Mary Bousted moved into pole position this week in the race to become Britain's highest-paid teachers' union leader. Dr Bousted is the executive committee's choice for the post of general secretary of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers and has overtaken a number of internal candidates said to be seeking the job of representing 160,000 teachers, lecturers and education support staff. There are thought to be some 50 others keen to have a bash at the £107,000-a-year post.
However, Dr Bousted, head of the school of education at Kingston University, was unable to say why she wanted the job this week and had even been advised not to supply any photographs of herself to the press, due to the strict no-canvassing rules applied by the ATL. A defensive ATL press office also declined to discuss the nomination other than to confirm that an election for the office would be called in March - if, as seems likely, any of the other interested contenders put themselves up as nominated candidates against her.
During her career, Dr Bousted has worked in schools and further and higher education. She spent a decade as a teacher of English at a North London school before moving to Edge Hill College of higher education in Ormskirk. She also held a senior position at the University of York and is the author of a number of English texts. She edited a 2001 edition of George Eliot's Silas Marner and Rhetoric and Practice in English Teaching in 2000.
Peter Smith, the departing general secretary at the ATL, will be a difficult act to follow. He is a well-respected strategist who has led the union for more than ten years. His retirement at the end of the year following a period of ill-health has been much lamented. Gerald Imison, also said to be throwing his hat into the ring, said Mr Smith's commitment was "all-embracing and unlikely to be equalled".
The ATL is Britain's third-biggest teaching union.