Wednesday, 16 October 2013

Why I will be striking on October 17th

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.

Working conditions
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. 


  1. Fantastic blog post Helen. Fully agree! Really thoughtful points.

  2. Forgive me, but isn't this hollow rhetoric, with a philanthropic slant? By walking out, you are not contributing to some Great Act of Reform, but turning your back on your pupils and setting a bad example to those who look to you for guidance. In the private sector, heads would roll, but in the public sector, it seems that boundaries of acceptable behaviour no longer exist. Can you honestly say that you will achieve something from today? All the best.

    1. Well done Helen. All these things and more are seeing older teachers, like myself, leaving the profession in their droves. My plan on joing teaching was to stay there for the whole of my working life but Michael Gove and his cronies have made this impossible. Whe. you are paid for a 14 hour part time post but work an average of 35-40 hours a week because you are expected to be course leader, literacy development champion, classroom display specialist and co-ordinator, progress tutor to a group of challlenged students, responsible for Level 1 pastoral care and exam board liaison, it is impossible to call your post part time. If Mr Gove had his way, then I would have to work at this rate for very little money until I was 68 needed a zimmer frame to get around, purified food, a feeder beaker for my morning tea, a shackleton high seat at my desk, enhanced screen on my computer and with all that the ability to be an olympic sprinter would need to remain so I could catch the little darlings when they do a runner because their social worker or the police are on their way in to speak to them. Yet another meeting at which I would need to be present in an already overloaded day. I have made my decision and sadly left teaching. However , I continue to support my former colleagues around the country who are forced into the position of having to strike. If they actually paid you for all the different aspects to the job that have encroached on teaching itself you would be paid far more than the moronic idiots who profess to know what is needed to fix the education system. Included in this is Gove's belief that anyone can teach. I would like to see him try for a year to fit in all the things I was expected to do in just 14 hours a week with no support and no resources and then tell us someone unqualified is capable of doing the job more effectively for less than the £15,000 a year I did it for. The challenge is out there Mr Gove but I doubt you have the ability or the bravery to take it up and be able to 'improve stadards'. Good luck today to all those striking and may the national strike go ahead seeing as Cameron didn't have the gumption to get rid of his hatchet man in the cabinet reshuffle.