Teachers know that any strike by teachers is a major headache for parents. We realise that many parents will have to work at home, find emergency childcare, or take a day’s leave. Believe me when I tell you that no teacher takes this strike lightly, and it is precisely because of the concerns we have for education and young people that we do it.
Officially, the strike has been called over excessive workload and bureaucracy, the introduction of Performance related pay and the raising of the retirement age to 68. These are the kind of industrial questions that we are allowed to take action on by law and, if they are imposed, will cause a crisis in our schools.
But I can tell you that what is also motivating teachers to walk out is that they are sick of their professionalism and expertise being undermined; sick of being ignored and dismissed by an arrogant Department of Education; and deeply concerned about what this government’s changes are doing to education and to young people.
Here are a few things we think are wrong:
- This government is handing community schools, land and resources to private companies, including closing down LA schools against the wishes of the parents.
- This government thinks your child doesn’t need a qualified teacher.
- This government thinks that if your teacher’s morale is low that that is good for your child’s education.
- The government thinks it’s more important to invite the free market into education than provide school places for children where they are needed.
We think this is madness, which is why we have been engaged in a community campaign to ‘Stand Up For Education’. We don’t think this government wants to discuss these changes publically because we think parents will share our alarm.
- We think schools are run best by local authorities in the local communities they serve.
- We think every child deserves a qualified teacher.
- We think any changes to exams, curricula and policy should be thought out and properly consulted on in a realistic timescale.
- We think it is immoral to hand over public funds to private individuals & companies without any public redress or accountability.
We can’t strike on these questions but they matter every bit as much to us and we will campaign just as hard on them.
So why should you care about teachers’ workload, pay and pension rights?
Workload & Bureaucracy
Despite what you hear, teachers do not roll into school at 9am and swagger home at 3pm. A teacher’s working day will typically start much, much earlier and continue into the evenings, over the weekend and through the much-lauded holidays. The Department of Education was recently forced by an NUT campaign to publish its much overdue workload survey which showed how workload has risen under Gove.
The workload survey disclosed that primary teachers are routinely working nearly 60 hours a week; secondary teachers are working 55 hours a week. This kind of workload is ridiculous in any job, but in one that is so physically & emotionally draining it is utterly stupid. It is bad for teachers but it is bad for children too.
Worse, much of the work teachers are being asked to do is not directly associated with teaching and learning: far too much of the work is unnecessary bureaucracy that actively prevents us spending time on the more important job of planning resources and lessons, doing research or giving feedback to our students. Perhaps this is why 40% of teachers leave within the first 5 years of teaching.
Quite simply, this workload is making qualified teachers leave, exhausting those who stay and putting off those who might once have considered teaching as a career.
Performance Related Pay
It doesn’t work in teaching. Every study, every piece of research, has failed to show that judging individuals in a competitive systems simply doesn’t work in a school or college context which relies on collaboration and co-operation between staff and students. It assumes that children learn in neat little percentiles and that it is possible to apportion every little bit of progress made to a particular individual.
But it just doesn’t work like that. Children make progress for a number of reasons, and because of a range of people who have helped them. Bringing competition between teachers into the education of your child won’t benefit them. It will simply narrow what they are taught, because when you are being judged on what a child’s progress is, you will only want to teach what can be measured.
Unfair Pension Changes
Our pension fund is self-funded: all the money in the teachers’ fund was paid in by teachers. In fact, we have paid in £46 billion more than we have taken out.
Where is it?
We have asked the government to do a valuation of the pension scheme and prove that changes are necessary. They have refused.
Over the years, teachers have accepted a lower salary in lieu of a decent pension. We are now paying more in, and getting less, at the same time as working longer hours. Now the government wants us to work these crazy hours until we are 68.
Ask any teacher if they think they can work full time in a classroom (on a 55+hour week) until they are 68 and they will laugh in your face.
We want a teaching profession which has teachers with the energy & enthusiasm to help all children develop and progress in creative and dynamic ways.
This government’s policies are having the opposite effect.
This is why we strike.