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Anti-smacking campaigner to head UK teachers union

By Rebecca Black

A Belfast teacher who took a stand against corporal punishment has become the national president of one of the largest teachers' unions in the UK.

Fred Brown is set to take on the role at the NASUWT's annual conference in Manchester today.

The 68-year-old spoke out against corporal punishment at his first job at the former Somerdale Secondary School in north Belfast.

He has now vowed to campaign on behalf of his teaching colleagues, demanding their workloads be reduced.

Mr Brown said the first piece of equipment he received was a cane, but he refused to use it.

He went on to join the Society of Teachers Opposed Physical Punishment (STOPP).

Corporal punishment was abolished in state schools just a few years later.

Mr Brown has worked in education since 1980 and now teaches English, Maths and financial and money management to young people in Belfast, Newtownards and Downpatrick at the Give and Take employability project, which is part of the Include Youth organisation.

He has also taught drama, ICT, psychology and citizenship in different schools, educational settings and youth projects across Belfast through his career, including Beechlawn School, the Belfast Metropolitan College and the Education Other Than At School (EOTAS) project.

Mr Brown said he came into teaching almost by accident while working in a factory.

He occasionally covered for someone else running an art class and the teacher's wife persuaded him to enrol in teacher training college.

He said teaching has changed a lot during his career, "sometimes for the better".

"In the post Brexit-era there are likely to be challenges to maintain the working rights we have and to extend them," he said.

"There is a worrying atmosphere against teachers from other countries who are an important part of the workforce and we need to support them.

"We need to stop the drain from the workforce, particularly among young teachers and make teaching a profession that is attractive, both in terms of pay but also in terms of reducing workload.

"Teachers need to be allowed to do what they do best.

"I will use my year as president to stand up for teachers, to fight for the profession and to ensure governments across the UK recognise and reward teachers for the vital job they do day-in-day-out."

Chris Keates, NASUWT general secretary, welcomed Mr Brown to his new role.

"As a teacher who works with some of the most challenging and vulnerable young people in Northern Ireland, Fred understands the issues facing many teachers across the UK," she said.

"This experience will enable him to champion effectively their cause at national level. He will be a worthy advocate for the profession."

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