Why Parents Don't Have Time To Be Michael Gove Strike-Breakers: We're Too Busy Helping Out At School

07/07/2011 21:58 | Updated 22 May 2015
I don't have time to be a Michael Gove strike-breaker - I'm too busy at school Getty

When the sun is out and the sky is blue, friends look at me with a mixture of envy and hatred and say to me: 'Oh how I wish I was you.'

For I am a housedad – a full-time stay-at-home-father of three school age children.

And this is what I reply: 'Oh how I wish I had a job. You know, a proper one. Not this excuse for a job, writing about not having a job, but a real one involving an early sauna on the Tube, a fight at the photocopier, a good bitch and moan about the boss and a curled up prawn and avocado sandwich for lunch.'

They are non-plussed. Surely I embrace the opportunity to soak up a few rays, indulge in some Wimbledon or nab a cheeky pint of Bulmers over ice in the local beer garden?

No, not a bit of it. For I have a diary packed with activity. School activity.

I left school 30 years ago. That was that, I thought. Schools out. Forever.

But since I became a rather reluctant housedad seven months ago, I seem to spend more time at school and/or on school-related activities than I did when it was a legal requirement.

The pressure on parents to 'get involved' in the school's affairs is unbelievable. Was it always like this? My parents showed up once a year for parents' evening, were told I, or my brothers were doing OK (aka Must Try Harder) and that was that.

But now we're required to get involved with everything from organising class teas to fixing our smiles to Rictus at school plays to attending school trips to taking part in sports days to setting out stalls at the summer fair to raising money to firing the barbecue to flipping burgers. And on and on it goes.


No-one MAKES us do any of this, but come on, we live in a society in which if you don't Get Involved you are deemed to be a Bad Parent. And now Michael Gove is taking it to the next level. He doesn't just want parents to Do Their Bit. He wants us to do the whole lot by teaching the kids, too.


I am indifferent to the teachers' strike on Thursday. They've got a grievance, they've held a democratic ballot, they've decided to strike, and they're entitled to. Schools will close, kids will get a day off and parents without childcare will have to take a day off work to look after their own offspring. We (as in taxpayers) don't employ teachers to babysit our children; we employ them to teach. Fair enough.

But to suggest that said parents should then step in to effectively babysit other people's children is going way too far.

We – my family and I – are lucky. My wife works hard in an office job; I combine a full-time role as a Stay-At-Home-Housedad with a freelance writing career. But this week, I will have to put the Job That Earns Money on hold so that I can participate actively and fully in my children's school activities, either voluntarily or imposed.

Here's my week ahead:

Tuesday all day: Accompanying my three year-old's nursery class on a trip to the woods to look at plants and insects.

Tuesday evening: Baking cupcakes for six year-old's fund-raising Class Tea on Wednesday.

Wednesday morning: Accompanying my six year-old to some different woods to look at very similar plants and insects.

Wednesday evening: Setting out stalls and selling cupcakes at previously mentioned Class Tea.

Thursday all day: Looking after my three kids while the teachers employ their right to protest.

Friday all day: Attending (and participating in) my stepdaughter's sports day and teachers vs parents rounders match.

Saturday all day: Setting up stalls for my six year-old son's summer fair; ditto for three year-old's summer fair; manning stalls, painting faces, flipping burgers, running round like a headless chicken, hoping it rains.

Sunday: Day of rest.

Monday morning: Sons' sports day.

Monday afternoon: School's out. Again. Babysit sons (yes, I know they're mine,

so technically it's 'parenting' sons, but you get my point).

And in the weeks to come, class assemblies, school assemblies, school plays, school charity nights, until – as if in the blink of an eye – we reach the endless school summer holidays.

My Working Wife – because she has to work - feels guilty that she can't attend all of these things. I feel guilty for resenting attending these events.

At least when I was working in an office I had a cast iron excuse not to. Now, though, it feels like an obligation. And I resent that very much indeed.

If it wasn't for non-office-working parents, where exactly does Michael Grove think this army of voluntary teacher substitutes would come from? Does he seriously expect working parents to say to their bosses: 'Sorry, can't come in today – I've got a class to teach?'

I'm sure many parents love and relish being class reps, school governors and – at the extreme end – setting up their own schools. But not me. I had my time at school 30 years ago.

So, I'm sorry Mr Gove. I won't be breaking the teachers' strike to teach other people's kids on Thursday. I have enough trouble teaching my own.

Do you agree with Keith? Or will you be teaching classes on Thursday?

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