Why I’m Going On Strike

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“You’re going on strike again? Weren’t you lot out last year too? It’s about time you stopped feeling sorry for yourselves and got on with it like the rest of us!”

 

This was the reaction of a good friend of mine from the private sector when informed of the escalated action teachers plan to take in a number of weeks. He bore no sympathy to my plight as a teacher. He saw no valid grounds on which I could stand. And who could blame him? He reads the news. He is up to date with the media. He has no basis on which to understand why teachers are going on strike.

 

Michael Gove, the Education Secretary, is not a man whom I have fondness for. He is smug, sneaky, arrogant, narrow-minded and patronising. But it cannot be said that he is an unintelligent man. He understands that the dispute with teaching unions will be won in the public domain, and therefore the perception of the dispute in the media is vital. Worryingly, Michael Gove is doing very well.

 

On a weekly basis there are negative reports about teaching and teachers, on the news and in papers, around the UK. The reputation teachers once had as respectable, hardworking professionals is slowly being chipped away. It is being replaced by a perception that teachers are lazy and undedicated; that we care little for children and provide them with inadequate opportunities to flourish. Indeed, the teaching profession has been continually berated and ridiculed since Mr Gove took office.

 

However, if my experience in primary schools is anything to go by, the picture Mr Gove paints could not be further from the truth. I have seldom met more dedicated, hardworking respectable people in my life. Unfortunately their story is seldom heard. It is precisely for that reason that I believe it is imperative that people understand why teachers are going on strike. I have outlined my reasons below.

 

1) Firstly, going on a strike is not something I do lightly. I have considered it in great detail. Pupils are entitled to an education and forcing a school to close deprives them of this for one day. It also greatly inconveniences their parents and guardians who have to organise other arrangements for their children.

 

So why is there not another way that we, as teachers, can protest? There was. Teachers have been on industrial action short of strike for months in an effort to show opposition to the Education Minister without disrupting our pupils’ education. This has gone largely unnoticed and many people are unaware of this. Unfortunately Mr Gove has ignored the calls to enter into genuine dialogue with teaching unions and forced teachers to take more drastic actions.

 

2) Teachers pensions and work conditions are being attacked. The government want teachers to pay more into their pensions and work for longer. Indeed recently Mr Gove suggested that teachers work longer hours and have shorter breaks. Has he ever seen a class just before half term? Both teachers and pupils need that break. Also with the pay freeze already imposed on teachers and rising pension contributions, this actually amounts to a pay cut. More worryingly though is that teachers will be expected to work until they are 68. Teaching can be a challenging and exhausting profession. Do you want your kids to be taught by somebody who is spent, simply counting the days until their retirement?

 

3) The current pay scheme in England and Wales is being abolished. At present, teachers work their way through a pay scale which guarantees stability. It is something that serves to attract the best graduates. This is due to be scrapped and replaced with performance related pay. I can understand why some may agree with this. On the surface it seems logical to most, particularly those in the private sector who work within such a system. However, I simply can never support such an arrangement within education.

 

Despite Mr Goves best efforts, education is not a business. There is no research anywhere in the world that suggests linking pay to performance improves education. In fact, quite the opposite is true. Teachers pay will be dictated by the budget a head teacher has to play with. Therefore the richer schools will attract the best teachers leaving poor teachers in deprived areas, where good teachers are needed most. Social elitism will flourish once again. Teachers unmotivated by greed may find that moving to a new school may mean taking a significant pay cut. Their pay may also be dictated by the ability level of a certain cohort, or the support they have within a school. I also believe that under severe pressure, teachers will ’teach to the test’ and thus narrow the curriculum and educational opportunities for pupils. All creativity and diversity will be lost. Teachers will be encouraged to work in a very single minded way and opportunities to share best practice will be lost. Teachers will suffer; pupils will suffer.

 

There are other reasons to oppose the current Education Secretary. The implementation of a new, narrow curriculum that encourages acquiring facts through rote learning, removing the requirement for pupils to be taught by qualified teachers and the GCSE English fiasco serve as reminders that Mr Gove is taking very high risk gambles with the education system in this country. There is no shortage of reasons why this government is bad for young people in this country. A whole generation are under threat.

 

 

On 27th June 2013 thousands of teachers across the North West of England, angry with government reforms, will go on strike. I will be one of these teachers. I hope you will support me.

 

Secret Teacher

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10 thoughts on “Why I’m Going On Strike

  1. Alastair James Dickie June 27, 2013 at 10:50 pm Reply

    Reblogged this on To Gather No Moss… and commented:
    Important point, I feel:

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  2. Chris Neale June 27, 2013 at 12:45 pm Reply

    1. I have no problem with teachers striking to register their complaint.

    2. I can’t agree with this point. All pensions are not performing as people would previously expected. To expect the government, and therefore the taxpayer to meet that shortfall is not a solution. It may mean that the pension system is wrong but fixing it with public money doesn’t solve the problem it simply masks it with a cash sink. To get the same expected payout teachers should have to increase contributions, just as private sector workers have to.
    Similarly pensionable age for everyone is rising. The brief point above about teaching being a challenging and exhausting profession doesn’t really justify an exception over many jobs which are just as challenging or exhausting.

    3. This point is very difficult to debate without lots of data/studies.
    Most opinions are formed on gut reaction, anecdotal experience.
    e.g. surely paying more=better staff vs teachers worrying about performance scores hampering their teaching.
    Whilst I would agree that it is a very simplistic link that PRP should equal better teaching, I would also agree that guaranteed raises leave open the possibility for abusing that guarantee. Whilst the majority of teachers will come to work to do their best, just like any industry or job, some will come and do the minimum. Should they be rewarded? Surely that would grate if your colleague gets the same pay increase for simply turning up versus the enthusiasm and effort and passion you put in?
    It’s a very difficult quandary. I don’t agree with PRP or guaranteed raises. Both are flawed systems. The solution is somewhere in the middle.

    4. I fully support rejecting the crazy and self-stereotyped Tory notion that knowing the last 20 Kings of England or the capitals of every country in the world equals intelligence. Nor do I think that force feeding Shakespeare/Latin or any other “classical” area of study on children will help them get a job or be creative. But the curriculum has being tinkered with for the last 30 years (that I know of as I was at school for maths as 100% coursework…the other end of the madness spectrum). It probably is better separating that discussion from the pay & conditions one.

    *I have to declare an interest as my wife is a primary school teacher.

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    • Barry Fordham October 1, 2013 at 7:52 am Reply

      Performance related pay only makes sense if “performance” can be objectively measured.

      Within Teaching “performance” for a class room teacher boils down to “do the kids meet the academic targets set for them” and it is in the target setting process that the problem lies.

      Schools test their pupils extensively on entry and keep data on how they perform over their school life. This data serves to draw many useful GENERAL conclusions about how cohorts perform, the effect of various changes in curriculum and practice etc etc. BUT to then take that generalised data and apply it in reverse to say in effect “Billy Boy tested at entry at level xxx so by the end of Key Stage 3 & 4 in 5 years time he should get grade XX” is a statistically invalid thing to do. The mis-application of Fisher Family Trust data and Midysis test results is doing more harm than enough to Teaching.

      Performance related teachers pay? pah! I’ll leave the profession before I accept that.

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  3. Corporal Karl Butler RAF June 27, 2013 at 12:33 pm Reply

    I am a serving NCO in her Majesty’s Royal Air Force. I would like to say that although I can understand your reasons to strike, sometimes it is hard to sympathise with anyone willing to take this action. I have served my country for 12 years and seen the armed forces take many blows and cuts with ever degrading working conditions. I have seen servicemen on the front line with their life in danger everyday, under equipped and in some of the worst working conditions possible. Never has one said they would strike if given the opportunity. Ponder that secret teacher while we stand tall faced with adversity! I write this from Afghanistan, where I have been for the last 4 months and counting.

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  4. Roz Morton May 21, 2013 at 10:19 pm Reply

    Neil – the NUT didn’t campaign for a 35 hour week, the press misreported a motion at Conference that called for a reasonable limit to contact time in response to the fact that teachers have the worst work/life balance imaginable and the best systems around the world have fewer contact hours with more dedicated time for planning and preparation.

    You have basically shown that the blogger is spot on in saying that Gove is winning the media battle. So curious (when he’s good friends with Murdoch) for that to be the case…

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  5. Neil Mercer May 19, 2013 at 5:43 pm Reply

    I will happily strike for the right reasons, but I think over the last couple of years the unions have often been shooting themselves in the foot. The NUT recently campaigned for a 35 hour week. I understand what they were trying to achieve, but a large proportion of the public will simply read the headline and think “I’d love a 35 hour week, teachers don’t know they’re born” and realistically, it’s impossible to be an effective teacher on 35 hours a week in most schools anyway, most teachers would recognise that.

    If the unions focused on the damaging, narrowing effect of a testing culture, the damaging narrowing effect of Ofsted, the sneaking privatisation of our education system etc and made a clear case to parents of how these things are damaging their children’s education then we could lead the debate and stand a much greater chance of getting the public on our side.

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    • tim paver May 20, 2013 at 8:04 am Reply

      Much the same in FE mate….. I would love to see the NUT and UCU join forces.

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  6. Colin Jackson May 15, 2013 at 1:42 pm Reply

    I’m in favour of teachers going on strike when right is on their side and when striking makes a difference. The problem is that most of the time, teachers’ strikes make no difference at all : they are often at times of the year when they are not needed or when strikes simply save the employers money because they don’t have to pay them.
    The answer is to go on strike only when it really hurts the employers- during OFSTED inspections, during enrolment times for 6th form colleges and when it hits child care needs the most.

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  7. 1 May 14, 2013 at 4:17 pm Reply

    Its like you read my mind! You seem to know a lot about this, like you wrote the book in it or
    something. I think that you can do with some pics to drive the message home a little bit, but other
    than that, this is magnificent blog. A fantastic read.
    I will certainly be back.

    Like

  8. tim paver May 14, 2013 at 7:30 am Reply

    I work in FE, our industry to is being systematically attacked from both government and within. I would like to see the teaching unions joining force and making this government realise that we can’t be pushed around. My daughter is a primary school teacher… you couldn’t wish to meet a harder working young woman. All teachers across all levels of education need to have their self-esteem returned. Sadly when i am asked about the profession by the young i tell them to steer clear.

    Like

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