Posted here are a few of the many tributes to Mary Compton

       Mary Compton, who has died of cancer aged 67, was an inspirational teacher and trade unionist. A modern languages teacher, she was active in the National Union of Teachers for more than 30 years, eventually serving as its President in 2004-05.
     As the NUT president speaking at the million-strong rally against British intervention in Iraq in 2003, she began her speech: “I am speaking as a teacher. I extend my solidarity to the teachers of Iraq and the children of Iraq.” In Powys, mid-Wales, where she lived, she led marches, lobbies and a strike against school closures as recently as 2016.
      Mary was determined to internationalise the struggles of teachers in response to the effect of privatisation on education. She was the architect of a conference held in London in 2014 that examined the impact of these developments across the world, particularly in the global south, and visited India a number of times to build support for teachers there. She founded the Teacher Solidarity website to share information about those struggles.  Mary was also a contributor to several books, scholarly journals, and political magazines, including Rethinking Schools and New Politics.

      A close friend and colleague of mine for more than 35 years, I first met her at an NUT conference, and my work with her included writing a chapter for a book that she edited, The Global Assault on Teaching, Teachers and their Unions: Stories for Resistance (2008), a pathbreaking volume that examined what has become known as GERM, the Global Education Reform Movement. Most recently she wrote a chapter in Where Are the Unions? Workers and Social Movements in Latin America, the Middle East and Europe (2017).

       Born in Bristol to Kenneth Compton, a buyer at the South Western Electricity Board, and Marjorie (nee Hockey), a secretary at Imperial Tobacco, Mary grew up in the city and went to Redlands high school.  She studied modern languages at Southampton University, graduating in 1971, then got her PGCE at Bath College of Higher Education in 1976. After a brief period at Newtown high school, Powys, she began teaching at John Beddoes school in neighbouring Presteigne, where she stayed for the rest of her career. For more than 20 years she wrote and directed the pantomime in the town.
      She became secretary of the Radnor branch of the NUT in 1985, a post she retained for the rest of her working life, and of the union’s Powys division in the 1990s. After being an executive member for Wales, she became a national officer in 2002, and then president. In 2010 she returned to college to complete an MA in international labour and trade union studies at Ruskin College, writing a dissertation, Not Free to Teach, comparing teachers' work in India and the UK.
      Her illness prevented her attending the NUT’s delegation to Mexico this year, which she had instigated, but she was keen to hear the outcomes. At the time of her death, she was a trustee of the union.
     Mary is survived by her husband, Hugh Pope, a builder, whom she married in 1980, their children, Clarrie, Helen, Blanche and Faith, and granddaughter, Eira.

By Ian Murch

(A version of this obituary appeared in The Guardian).


“Mary was a great and crucial defender of human rights of people whether it be Palestine or Mexico and ensuring that her Union the NUT was always international in its outlook.
At the tragedy of her passing we can reflect on the huge contribution to education and learning she made. Like all great teachers her legacy is the sense of understanding and human solidarity she has in stilled in others.
Let us all strive for an approach to the world which is of human rights and justice and sees in everyone especially every child what they can achieve with those values.
Thank you Mary for all you did."

Jeremy Corbyn, Leader of the British Labour Party


In Mary's own words: An excerpt of her presentation to a conference at New York University, August 22, 2016 on privatization and education

To Struggle Is Also To Teach. How  can teachers and teaching unions further the global fight for another world?

"So ultimately the only way to defend public education and the teaching profession is to overturn the global reform project itself.  In order to do this, teaching unions must form precisely the kinds of alliances with communities most feared by the advocates of the project.  By the nature of their work, teachers  often live in and are respected members of their communities and their economic, social and personal interests are more or less bound up with these communities. This is nicely summarised in a slogan adopted by struggling teachers across the world: ‘Teachers working conditions are children’s learning conditions’ (Olson-Jones, 2014).The very things which threaten teachers – low pay, oversized classes, lack of tenure, lack of teaching materials, deprofessionalisation, bad infrastructure, are also an assault on children, their parents and communities. The atomisation of communities and the teaching profession into competing individuals through the imposition of school ‘choice’ and managerial accountability frameworks are as much an attack on them as they are on teachers."