The National Union of Teachers was plunged into confusion when General Secretary, Steve Sinnott, died last month. This left the position open for Sinnott’s deputy, Christine Blower, to step in temporarily until an election is held to find a replacement. The Daily Mail jumped at this opportunity to characterise the union as radical left-leaning when the NUT announced a one-day strike in April. The strike had not been called by any other teacher unions, but the Daily Mail portrayed Blower, who had taken Sinnott’s place as the head of the NUT, as the mastermind behind the plan. They described her as an "entrenched socialist" who was being controlled by "extreme left organisations". However, if Blower does become a candidate, she is likely to be elected as Sinnott had worked closely with her even though their political beliefs differed.

I asked Blower about the labels that had been attached to her. Has she been described as hard-left? Blower responded that she wouldn’t accept that description as she has never been a member of groups considered extreme left, such as Militant, the Socialist Workers’ Party, International Socialists, or the International Marxist Group. Instead, she has been involved with a group called the Campaign for a Democratic and Fighting Union, which is a group of like-minded NUT members who share views on how campaigning should be conducted. She also stated that the group has some members who belong to the Liberal Democrats.

Blower considers herself a militant – but this is in the sense that she militates on behalf of teachers. She believes there have been times in the past when the voices of classroom teachers were ignored by union leaders. While Blower sees a lot of value in socialism, she emphasises that she does not consider herself to be part of any socialist groups. She is a feminist who believes in the continued fight for equal pay, especially knowing that 70% of teachers are women, yet their union leaders are mostly male.

Blower was a candidate for the London Socialist Alliance in the 2000 London Assembly elections, a group that consisted of various species of Trotskyists and "Lewisham Tenants". Blower claimed her allegiance was solely with the NUT, even though the union was not part of the alliance. However, since then, Blower has been regarded increasingly by the NUT as the far left’s candidate, but this reputation may not help her when it comes to getting their support during an election. Some insiders suggest that Blower has cut most of her links with the far left over the past three years, and she doesn’t seem to be a firebrand in the NUT office. Most people describe her as being principled and conscientious, and she has received praise for her handling of Sinnott’s sudden death and her sensitivity in dealing with the staff who were traumatised by the loss.

Blower was raised in Kingston-upon-Thames, where she attended a bilateral school that had separate streams for grammar and secondary modern students, but all students interacted. Blower was part of the former group and initially planned to become a probation officer. After working as a teacher for seventeen years, she became the head of modern languages at a London comprehensive before switching to working with children at risk of needing care or being held in custody.

Blower was a member of the Labour Party until the early 1990s, and she even ran for the Wandsworth council in south London. However, an argument over the school day caused her to leave the party. When asked if she ever considered rejoining, she responded, "The policies under Tony Blair’s leadership did not interest me."

Blower’s teaching philosophy reflects her upbringing in the 1970s and her views would likely be labeled as "trendy" by the Daily Mail. However, Blower rejects this label. She believes that schools and teachers were better 35 years ago. Moreover, teachers are now putting in more hours than ever before, but much of that time is spent on administrative tasks such as form-filling and transcription, rather than directly impacting student learning.

In 1973, Blower began her teaching career at Holland Park, a flagship comprehensive school in London. The school had just switched to mixed-ability classes, a change that Blower believes was very successful. Blower feels that streaming or setting risks treating all students as though they are the same.

Blower is vehemently opposed to testing and even stopped her elder daughter from taking them at age seven and 11. Many people admired her principled stance, including the left-wing community. However, the Mail and others criticized her. Blower argues that testing is expensive, distorts the curriculum, and provides little useful information on a child’s progress. Instead, she believes that it would be far better and cheaper to check standards by sampling a few children each year.

Blower makes it clear that her personal views align with those of the NUT. However, she is disappointed that a ballot to boycott tests failed a few years ago. She believes that the NUT did not do enough to persuade younger teachers that a boycott was feasible.

Despite her strong beliefs about education, Blower’s true passions lie elsewhere. She has a vast collection of hats and wears a different one each day at teachers’ union conferences. She is also a keen gardener and will often stay with other union members to raid their gardens for cuttings when traveling.

However, as per the observations of a colleague, an interim general secretary is prone to being cautious. The colleague highlights that the gentleman in question still retains his experiences as a classroom instructor. On the other hand, it appears that the lady in question never made an effort to understand the ideals of a Trotskyist. Despite this, if she achieves the coveted position, it’s improbable that she would be influenced by anyone other than the members of NUT.


  • kileybaxter

    I am a 34-year-old educational blogger and student. I enjoy writing about education and sharing my insights and experiences with others. I hope to use this blog as a way to share my knowledge and help others learn more about the subjects that interest me.

Militating Tendency


I am a 34-year-old educational blogger and student. I enjoy writing about education and sharing my insights and experiences with others. I hope to use this blog as a way to share my knowledge and help others learn more about the subjects that interest me.

Post navigation