Who's who?

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ATL's officers and officials, and the senior managers from ATL's professional staff who act as key spokespeople for the union, make up a dedicated team striving to support members in their employment and to secure the best future for education in the UK.

ATL's officers and officials

Niamh Sweeney, President

Niamh Sweeney

Niamh Sweeney currently teaches Health & Social Care at a 6th Form College in Cambridge. Niamh joined ATL when she began teaching in 2004 after a varied career in community care and probation. She became Branch Secretary for Cambridge Regional College in 2008. Niamh is an active member of the Cambridgeshire District, and has been Executive Member for the Eastern Region since 2010. Niamh has been Lead Member for FE and Safeguarding, and currently represents ATL on the General Council of the TUC.

Shelagh Hirst, Immediate past president

Shelagh Hirst

Shelagh Hirst is a primary supply teacher, foundation stage – Y6 and has been a member of ATL for over 26years.  She became a member of the Executive Committee in 2000, and became honorary secretary for eight years in 2006. She has been Chair of Conference Standing Orders Committee on a number of occasions, Chair of Rules and Procedures; International Co-ordinator, TUC Co-ordinator and Lead Member for Health & Safety.  Shelagh became Calderdale Branch Secretary in 1998 and also District Secretary in 2015.

Kim Knappett, Vice-president

Kim Knappett has been a member of the association since 1986 and is currently a Science Teacher in South London. She has been a member of the Inner London Committee since 1993 and is currently District Secretary and Local Secretary for Lewisham. Kim was chair of the Branch Relations Committee from 2006 until 2010 and of the Awards Committee from 2010 until 2012 and has been Lead member for Health and Safety and for Appraisal.


Ralph Surman, Policy officer

Ralph Surman

Ralph Surman is currently Deputy Head Teacher of a primary school in Nottingham and is its Inclusion and Disabilities Officer. He joined ATL in 1983 and has been an Executive Committee member since 1996. At various times he has been Lead Member for Behaviour and Discipline, Pay and Conditions and Evaluation and Inspection.


Stephen Buck, Finance and member governance officer

Stephen Buck

Stephen Buck, a physics graduate, began his teaching career in 1975. He first became a member of the ATL in the 1980s and was elected to a seat on Executive Committee in 2002, representing Humberside. He has been a member of Policy Council, Finance Committee, General Purposes Committee, Budget Group and Rules and Procedures Committee. Stephen has also been local branch secretary for North Lincolnshire for many years.


Josie Whiteley, AMiE president

Josie Whiteley is an educational consultant who undertakes interim manager roles in further education colleges. She started teaching full-time in 1997, after an 11 year career in journalism, and taught on degree and HND courses before moving into teaching mainly FE students. 

Josie joined AMiE in 2012, when she was director of arts at Barnsley College, in south Yorkshire, and became the college’s AMiE representative. In 2013, she joined AMiE’s National Council for a three-year term. She was elected AMiE vice president in 2016. 

Josie is also a vice chair of governors at a local secondary school, which includes a sixth form and is also a trustee at Dent Meditation Centre, in Cumbria, where she has worked closely with the director to develop and launch a training course for teachers.

Passionate about arts education, Josie is also chair of charity EnRich, which supports creative activities of all kinds in Barnsley. 

Follow Josie on Twitter @JosieW_AMiE

ATL's key spokespeople

Mary Bousted, General secretary

Mary is general secretary of ATL and AMiE. She represents the interests of members to the Government and a wide variety of other stakeholders. As the education union, ATL leads the debate on key educational issues with strong policy positions on, for example, assessment and curriculum changes, school accountability and school structures.

Mary contributes regular articles for newspapers and education journals, and appears frequently on national media. She sits on the executive committee of the Trades Union Congress (TUC), is chair of Unionlearn and was a member of the Acas board. Mary is also an accomplished public speaker and has debated at the Oxford Union.

Mary previously worked in higher education at York University, Edge Hill University and Kingston University where she was head of the School of Education. Prior to this Mary was head of English and an English teacher in comprehensive schools in north London.

Twitter: @MaryBoustedATL

Peter Pendle, Deputy general secretary

Peter Pendle is deputy general secretary of ATL. He was originally elected as chief executive and general secretary of the Association for College Management (ACM) in 2001 and re-elected in 2006. He retained the position until ACM's merger with ATL in 2011, when he became deputy general secretary. He is responsible for support and representation for members, resource management including finance, HR and IT, membership and governance administration. He remains chief executive of AMiE, ATL's section for leaders and managers.

Before joining ACM Peter was director of resources for the Universities UK (formerly the Committee for Vice Chancellors and Principals (CVCP)) and before that was vice principal of Greenhill College in Harrow. He is a mentor for the Black Leadership Initiative Mentoring Scheme and a recipient of the Network of Black Managers' Award for leadership in race equality in FE. He has over thirty years' experience of FE and school governance in various roles. He has been a trustee for various charities and currently sits as an employment tribunal member in London East.


Mark Langhammer, Director of ATL Northern Ireland

Mark Langhammer is director of ATL Northern Ireland. He is responsible for the staff team, strategic direction, education policy, negotiations, recruitment and organisation. Mark was previously employed as director of the University for Industry's learndirect initiative in Northern Ireland, as CEO of the North Belfast (urban regeneration) Partnership and director of the Dunanney Centre.

Tel: 028 9078 2020 Email Mark Langhammer

ATL's assistant general secretaries

Nansi Ellis, Assistant general secretary (policy)

Nansi Ellis is ATL's assistant general secretary with responsibility for policy. She leads the development and implementation of ATL's policies on education, equalities, pay, conditions and pensions – professional issues that impact on teaching and learning. She and her team liaise with stakeholders, using policy to negotiate, influence and challenge on issues such as accountability, curriculum and assessment, professional development and the conditions for effective professional practice at national and local levels. And she focuses policy development in ways that support sustained member activity. If education is to change for the benefit of children and young people, then those who work in education need to take a lead, and the union must support them to do so.

Nansi began her teaching career as a primary teacher in a bilingual school in west Wales, and then moved to London to teach in a middle school. She worked (briefly) on national testing and data collection for the School Curriculum and Assessment Authority, and managed the early years team at the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority, helping to develop the early years foundation stage. She joined ATL as a primary education adviser.

Mark Holding, Assistant general secretary (R&O)

Mark Holding is ATL's head of recruitment and organisation. He is responsible for leading ATL's work recruiting, engaging and developing members. This includes the support ATL provides to local workplace activists, districts, branches and sector networks as well as our national programme of reps training, union learning and continuing professional development.

Mark joined ATL as an experienced union organiser having previously worked as national organiser for Connect and before that as part of the team which launched the TUC's Organising Academy.

Victoria Barlow, Assistant general secretary (communication & membership)

Victoria has been working at ATL for the past eight years, firstly as head of communications and then as Assistant General Secretary for communications and membership. In her current role she oversees the department's work to recruit, retain and engage members and to influence stakeholders as well as contributing to the union's overall strategy and direction.

Having begun her career in journalism in 1997 working on local and national newspapers, Victoria moved in press office work, starting at the Local Government Association then NASUWT before joining the charity, Teacher Support Network as director of communications.

Victoria has a son at an infant school in south London where she sits on the board of governors and chairs the curriculum committee.

Andy Peart, Assistant general secretary (LMS)

Andy Peart is ATL's head of legal and member services and manages both the internal and external functions of the department. He oversees support provided to  members in relation to their employment via ATL's Senior Regional Officials and Regional Officials as well as the Solicitors and Member Advisers who work at the London Office. He is also the Servicing Secretary to the Standing Orders Committee who manage all motions which are submitted to the Union's National Conference.

Andy was a music journalist in the nineties before going to work in local government. Prior to joining ATL in 2001 he was a Unison Branch Secretary and then a Caseworker/Organiser for Unison in the Voluntary and Charity sectors.