The School Teachers Review Body (STRB) which advises the Education Secretary on pay and working conditions of teachers has today delivered Michael Gove a huge blow by rebuffing his recommendations for further attacks on teachers' conditions and pay.
If Michael Gove has his way teachers would have statutory protection on their conditions of service torn up. It is a testament to the campaigning of teachers, and NUT members in particular, that the secretary of state has found it impossible to ignore the STRB recommendations.
While it is a real victory won by the steadfastness of NUT members in support of National Union campaigning, it does not change the current working lives of teachers. Workload remains much too burdensome and two out of five teachers leave in the first five years; many others are considering giving up; and who knows how many are choosing not to join the profession, given the intolerable pressures on teachers including concerns about performance related pay and increased pensions contributions.
Our YouGov survey of teachers shows morale is at an all-time low. The quality of teaching is a significant factor in the success of students. It cannot be right, therefore for schools to be staffed by unqualified and overworked teachers. This is obviously bad for the future of education and teacher supply and will certainly not be welcomed by parents.
In the countries which are so often held up as an example of education excellence such as Finland, teachers are well qualified, respected and trusted. This governments approach of continually undermining teachers is counterproductive. No one can perform to their best when they are under such continual attack and criticism from issues as far ranging as pay or the way they dress.
Teaching is a profession and those who enter it should be accorded recognition for the work they do. In a recent NUT commissioned YouGov survey of parents showed that they trust teachers far more with their children's education that they do Government. It is time Michael Gove did the same.
The decisions to take national strike action in England and Wales on March 26 was not taken lightly. It has however come to this as result off the Education Secretary's continual refusal to engage seriously with our concerns on pay, pensions and workload. Strike action runs contrary to what teachers or their unions would wish to be happening Our record is well known. We have been seeking talks with Michael Gove and called off strike action in November and February on the promise of such talks. We have confirmed in writing that we would attend talks at any time.
Michael Gove has offered a meeting with officials at the DfE on 25 February for all teacher unions to discuss talks about a wide range of matters. We will engage positively in this process but these will not be the dispute resolution talks we need.
Teachers work some of the longest hours of any profession with many working 50-60 hours a week. Our work is essential, our pay is not high, our pensions not gold-plated and we cannot be expected to work more hours than we already do. There comes a point when it is impossible to ignore what is happening. We really do hope that Michael Gove takes the opportunity to meet with us and enter into genuine discussions about how to end this deeply damaging dispute. The strike action on 26 March can be stopped if the secretary of state addresses teachers' concerns and progress is made towards resolution. The decision is his.