Mike Clancy gives ECSG update on ‘state of the union’

5 November 2021

Mike Clancy, Prospect’s general secretary, addressed the Education and Children’s Services Group Biennial General Meeting with a talk on the ‘state of the union’ and how Prospect must adapt to the challenges of the future.

Mike Clancy addressing Prospect energy sector conference 2021

Prospect general secretary Mike Clancy

Talking to delegates via Zoom, Clancy, who had just been re-elected for another five-year term, started by thanking the ECS sector for their nomination and their support.

“It is a privilege to be general secretary. I’ve lost no passion and I’ve lost no commitment to what needs to be done over the next five years,” he said.

“We have a great union representing a whole range of fascinating people doing fascinating things.”

His remarks have been edited for length and clarity.

Prospect’s culture

“The culture in the union is multifaceted but we’ve got to believe in each other, and even when we’re arguing about resources or debating policy and we have strong disagreements, try to do that as constructively as possible.”

“We must ensure that throughout everything we do, we mean what we say about equality, diversity and inclusion. Unions have not always been at their best on some of these issues.”

“Where there is injustice and where there is exploitation, or whether it’s just simply bad behaviour, we’ve got to have the confidence to speak truth unto power, litigate, take collective action and also correct behaviour if we can through dialogue and persuasion.”

Government and politics

“We are a politically independent union and proud to be so, but that doesn’t mean to say we do not comment on the politics of the day.”

“We can get behind the government slogan of a high-wage, high-skill economy but it needs to have substance and you, as educationalists, know more than most how important that is in terms of turning lofty ideals into citizens who are rounded, trained, engaged and enabled for the future.”

“I think we’re going to face a real challenge as we come through, hopefully, the end of the pandemic notwithstanding the difficult winter months that may be ahead. A lot of employers I’ve talked to have great misgivings about the content-light approach of government to policy, and that this government, a Conservative government, have been very critical of business, have criticised employers and, indeed, criticised the electorate.”


“We need to make sure that we’re a voice for all the different types of employment in the labour market. Your own sector, you’ve got a variety of employment, so you’ve got that experience.”

“I certainly think this union can be much stronger than we have been for freelancers and self-employed. We also need to be more agile for members who move between the different forms of employment. That’s a big issue for the future.”

“We also need to be clear about repopulating the private sector so that in 10 years’ time we don’t look like the United States where trade union membership is almost solely concentrated in in the public sector.”

“It exposes our public sector members to the ongoing trope that you get it easy in the public sector because you get a good pension. We want trade unions in all parts of the economy.”

“But I also see a key part of our mission is to protect our public service members and to remind the government that you are the frontline and must not be taken for granted.”

Prospect’s future

“Trade unionism is an interesting blend of charm and menace. On any given day, you may be applying more charm than more menace and so on, but human interaction is key to trade unionism advocacy, persuasion and engagement.”

“A lot of this we can do through Zoom and Teams, but we can’t do all of it that way. Union work is people work. Our ability to safely engage with colleagues, as representatives and as activists, is crucial.”

“After the pandemic, I’m confident we can communicate even better with our members, but how do we get to non-members, and recruit them to keep the engine of renewal going? That is the big exam question.”

“We need to make the right decisions in the next five to ten years. We won’t look the same in five years, if we do, we’ll have failed.”

Education and children's services

Prospect represents nearly 3,000 professionals in education, children's services, early years, commissioning and children's social care.