Tomorrow I'm going to take the difficult decision not to go into school and teach the students that I care so much about in order to try and win a longer term improvement for their education.
The union will be claiming that the strike is over pensions, pay and working conditions and I agree but I think more needs to be said about the impact that the changes to pensions, pay and working conditions will have on our students. Our core purpose of improving the life chances of the students that we work with day in and day out is being threatened by rapid and ill thought out change at government level.
If you make teachers pensions worse (even though the current system works and is apparently in credit) you are less likely to attract the best people into our profession and so students will not have the best teachers in front of them. Making teachers work until they are 68 is virtually physically impossible if they are expected to keep up with the current demands of being in the classroom and providing high quality learning experiences. Forcing older colleagues out of the profession also means that students are missing out on valuable expertise acquired over a lifetime in teaching.
Performance related pay is not about paying good teachers more, it's about paying more teachers less. The overall budget hasn't changed so for every teacher you pay more, another one has to be paid less. This will lead to negative competition between colleagues in schools and will start to erode the community of support that our students have around them from every subject teacher, every pastoral worker and every member of senior leadership that cares about them. In addition the best teachers will avoid the worst schools because they won't be able to guarantee the performance that will get them a pay rise. This means that students from socially deprived backgrounds will be further deprived by not having access to the best teachers.
I love my job. I love the students that I get to work with on a daily basis and I love watching them learn. If I'm honest though I often struggle to be as good as I want to be for the students because my PPA time every week is nowhere near enough to plan the amazing lessons that I want to do, never mind trying to fit it all the marking and other professional duties that are expected of me. I want to do all of these things, I'm not being lazy and trying to get out of them - I genuinely want to do everything that I can for my students, but I can barely manage it now and I certainly don't know how I would do this if my PPA time was taken away from me, or if I was told to be in school from 7am until 6pm, or if I had to cover lessons for colleagues and invigilate exams. All of this could happen and all of it will directly impact on the quality of learning that is able to take place in our schools.
I couldn't agree more that our education system needs reforming, that we need to reconsider our curriculum and examination system and that perhaps our payscale isn't perfect in the current form. I also know that we can't fight for positive changes to be made when we are desperately trying to cling on to what we have already fought for.
I don't want my students to miss their lessons with me tomorrow but I feel like Michael Gove has left me with no other way to fight for the future of British education but to go on strike. I know that I couldn't live with myself if I found myself in a classroom in five years (or even in a year) thinking "I wish it wasn't like this" and knowing that I didn't stand up for my students against the changes.