A Vincentian born abroad will today become the first Black National President of the UK’s main teaching union, the NASUWT – The Teachers’ Union.
Michelle Codrington-Rogers, whose parents hail from St Vincent, will take over the top elected post in the Union. Her mother comes from Georgetown and her father is from Kingstown.
Born in the UK, she teaches citizenship in the same school she herself went to as a child, will today take over the top elected post in the Union.
She works at The Cherwell School in Oxford, the school she attended when growing up in the city.
The 42-year-old said she was “truly honoured” to become President and said that separate to the current coronavirus emergency, society had to look at how it treated children and teachers and not lose sight of what education was for.
“For me education is about empowering the next generation to be able to see how we can make the world better. It is about how we move forward as a society and as a species,” she said.
She got into teaching citizenship in part due to her love of media, film, and gender and identity politics, which she had studied at university.
Ms Codrington-Rogers, whose parents hail from St Vincent in the Caribbean, said: “Our school has a reputation for being free-thinking, we are one of the few secondary schools in Oxfordshire that doesn’t have a uniform.
“We are liberal in the positive sense and we don’t put restrictions on the children when it comes to expressing their thoughts and opinions. We are a diverse school and we want the children to challenge us in terms of ideas as well as challenging themselves.”
In her role as a senior officer in the NASUWT Michelle said she had seen how in some schools though there was too much of what she called a business model being imposed, to the detriment of teachers and their pupils.
She said: “There is too much command and control in some schools, they are not businesses, we are not churning out sausages and we have to resist this model creeping in to too much of our education system. The only way to resist this is as a collegiate teaching force.”
She said the creation of a “premier league, football manager” situation whereby headteachers were pressurised and often removed if they fell foul of Ofsted could mean senior leaders then pressurising teachers and harming education.
“The heads take all the pressure and they can disseminate that pressure because of the system. The best schools are where that isn’t happening.”
And she warned that teachers were too often taking on the role of police officer, social worker, counsellor, nurse, and carer as well.
She added: “Education has to be shaped by those of us who work in it. We can’t be made to pick up and fill the gaps of every failure in society.
“If we are being expected to reduce to children to data and numbers on a page, when children are talked about in a homogenous way, where they are expected to be sausages, that goes against everything teaching is about.”
She officially took over as National President during the NASUWT Annual Conference, which was held virtually during the afternoon of Good Friday and truncated due to the coronavirus emergency.”
Speaking about the Coronavirus emergency, Ms Codrington-Rogers said:
“At the start of the academic year there was absolutely no way we could have predicted the coming of a global pandemic that would impact on every aspect of our lives.
“But we will make sure that the children and young people we teach are given as much a sense of ‘normal’ as possible. This time has been a true testament to the professionalism of teachers.
“We kept calm and carried on, providing a calm port in the storm for millions of children across England, Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland, the Channel Islands, Gibraltar and the Isle of Man.
“It is us as NQTs, subject leaders, form tutors, school leaders, classroom teachers and pastoral support who made sure both our vulnerable and gifted children were able to focus on something other than the unknown.
“As we move into the uncertain times, I am proud to be a part of a union that works 24 hours to support us in whichever setting we find ourselves in, that continues to speak truth to power, and that represents our members and protects our rights.
“But most importantly, I am proud to be one of the members that makes NASUWT the best, and only UK-wide union for teachers. We can face this storm together and will come out the other side, and stronger.”
Chris Keates, NASUWT Acting General Secretary, said:
“Michelle’s experience in teaching and as an active member and officer of the NASUWT will make her an excellent and effective national champion of the cause of teachers and headteachers during her presidential year.”