Another strike, another nation divided over industrial action. Another blanket set of decisions that will fundamentally undermine an industry which is already suffering from low morale in over 75% of its teachers with over 50% wanting to leave the profession completely. Suck it up, I hear you say, we've all had it hard, pensions and pay have been hit right across the board, what makes you any different? Ok let's just lay everything on the table for just a minute now. This isn't all about money. This isn't some knee-jerk reaction against pay cuts. Teachers aren't striking solely because in real terms their pay has been cut by 15% or that their pension agreement has effectively torn up. No, I assure you, it is much more than that. It is about the ability to do the job on the most fundamentally basic level, all whilst maintaining health, sanity and a belief that the Government, OFSTED, local authorities and school management have trust in you.
Next Thursday, teaching strikes will take place in the South-East as part of industry-wide action against pay and conditions, following on from strikes in other parts of the country. Predictably, the opposition to any kind of strike action have already made their feelings well known, with Gove stating, "there is nothing child-friendly about industrial action".
The prospect of striking to some parents and members of the public is hard to grasp. By having to find babysitters and childcare for a day some parents will at worst be inconvenienced, which is a crappy prospect. Compare this though to the decisions which have led to strike action; A large percentage of teachers are parents themselves, they aren't jumped-up babysitters paid handsomely by the state to look after your children, they also have families to protect and feed. If the changes proposed by Gove are allowed to go through then a day's missing education will pale into insignificance against allowing unqualified teachers the right to teach, increasing working hours, decreasing holiday, increasing the retirement age to 68 and scrapping of PPA. What effect will this have on your children?
Despite what government brainwashing will have you believe, teachers DO NOT want to strike. Why would they? To inconvenience parents, to stop children from learning for a day, to lose a day's pay (on average about £110 per teacher) and to build yet more alienation between them and a public who have been forced into thinking that they are lazy, militant layabouts who only care about their gold-plated pension? Teachers are striking because they have been backed into a corner by a government who have refused every opportunity to negotiate, from a government who seems to base its knowledge of teaching from an episode of Grange Hill. It's almost as if Gove, in his ultimate wisdom, still believes that teachers waltz in at 9am, leave at 4 and bask on a foreign beach for 12 weeks of the year. Any teacher will tell you that getting into work at 7 in the morning, leaving at 7 in the evening, shoving a quick dinner into your mouth and then planning and marking into the night are the norm. That for new teachers the norm is sometimes not leaving till 9 or 10pm.
Why become a teacher in the first place then? Or if you're so unhappy, why don't you move on, I hear you shouting into your smartphone. Well, it hasn't always been this way. Over the past ten years teaching has become wrapped up in a constant cycle of student improvement 'at all costs', all bound by a complete lack of trust in teachers, underlined ever more by an inspection culture and statistics obsession which is pushing education furthermore into the bleak recesses of artificiality and complication. Graham Lancaster, Ofsted Inspector and Area Improvement Manager for the Essex Primary Heads Association 'hit out' at the new OFSTED regime back in 2012 at what he believes has become a culture of fear within education. Mr Lancaster commented that "lack of trust [in teachers]" and "the continuing raising of the bar" triggered damaging headlines and was contributing to plummeting morale of teachers. "Nothing is ever good enough, it would appear".
Every industry needs inspecting to improve standards and ensure continuous improvement. However, Gove has taken his 'noble profession' and effectively taken it into a backroom to be beaten and robbed. The results are changes that have taken what was the noble profession and turned it into the impossible profession.
To watch someone you love consistently pour their heart and soul into something, most of the time to the point of physical and mental exhaustion, to then be told to jump even higher, whilst effectively dealing with a 15% pay cut is frightening. For teachers already suffering with low morale, to watch as the profession they have poured blood sweat and tears into, be pulled from pillar to post by a Government intent on ideological posturing makes for a feeling of utter desperation. If this happened to you, would you be forced strike?