Nothing about us without us: why we need disabled teachers networks

Colleen Johnson is Vice-Chair of the NUT Advisory group on Disability Equality in Education and a joint Equalities Officer for Birmingham NUT.

Why do we need disabled teachers’ networks?

A disabled teachers’ network seeks to challenge barriers in teaching where they exist, for example, initially at entry to training and at entry to employment. It seems completely unacceptable that our great profession does not truly reflect society in general. We must correct this, not just because it’s fair and just but because such visibility is important for disabled youngsters, disabled parents – and society as a whole!

Evidence has shown that disabled teachers are less likely to be recruited, retained and promoted. This is discriminatory and it must be challenged at all levels.

What is a disabled teachers’ network?

A disabled teachers’ network is a group of disabled teachers who organise, campaign and support each other to challenge all of the above. Together we can share a better vision of the future ( yes, even in these challenging times).

It is important that members know their rights, take ownership of the social model of disability and share our difficulties and our successes around reasonable adjustments.

We know that disabled teachers ( with visible or invisible impairments) are reluctant to identify but we must get over that and trust our union.

What next?

After liaising with Vin Wynne who is a Senior organiser with responsibility for disability, I have drafted an initial plan for a Midlands regional network. This plan will be shared with the Midlands region who will contact members who disclose as disabled, or who have accessed support around physical/sensory or mental health impairment, or who have had their fitness to work questioned by their employer.

Once contact is made, we can begin to arrange a regional based event so we can share our vision and experience.

What I need from Midlands-based disabled teachers

It’s simple really:

Your name
Basic contact details
Expression of interest

What if I’m not in the Midlands?

Talk to your Divisional Secretary or Regional Secretary to find out what is happening in your area. If it’s nothing, start something up!

And check out the NUT website for information and advice

Remember “Nothing about us without us”

Colleen Johnson, Birmingham NUT

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