Keates grew up in Stoke-on-Trent and attended Thistley Hough Girls' School, a girls' grammar school now called Thistley Hough Academy, before studying Archaeology and History at the University of Leicester, then completing a Postgraduate Certificate in Education at the University of Birmingham.
Keates was active in the National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers (NASUWT), becoming the union's Assistant General Secretary in 1998, then Deputy General Secretary in 2001 and General Secretary in 2004. At the time, she was the only woman to lead any of the ten largest unions in the UK.
As leader of the NASUWT, Keates initially pursued a policy of co-operation with the Labour government, signing a workload agreement, in contrast to the rival National Union of Teachers (NUT). However, she was highly critical of the Conservative-led governments from 2010 onwards, working with the NUT to oppose changes which she described as an "unparalleled vicious assault" on teachers.
- Companies House
- "Chris Keates: the gentle face of trade unionism", The Independent, 12 April 2006
- Gary Daniels and John McIlroy, Trade Unions in a Neoliberal World
- Irena Barker, "Chris Keates to lead the NASUWT for five more years", Times Educational Supplement, 3 April 2014
- Trades Union Congress, "TUC General Council members"
|Trade union offices|
| Deputy General Secretary of the National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers
2002 – 2004
| General Secretary of the National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers
2004 – present