Martin Powell-Davis is the driving force of the Stop Academies in Lewisham campaign. He is also general secretary of the Lewisham branch of the NUT and a member of its national executive. He’s a secondary school science teacher in Lewisham and will be standing as an MP for the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition in the coming general election. Last, but not at all least, he is also a parent to four children. “My life is always full”, he says jokingly, but with a sharp ring of seriousness to it.
It all began with a hopeful, “go on then, I’ll do it”, which is how Martin commenced his career at the NUT. There was a vacancy and no one else wanted to do it, so he volunteered. For the last 20 years, Martin has held this role and taught part-time.
Martin is proud of Lewisham’s long-standing resistance to academy status schools and believes that academisation isn’t the way forward for education. The borough’s teachers, parents and students have recently proven its strong opposition after four schools went on strike to oppose the change.
Before he started this role, the Lewisham NUT branch had around 1,000 members and now it’s grown to over 2,000 members. “I’m very pleased we’ve been able to build up the strength of the union,” Martin says. “Most people think this job is all about the strikes and the headlines, but actually most of it is being at the end of a telephone or email to advise and support our members.”
However, the growing success of the union means more problems to help solve. Martin explained how the biggest problems teachers face here in Lewisham are the same as the ones teachers face nationally. “It’s the workload. I really do worry about the future of education. It’s become an impossible job.”
Yet Martin’s many roles are helping to break down these problems. Four years ago, Martin was elected to become a national executive member of the union. As one of two national executive members for the inner London boroughs, Martin had “more of a chance to feed into those national discussions about what we do”.
Alongside everything that Martin miraculously manages to fit into his life, he’s also standing for TUSC in the coming elections. “I’ve always been a political person. I come from a Labour activist family, I joined the party when I still in sixth form”.
His rapid loss of faith within the Labour party, as well as an increasing number of teachers nationwide feeling there isn’t a representative party, means he is taking a stand for unions. “We [at the NUT] need our own political representation. We need to give people an opportunity to realise that there is somebody they can vote for”.
“Teachers aren’t allowed to stand as council candidates in their local area, so I’m very much looking forward to standing as an MP in my local area.”
Although the NUT doesn’t back any particular party, Martin’s roles and passions go hand in hand. They appear to have slowly been building up towards his most recent position of standing in the elections. “We are doing what we can, through strike action to dissuade academisation. But you can’t just achieve that through industrial action, you can only achieve that by having a political voice, so that’s why, on top of everything else, I’m finding a moment to stand in an election as well”.
On the day of the first NUT strike, the three leatherseller’s federation schools confirmed their wish to become academies. Now Martin, as part of the Lewisham branch of the NUT and SAiL, continues to power on in the collective fight against this problematic change.