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Title: Resistance and resilience : exploring narratives of women teacher trade union activists
Author: Laight, Jean
ISNI:       0000 0004 7432 5369
Awarding Body: Leeds Beckett University
Current Institution: Leeds Beckett University
Date of Award: 2018
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This thesis is born out of concern that large numbers of teachers have left the profession. The work involved in teaching has become more time-consuming, and a trend of working longer hours, both at school and at home, has become an expectation. Excessive workload has, therefore, become an important issue within the profession. With so many teachers leaving the profession, particularly women - who make up over 75% of the profession- it was noted that some women teachers were not only staying in the profession but were also giving up their time and energy to take on the work of trade union activism as a form of resistance against the raft of policy changes which they believed to be the root cause for the exodus. This thesis attempts to discover why they are motivated to do so. The National Union of Teachers (NUT) was chosen as a locus for recruitment of participants, primarily because it is the only trade union which permits exclusive membership to those who have achieved, or are working towards, Qualified Teacher Status (QTS). Narrative analysis was employed as the methodology for this study, because it can be particularly efficient when dealing with disruption or change in a person's life, or group of people's lives, whilst promoting empathy. Narrative analysis, in conjunction with a life history interview approach (Smith, 2012), was used, as these can enable a transformative experience in which the narrator can feel empowered as a result of their awareness of their situation. In total, 11 women from five different NUT demarcated regions across England were interviewed, ranging from the Northern, North West, Yorkshire/Midland, South East and London Regions. The thesis was steered and driven by the voices of the women teacher activists who describe and explain why they became activists, what they do and how they do it, in order to protect their profession and their colleagues. Their thoughts, feelings and behaviour were explored throughout. A substantial theoretical framework was provided through the work of Michalinos Zembylas, focusing on emotion and affect in education, and political and social justice issues. Zembylas's work highlights issues of teacher identity, teachers' self-formation, the emotional labour of teaching, resistance and power, and also elucidates the concepts of 'emotional ecology' and 'knowledge ecology' (Zembylas, 2007). Rooted in the social theory of post-structuralism, which explores the construction of meaning, Zembylas cites the work of Michel Foucault as a significant exponent of this thinking, examining the deconstruction of discourses which concern power relationships. iv The key findings show that the relationship between teachers and the government is strained. Teacher professionalism is perceived by government as an act of resistance in itself. The rapid changes caused by the government's neo-liberal education reform agenda have created a negative effect on teachers. The emotional investment that teachers make in their work causes them to be overworked and stressed, often damaging their mental health. Some implications from the findings show that the resistance of teachers to the current reforms is what drives their activism. Trade unionism is a vehicle for transformational change. Not only is transformational change possible through discourses, it is also possible to achieve within one's own self. The deprofessionalisation of teaching is not so much about the partnership with unqualified people at classroom level, but more about the attempts made by government to professionalise other areas of the education workforce which have led to the deprofessionalisation of teaching. Blame, therefore, should be directed towards the government.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available