Voice the Union represents over 30,000 education professionals and is unique in being the only education union which never resorts to Industrial action. This is written into their rules and the union was established by 2 teachers in the 1970s who wanted the protection of a union but did not want to go on strike.
Deborah Lawson took over as General Secretary in October 2012, having won the election after a career in education, in July.
Having previously served on the union's Council and as National Chairman, she says it is 'a privilege' now to be able to concentrate on her work at Voice full time.
Ms Lawson said that 2012 was punctuated by the exam crisis and everything which came out of this, as well as curriculum changes and the overall accountability of the exam system.
"Education has been used as a political pawn"
In her role as head of the union Deborah Lawson has regular meetings with officials and Ministers at the Department for Education.
"There are some very positive opportunities and we have regular meetings with the DfE. Today (December 2012) I am meeting them as part of the STRB report on teachers’ salaries for example".
The membership of Voice is broader than other 'teaching' unions, with many early years and childcare workers as well as teaching assistants on board.
"We believe in the team approach. That everybody has a valuable contribution to make. We have members right across the sector from nursery to tertiary."
During this period of economic hardship and departmental budget cuts Ms Lawson is keen to stand up for her members:
"Everything in education and the wider economy has hit members. The level of political interference - in assessment, in the running and inspection of schools, in how professionals actually carry out their roles - effectively telling teachers what and how to teach while deregulating the profession - has led to a decline in morale - their profession has been diluted."
Their policy of not taking industrial action has proved popular with teachers:
"We are a true alternative and provide support and information to our members. We actually saw a spike in new memberships during the strikes in 2011. Members tend to like our fair play and using an alternative strategy to negotiate. We prefer the force of argument as opposed to the argument of force".
2013 is set to be another busy year for Voice. January is likely to see the publication of the childcare commission findings and the government response to the Nutbrown Review of early education and childcare qualifications .
Voice is also supporting the Regulation Matters campaign, which is calling for the registration of all childcarers in the UK, including nannies, in order to safeguard children, improve childcare standards and create consistency in the childcare industry.”
"All of those who work with children and young people have to be registered in some way".
Finally on the subject of the academy programme:
"We have members in academies and elsewhere. Who they work for is not an issue, but we're not in agreement with the Government's academy programme. Especially forcing some smaller schools and primaries towards becoming academies. We have also been working with members who are transferring to academies and helping with the TUPE (Transfer of Undertakings (Protection of Employment) Regulations) process".
Voice will continue to stand up for its members going into 2013 and especially those teaching staff who feel that their professionalism has been criticised and their profession eroded.