On 10th July teachers across England and Wales went on strike along with other public sector workers for the second time this year following a strike in March. Approximately 6,000 schools in England closed while in Wales 912 schools closed.
For those of you who are not clued up on why teachers are striking, here’s all the facts and figures.
According to the National Union of Teachers (NUT), teachers are “under attack” by the current Government - and over the last two years they have been struggling to negotiate the terms of their pay, pension and working conditions.
The strikes of October and June 2013 also included teaching union NASUWT, however they’ve not taken part in the strikes of this year, and only member of the NUT have been present.
The National Union of Teachers website cite 5 reasons for the strikes:
Pension contribution increases and pay restraint mean that, since the coalition Government came to power, teachers will have seen a 15% fall in the real value of their take home pay. Despite two years of pay freezes and a 1% cap in 2013, a 1% pay rise is now being imposed for 2014 and schools are not required to pay this increase automatically to all teachers.
Furthermore, the Government is breaking up the national pay structure, so it will be harder for teachers to progress in terms of salary. Instead of automatic Main Scale progression, pay will be based on performance from September. Teachers are highlighting concerns over the difficulty in measuring teaching quality and the potential difficulty the scheme could bring in recruiting new teachers to the profession.
The government has improved its pension offer for teachers, however the union believe that the concessions didn’t go far enough. They will not accept that teachers should work until they are 68, pay 50% more for their pensions and get less in retirement.
Conditions of Service & Workload Pressures
The bureaucratic requirements of the Ofsted accountability prevent teachers from spending their time teaching and preparing for lessons. Teachers currently have a work load of up to 60 hours a week.
The union want a system based on trusting teachers rather than de-motivating them. They believe that this will allow the Government to reduce the number of Ofsted inspections and therefore reduce the workload impact of school accountability.
The consequences of tough teaching conditions
According to Ofstead 2 in 5 teachers leave the profession within their first five years, while many other good and experienced teachers are also deciding to go because they no longer recognise their profession.
Chris Sloggett, a history and politics teacher in a comprehensive school in North London, writing in The Independent notes that in recent years teachers have become increasingly accountable. They are accountable to managers, governors, inspectors, the Department of Education, pupils and parents. Teachers are under constant pressure to prove themselves - with politicians, who don't understand enough about education and teaching, creating targets that are meaningless and ill-formed. He suggests that these politicians have reduced education to the study of that which can be measured, rather than preparing people for the real world.
Christine Blower, General Secretary of the NUT asks for "a education system that is fair, transparent, and most of all engaging" with compromise and dialogue. Unless these disputes are resolved she suggests that they will only get worse, and those who will suffer most will be the pupils and their education.
Understandably, it is hard to control a 30-strong classroom of teenagers or young children at 68, and the education system does need to be reformed with more control handed over to the teachers and less emphasis on data. However, are teachers entitled to so many requirements? Teachers surely understand that to a certain degree, it is reasonable for the public to gain an idea of how well their money is being spent.
Furthermore, why should they be entitled to a pay rise? In the private sector, when money is tight, employees will be let go or face a large pay decrease. Many aren't as lucky as teachers and in some respects their deal is brilliant compared to many private sector jobs, and their pensions are vastly better than private sector equivalents. The average salary in 2012 according to the ONS is £26,500 - teachers start on minimum of £21,804 (£27,270 in inner London), and is therefore equivalent to the average salary and higher than many other graduate salaries. Admittedly it must be hard to teach young children or teenagers on a heavy workload, but a sixty hour working week is not dissimilar to many other career paths and jobs.