How ATL works

This page sets out the structure of ATL, as well as information about the Code of Professional Conduct under which the union operates, ATL's Constitution and Rules and its Standing Orders.


ATL is a fully democratic organisation. Members are actively encouraged to participate in ATL's work at both local and national level (see our Get involved section).

ATL representatives

Every school and college is encouraged to elect an ATL representative. ATL reps act as the first point of contact for members, distribute information, offer on-site support, and maintain contact with branches and ATL's offices in London, Belfast and Cardiff.

For more information, see our page about ATL representatives.


Local branches are normally organised within the same areas as local authorities or groups of unitary authorities. Most branches have an elected committee, headed by a branch secretary. It is the branch that deals with matters affecting local members. The size of the branch varies enormously from a few hundred to several thousand. Most local branches meet once per term.


Conference is the main policy-making body of ATL. It meets annually in the week after Easter weekend.

The 600 members who make up Conference include ATL's Executive Committee, together with representatives elected by the branches. The number of representatives each branch can send to Conference depends on how many members it has. There are also opportunities for members to attend as observers.

Conference has the power to pass resolutions which the Executive Committee then implements. Both ATL and Conference are governed by the Constitution and Rules, which can be changed only by Conference itself.

Find out about this year's Conference.

Executive Committee

ATL's Executive Committee is elected on a two-year cycle to provide strategic direction and to develop every aspect of ATL's work, policy and benefits. It acts on resolutions passed at the annual Conference and operates through a number of committees (see below).

The Executive Committee comprises up to 53 members including six national officers, and meets seven times a year in London.


The Executive Committee operates through a number of advisory, operational and policy committees, which focus on different aspects of the overall work of ATL. These committees consider a wide range of important issues from continuing professional development and conditions of service, to independent schools and special educational needs.

The committee structure provides many opportunities for members of ATL to participate in its activities and to contribute in areas where they have expertise. For more information and to get involved, see the page on committees.

National officers

ATL has six national officers, elected by the members: vice-president; president; immediate past president; one treasurer and member governance officer and one policy officer.

Once elected, the vice-president follows a path through the ranks over a three-year period. In their second year they become president, and finally they become immediate past president.

There is always one treasurer and member governance officer and one policy officer, one post being elected each year to serve for two years.

Every five years there are elections for the position of ATL general secretary. Every member has the right to vote and all elections are by secret postal ballot.

For more information about ATL's national officers, see our who's who page.

ATL's Code of Professional Conduct

This code reflects the values of the association:

1. In a dispute with an employer members may be given advice by the association about an appropriate course of action; but pressure should not be placed on any member to agree to take action which is against their conscience.

2. No member should make a report which contains criticism of the work or conduct of another teacher without at the time acquainting the teacher concerned with the nature of the report, either verbally or in writing. This does not however apply to issues which relate to child protection issues or other legal duties and responsibilities of a teacher.

3. No member should censure or criticize another teacher in the presence of a pupil/student.

Constitution and Rules

ATL's Constitution and Rules sets out what the aims of the organisation are, and what work it should carry out. It also stipulates how ATL policy should be formulated, who can join as a member and the various functions of ATL's branches, its Executive Committee, its staff and the president.

Contact ATL's despatch department for a copy, tel: 0845 4500 009, quoting your membership number.

Conference Standing Orders

ATL's annual Conference is the key policy-making body of the union. The Standing Orders set out exactly how Conference will be organised and how decisions will be made. To receive a printed copy, please contact ATL's despatch department, tel: 0845 4500 009, quoting your membership number.

See also