So why a teachers strike ?

Last week I was elected (or the only person who would do it) to be the National union of Teacher rep in my school. We hadn't had a rep for some months and with decisions to be made about strike action it was felt we needed a rep in the school. The interesting thing was that as a group of teacher we had a long and interesting chat behind the reasons for and against strike action and, in the end, we all decided to support the strike despite us all having some misgivings.

Ultimately, from my point of view, recent pay increases have been a joke. The last teachers pay deal equated to a pay cut because inflation was significantly higher than the 1.8% we got whilst the new offer 2.45%, with decreasing amounts in subsequent years, was still in real terms a cut.

Now I understand like everyone else that times are hard at the moment, but even in the "good times", teachers pay has not seen the jumps that other public servants have received (most notably some in the NHS), so the argument that teachers are being greedy now does not hold water.

The truth is that if we want people not to consider a job in industry or commerce and consider teaching then we have to accept that going to University for four years is not a great prospect if you then get a job which means you cannot even afford to but the most basic of properties.

Of all my friends I went to University with and who did the same course as me, I earn by far the least. I am also the only one of my friends still paying off my student loans (11 years after finishing my degree, 9 years after my PGCE). Is that an incentive to enter the teaching profession ? Nobody becaome a teacher to be rich, but you might expect to have at least be free of student debt some 9 years after qualifying.

Even the NAS/UWT, a rival union, has admitted that it is paying out more than ever from its hardship fund to teachers. However, it hasn't stoped the NAS/UWT siding yet again with their friends in the Labour Party. Sadly the NAS/UWT no longer speaks for teachers but instead does whatever its Labour masters wish it to do.

When you read the news today, we can see what the government are doing to fill the gaps in recruitment that already exist. Ever rising numbers of people are employed within schools who do not have Qualified Teacher Status (QTS). I was amazed last year when I was considering applying for a job at another school to see that they put on the application form "QTS is preferred but not essential", which to my mind is like British Airways advertising for a pilot and stating "Pilots license is preferred, but not essential". What sort of people do we want teaching and educating our future workforce ? Clearly paying less to unqualified people is the government's aim.

So at my school next Thursday all the NUT members are on strike, with heavy hearts and a lot of reluctance, but sadly this government has shown that it cares not one jot for the teaching profession. The strike may not be effective, but the government has to be told. Many other groups such as pro hunting groups, anti war groups and the fire service have all made grand shows of causing disruption, but the only way for teachers to do this is to strike. What a shame this has had to happen.


Fred Harrison said...

Well said, Nich. Very best wishes to you and your colleagues.

James Higham said...

Did any government ever care for the teaching profession?

Anonymous said...


Would it be too much to ask teachers to look at the holiday programme and choose one of those days to lobby Parliament or something? It is not as if your breaks aren't predictable. Or maybe even an INSET day? There are lots of things the bolshiest union could do to make its case without screwing parents and children. Striking just makes people who are still expected to pay for an indifferent education out of their overburdensome taxes dislike teachers.

The most effective thing NUT could do to improve teachers' pay long term is get behind the idea of making all schools independent. In a competitive environment, with increasing demand for places, teachers' pay would inevitably increase.

Bernie Gudgeon said...

You do not go on strike when a potential recession looms; at the same time as tax revenues plummet and public sector finance looks set to hit the buffers. Six months from now, when things really begin to bite, the public will be raging about the burden of council tax bills and the increased national taxes they are paying to fund public sector pensions. Teachers should have been striking a year or two ago when the going was good. Suspect you might have missed the boat.

Anonymous said...

Teachers paid badly. Oh yes they are. Why? Because they work for the state monopoly. As do doctors and nurses and health industry support staff. Monopolies - state or private - are guaranteed to do two things; overcharge their customers and exploit their employees. By all means strike - and although it is very unprofessional to strike, it is a free country - but strike for something worhwhile. Like de-nationalisation of education. Once you achieve that your pay, benefits and standing in the community will improve beyond your wildest dreams. Last thought, why didn't you strike a couple of weeks ago whilst on your paid holiday? Most of you were working on your marking and preparation (as was Mrs. Lola - a teacher) so you would have withdrawn your labour.

Anonymous said...

The Conservatives are already thinking about increasing teacher salaries in return for more accountability, which I think would work well.

I disagree with you that teachers aren't being greedy. As a former teacher, I know that teaching is relatively well paid compared to a lot of other public sector jobs (for example, the starting salary for nurses is a lot lower) and the pay offer of 2.45% is higher than the settlement for the police and civil servants this year.

Nich Starling said...

ACtually you are wrong about the pay offer of 2.45% being higher than the settlement for the police.

The police have not had next year's pay increase announced yet. The 2.45% is for NEXT year.

As for last year the police kicked up a fuss at getting a per annum increase of 1.9%. Teachers actually got last year (this year if you like) 1.8%.

Don't confuse different pay rounds just because they are announced at different times. if you do you are fooling for the government's deliberate trick.

As for the earlier comment from someone else about lobbying government, I don't know if you realise but out holidays coincide with MP's holidays. We turn up at parliament, there is nobody there. What a big effect that will have.

Dr Michelle Tempest said...

Hi there Norfolk Blogger. You said 'We turn up at parliament, there is nobody there.' - if you only have time to lobby out-of-term, why not co ordinate to all make appointments with your local MPs at their local surgeries? You may of course have already have done that.

smokewriter said...

Are you really still paying your student loan off? I think you may have missed out on a perk there. I qualified (PGCE) in 2002 and because I had gone into teaching, I had my student loan paid off for me by the government and previous payments towards it refunded to me. I recommend you look into that; at least it would be one les thing to worry about!