parts of the country. Together with the scrapping of EMA, and the cut in funding for the third year of post 16 courses, it seems that hitting the most vulnerable is a key part of Tory policy. No surprises there.

Teaching staff face intolerable workloads due to rising class sizes and increased contact time. Working conditions have become dangerously cramped for both staff and students, squeezing nearly 30 people in to rooms designed for 18.

Subjects have been dropped in over 70% of colleges, including previously ‘safe’ maths and science courses.

Colleges are being bribed to convert to academy status with a promise of refunding VAT on successful completion.

All the more worrying is that the ‘Area Reviews’ being carried out for ‘efficiency’ have been shown to save no money and not improve standards, according to academic research carried out in Scotland where colleges have already suffered them. Further, support staff have lost jobs in forced mergers. We are standing up for them too.

The success of the sixth form sector is unparalleled in getting young people in to higher education, far ahead of independent schools, most of whom select their students. This Government are desperate to steal the jewels in the crown of state education to prop up their failing academy and free school experiment.

NUT members everywhere are called on to support their sixth form sisters and brothers in Tuesday’s national sixth form college strike. You can show your support by visiting picket lines at your local college, or using the hashtags #loveoursixthformcollege and #saveourcolleges on twitter.

 Tania Ziegler is a sixth form teacher in Winchester and the Sixth Form College Officer for the Hampshire Division

For more information on the campaign and actions you can take click here