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Monday, 18 March, 2002, 11:28 GMT
Teachers strike: Is it justified?
Teachers in London are staging a one-day strike over cost-of-living allowances.

It is the first day of industrial action called by the National Union of Teachers for 30 years, and affects about 450,000 pupils.

Union leaders say the strike is aimed at tackling the shortage of teachers in London, due to the high cost of living in the capital.

The Education Secretary Estelle Morris says she accepts there is an issue about living in London but says the strike action ''does nothing for the good of teachers, parents and pupils."

Is the strike justified? What could it achieve?

This debate is now closed. Read your comments below.

Your reaction:

I have been incensed by the suggestions that teachers are highly paid and underworked, these people are clearly incredibly stupid and selfish. I think all public sector workers deserve more money, the bare minimum should be enough to live on, but in principal I don't agree with London weighting in any sector as it will just push prices up even more, and I couldn't care less about the excessively highly paid bankers and accountants in the capital, so if you can't afford to live in London move away and let them suffer...of course most teachers are far to selfless for their own good and will stay in London struggling to make ends meet to educate the children of others (some highly paid and ignorant, others struggling just like teachers). The question is would you prefer no teachers at all or a one-day strike every now and then? And if the answer is neither then put your money where your mouth is.
Amy, England

If you want a lot of money, choose a profession that pays a lot of money

Kulu, UK
In an ideal world teachers, nurses, police officers, fire-fighters, ambulance teams et al. would receive salaries that reflect their value to society. However, we live in the real world where pay is dictated by supply and demand. If you want a lot of money, choose a profession that pays a lot of money.
Kulu, UK

I'd like to see half of those claiming the teachers get a good deal work a 30-hour week and get the work done. Independent studies have shown that the average teacher can work up to and beyond 50 hours a week, now do this in the face of deteriorating behaviour, abusive children, knowing that a person with a fraction of the skills and qualifications who do not have to put up with this and are paid better. Now take a second look at you bleating teachers, do you still think it's a good deal?
Nathan dale, Yorkshire

I've seen the quality of marking (or perhaps the lack of) from my Goddaughter's homework. If that's anything to go by, not as much time as is claimed is spent doing it. The schools are forever on holiday - every six weeks it's half term. I work in London and don't expect to be paid any more for doing so. Welcome to the real world. Teaching the last bastion of entrenched privileges. If it's just a job these days not a vocation, get another job
Robert, England

The situation will probably get worse before it gets better!

Patrick O.Obikwu, England
The health and wealth of any society is to a great extent dependent on teachers. Sadly most politicians don't know this and don't care. The situation will probably get worse before it gets better!
Patrick O.Obikwu, England

Replying to Sally from Scotland. My comments about the 80s teacher strike we're not over-exaggerated... I missed - every Monday and Wednesday afternoon for 10 months I also missed other hours during the week. In total I lost over 200 hours of teaching that year. My point was to say that the strike achieved nothing for the students and was indeed detrimental. My wife too missed many hours and she was doing exams. I am getting fed-up with this whole argument. There will always be people who are over the top in their comments. 1) Teachers do get a fair salary. 2) Most people do not think that teachers only work 30 a week. I know too well that many work many hours - but this is their chosen profession. 3) Holidays - a bonus for teachers yes, but they are restricted to when to take them. Families cannot go out of school holidays too - we too have to pay higher prices. I support teachers; I think they do one of the most important jobs. You will not receive much more money and you know it. Striking will not achieve the desired result.
Mr Elliott, England

For Sarah Dawson, UK who says 'If the teachers aren't happy with their lot then why did they choose teaching as a profession'? Be very glad they did lady; your ability to read and write weren't self-taught. Neither was the physician or dentist you go to for treatment, or the nurse who really saves your life in a hospital, or the fireman who gets you out of the burning building or the police who come to your aid.
John Alkire, UK/USA

They are absolutely right to strike

Andrew, N.Ireland
They are absolutely right to strike. Alternative methods of voicing their concerns seemed to have fallen on deaf ears. As with many other sectors, the need for strike action in order to improve working conditions and pay has been massively increasing, as our politicians listen less to the people and more to the fat cats. I just hope we can bring more focus to the current levels of militancy and crush what is now the biggest threat to our jobs and livelihood - privatisation and Blair's neo-liberalist third way.
Andrew, N.Ireland

I am fed up listening to teachers complaining that they cannot afford to buy property in the Southeast on their salaries. There are plenty of other professional people out there who can't afford the prices. We all love our professions and wish we could be paid more, but unlike the teachers, we never get the media attention they always seem to get.
Pete, England

What about everybody else who lives and works in London? They have the same mortgages and expenses as teachers. So is everybody going to get a rise? I don't think so. I know lots of people on far less money that 20k who just get on with it and live within their means. If you don't like YOUR choice in career, move house or take a career change.
Jacqui, UK

Unfortunately teachers generally have high social awareness, they know there is a shortage in the Southeast

Amy, Manchester
Katie makes a point that if she was to move to Liverpool to do the same job she would be on less money than a teacher currently on the same salary as her in London, Katie don't you see this is the point, teachers in London need the same London allowance as every other sector gets. Unfortunately teachers generally have high social awareness, they know there is a shortage in the Southeast and feel that they have a responsibility to stay despite the low pay. If all teachers left London society would collapse as children roamed the streets and parents had to give up work or pay even more money to childminders, and a whole generation would miss out on an education.
Amy, Manchester

I do support the teachers. There is something wrong with a society in which those responsible for the education of its children are effectively excluded from the property market. However, I believe the situation in the universities is far, far worse. After three years earning a first degree, at least another three earning a PhD (with the likely requirement of a year in between earning a Masters degree), followed by two or three years as a post-doctoral fellow, a new entrant lecturer in the sciences attracts a salary that is, quite honestly, pathetic (you can earn more driving a train, joining the police or driving a truck - academics don't get overtime), yet competition for positions is intense. What's more, job security is far worse than that of teachers and, due to the specialised nature of their work, the choice of location for academics is often restricted to places where property prices are high. Our society values university academics even less than its teachers, yet they educate the teachers. Considering that academics train for as long as doctors, it's shocking that their career prospects are so poor.
Mark, UK

The fact is that teachers do not earn enough to be able to buy even the cheapest properties in London

Neil Hume, England
Until 18 months ago I was a teacher in London. The fact is that teachers do not earn enough to be able to buy even the cheapest properties in London. Although the pay was not my main reason for leaving teaching it certainly contributed. I graduated from a very good university with a mathematics degree and went on to train as a teacher. If you compare what a teacher with my qualifications earns to those who went into business, then a teacher's salary is extremely low. On the other hand I have worked with teachers with qualifications in other subjects or with BEd degrees who are reasonably content as their salaries compare reasonably favourably with others who graduated with them. The main cause for complaint is the fact that teachers in other areas of the country are better off as there is not a comparable difference between the cost of living in London, and, for example, the North of England. I actually believe there are probably other areas of the country where teachers have a right to complain about this discrepancy. The cost of living in areas such as Bristol or Cambridge (and probably many other places) is pretty comparable to London but teachers in these areas get no more money than teachers elsewhere in the country. No wonder teachers are moving to cheaper areas, or out of the profession completely.
Neil Hume, England

We are continually hearing that the police, teachers and NHS are understaffed. I have no doubt that all of these services have legitimate problems but could someone please tell me the percentage of absenteeism there a in these professions? I am sure that if absenteeism was addressed, as it would be in private industry, the shortages of police, nurses etc would be of a much lower figure.
Garnet Morgan, Wales

All teachers want is enough money to live reasonably close to where they work

Amy, England
I'm not a teacher but both my parents are, they don't start at 9.00 and finish at 3.30, they start around 8 am finish at 4.30 then come home to do marking and lesson planning, are 'on duty' through their lunch hour, have to deal with abusive students and parents, constantly at risk from false allegations, are expected to answer to parents in supermarkets and when out shopping, and they give up their free time to run sports clubs summer fetes, book clubs etc, they cannot take time off outside the set holidays and spend much of their holidays preparing for inspections, cleaning classrooms, and creating displays. My parents don't complain about their salary but they already have a house and don't work in London. All teachers want is enough money to live reasonably close to where they work.
Amy, England

With all due respect I am not a teacher and I had to move because of the cost of living and travel. That is life in London. If I wanted a cheaper life then I would live up in the North which I love but I want to live in London at the moment. So really in this particular case no I have no sympathy. Been there, done it, and I still earn less than them.

I personally don't think that the pay which teachers receive is bad, however the conditions they have to put up with are unacceptable

Michael, England
I have been amazed at all the people who seem to think that teaching is such a wonderful career and are asking why the teachers are striking giving all the benefits that the teachers seem to receive. I can only ask why, if they think that it is such a wonderful career, they don't want to do it themselves. How many of them I wonder find themselves working in a situation on their own facing sometimes more than thirty teenagers who don't want to be there and who are only there because their parents don't want them at home. Someone earlier commented that teachers are not babysitters and yet I have worked in schools where the parents take no interest whatsoever about the education of their children. Indeed, the only time some of them take an interest is when the child has been told off and then it is to say how dare that teacher tell their child off. I personally don't think that the pay which teachers receive is bad, however the conditions they have to put up with are unacceptable. This is because the children have no respect for teachers, because the parents have no respect for teachers, because the government has no respect for teachers. If this country is to have a future it lies with the children currently being educated. If people want to live happily in their retirement then they need to start thinking about what is happening in schools and appropriate treatment for teachers, because this decides the future world you will be living in. If you don't you will only have people who are not good at their job. Teaching is more than just job it is a lifestyle with extra unseen hours and unreasonable restrictions on how they teach. Give them more freedom and give them more time to do what they are there for teach- someone else should do all the paperwork. And for those people who still think it is easy, try it. I did and now I wouldn't do it if I were paid a million pounds a year and given a three-bedroom London house.
Michael, England

If they don't like it get out of the job or move north

David, England
I teach at a college in the North of England. Any person going into teaching in the South East knew what the salary scale was, the price of property and the discipline in schools was like before they went into the profession - at least I did! So if they don't like it get out of the job or move north. Quite frankly, for me to move to the South East, you would have to pay me Estelle Morris's salary!
David, England

Who are these naive people who think that teachers are stupid? To all those that don't support this strike I ask them: Want to work the hours, get the pay for standing in front of kids trying to make them learn for the entire day? Any takers? - I thought they wouldn't be!
John, Yorkshire

I am married to a teacher who is extremely hardworking and committed. I cannot believe the ignorance of some of the people who have contributed comments to this page. As head of year my husband, who has been teaching for 3 years, works incredibly long hours, getting to work at 7.45 and finishing at 5. He then, on average, works until 8 or 9pm doing marking & preparation for the following day, working the majority of Sunday to stay on top of his workload. He could have been an accountant, worked in the city etc. receiving more money and more respect in the process. However he felt that teaching would be a rewarding profession and excluding the pay and very long hours- has found it so. Whilst he is confident he will remain in teaching there is no way we can afford to stay in the London area. Until teachers are paid in line with the private sector I imagine this will be a general trend.
Sarah, UK

It seems incredible that people still think that teachers work 30 hours a week and therefore should not moan about how much they earn. My father worked a 70-hour week when he was teaching: meetings, meetings about meetings, football lessons, science lessons, IT lessons (all outside of the 9.00-3.30 time bubble that people seem to think education only exists in). I feel that if something is not done, our future generations will all be educated under Chris Woodhead's private school utopia, and then we'll be in real trouble! I can't see the interface between venture capitalists and council estate kids really working out, can you?
Tom, UK

I graduated two and a half years ago and now earn approximately 6000 more than my mum does who has been working as a teacher for 30 years

Nicola, UK
I agree with whoever said the comments made here are naive and short sighted. Both my parents are teachers although one has now given up. Both have worked in London and then in Devon. I graduated two and a half years ago and now earn approximately 6000 more than my mum does who has been working as a teacher for 30 years. I find this incredibly hard to comprehend when the job I do at the end of the day is not crucial in the way in which our community is run. I struggle to make ends meet with a new mortgage which is not at the top amount I could have borrowed and earn about 15k more than a newly qualified teacher does. Although I do not and never will agree with striking I do feel that teachers in general are under valued as a profession. Also those who think that teaching is an easy job, you try it, as like many others have said the day starts at the latest at 8am and very rarely finishes till 6pm. After this they have reports, planning, marking to do and then the parents meetings, governors meetings, carol services, school concerts, school trips away, the list is endless. Oh and they are supposed to have some sort of life as well. As for teachers taking on a part time job, I think you will find many are like my mum who also offers private tuition to students who struggle. They also have to deal with rude, insolent, bad mannered children and are severely restricted in how they can discipline them. When I was at school I had respect for adults, not just teachers. I am now a Girl Guide leader so I have regular contact with a group of children who come from what would be considered 'nice' backgrounds and am appalled by the lack of basic manners they show. If parents want to criticise teachers for making a stand then perhaps parents should provide some assistance with the education of their children and not expect teachers to train them to be civilised human beings as well as read and write etc
Nicola, UK

The Government wants high public service but doesn't want to pay for it as voters don't like to pay taxes

Mark L, Wales
You pay peanuts you get monkeys. The Government wants high public service but doesn't want to pay for it as voters don't like to pay taxes. Imagine how hard done by those public sector employees are who can't summon up the same public sympathy as those dealing with the sick or children etc. Politicians get to decide their own pay rises and always give themselves very nice ones. Strange how they find money in the budget for themselves and not others?
Mark L, Wales

Short Answer NO! As an experienced nurse with over 17 years experience, 20K sounds like a pipe dream. I work nights to accommodate my children. Which teachers have childcare problems (have they any idea of the cost of childcare) during the summer holidays? Or any holidays for that matter? Teaching is a hard but rewarding job like many others as in my case nursing. The benefits teachers have are totally unique to their profession. Teachers should behave like other professionals and put the children first then they may get some support.
Alison, UK

If teachers require extra pay then parents with children attending their schools should pay extra tax. Maybe if parents had to actually pay towards their children, instead of sponging of hard working single people they'd think twice about breeding until they can afford it.
Neil, London, England

Yesterday's strike is the least that should be happening

Benjamin Mossop, UK
Yesterday's strike is the least that should be happening. As a Sixth Form Student I am both disgusted at the government's lack of regard towards teachers' conditions, but also at those of students (particularly with the AS system and tuition fees which I will soon have to pay) and the general disregard of public sector workers. We can't expect any more from a bunch of capitalist brokers, but neither it seems can we expect even as much from the pandering union leadership.
Benjamin Mossop, UK

Teachers provide an essential service so should not strike. However, this is the only action which will be noticed. Mr Elliot's version of the strikes of the 80's is an overexaggeration. I missed a few days, not a "whole year" and my education did not suffer from it. Everyone who says teachers have an easy life is missing the point. Teachers don't just work from 9 to 3:30. What about all the marking, preparation, after school activities, staff meetings etc. The "long" holidays are a myth as well. At least the rest of us can choose when to take our holidays. Teachers are restricted to school holidays by definition so cannot benefit from off-peak bargains and quieter periods. Many teachers are subject to abuse and disrespect from pupils and are unable to maintain discipline for fear of retribution from parents and do-gooders. If teachers are expected to put up with these conditions they should be properly rewarded.
Sally, Scotland

Wow! Do people really think that teachers start work at 9 and end at 3.30? Every teacher I know starts at 7.30, working through till 5 or 6. Not counting the marking and prep we do at home at night and at the weekend. Any hours before 9 or after 4 are unpaid, but we still do it. And the holidays aren't for us, they're for the children. But if you're jealous of the holidays, why don't you give it a try? There are thousands of posts available!
Katie, UK

This is about teachers in the South East wanting to have the same quality of life that teachers in the rest of the country can afford on their salaries

Christine, UK
This is not about teachers demanding to be paid for nothing. This is about teachers in the South East wanting to have the same quality of life that teachers in the rest of the country can afford on their salaries. I think they deserve it. As I think nurses, policemen and firemen deserve it. We in the private sector are paid much more for working in the south east, so why shouldn't those in the public sector who teach our children, take care of us when we're sick, make our streets safe and provide rescue in an emergency?
Christine, UK

I agree with Jon, UK completely on every point. My wife had to leave teaching for health reasons which I am sure were made partly caused by the pressures of the job. I knew it was getting too much when that "Sunday afternoon feeling"(a very common symptom in modern teaching) started to begin on Saturday.
Colin R, UK

Nurses earn far less than teachers, have to work shifts, including weekends, and don't get the vast amounts of holidays that teachers get. Neither would they strike. Before any consideration is given to teachers or the police, the government ought to bring nurses' salaries at the very least up to the level of that which the police get. When I was a nurse at a London hospital you needed three 'A' levels just to do the SRN training. You can get in the Police force by taking an entrance exam or having 5 GCSEs. Not only that, transport workers, sewage and refuse workers also provide essential services. Do you seriously think they have no trouble finding properties in London? And to top it all, many of the teachers at my sons' school can't even spell, give out totally wrong information as 'fact' and generally have a much higher impression of themselves and their abilities than are justified.
TN, England

If the teachers aren't happy with their lot then why did they choose teaching as a profession?

Sara Dawson, UK
If the teachers aren't happy with their lot then why did they choose teaching as a profession? If they wanted to invest so much time and money earning all these degrees and diplomas we keep hearing about, why didn't they aim them at a career which would deliver the kind of salary that would satisfy them? I don't agree with it, but teaching is not a highly paid job, and that's always been known. So if that's going to be a problem for you (and for everyone else when you engage in your industrial action) then why start down the path in the first place?
Sara Dawson, UK

What has emerged in this debate is a complete misunderstanding of what teachers' real pay and conditions actually are. I have a friend who is a primary school teacher. His school was recently inspected by OFSTED and he was working 12 hours a day 27 days in a row just to prepare all the extra paperwork! The government is trying to squeeze extra labour out of teachers with no compensating improvement in pay and conditions. It is unfortunate that kids' education has to suffer in the short run but in the long run if teachers show solidarity through collective action, the reward will be a much better education system in the future.
Jim Crozier, UK

I am a recent graduate who had originally considered teaching as a career, as I believe it to be one of the most valuable professions there is. However, a quick survey of salaries, not only starting, but future, and the general contempt with which many view the profession sadly lead me down another path. What people need to realise is that the majority of teachers are highly trained, dedicated professionals, who do not work 09:00 to 15:30 but rather 08:00 to 17:00 with additional later hours, to take children on extra curricular activities (things which some parents neglect to do), and seek not inflated wages, but recognition for the valuable place they hold in society. I now work in finance, but doubt I will ever see the day that my children will thank an accountant for setting them on a life changing love of a subject and learning, the way I am indebted to five (yes I can name them), excellent teachers who lead me down a distinguished academic path, and to whom I will remain forever grateful. For that, no price or recognition should ever be considered too high
Anonymous, UK

My husband was threatened, assaulted and verbally abused almost daily by the pupils at his school

Su Dickens, Qatar
My husband once taught in the Birmingham area - but not for very long. Why? He was threatened, assaulted and verbally abused almost daily by the pupils at his school. The pay was crap, the workload heavy and the majority of kids just didn't want to learn. So what did he do? Like most teachers, he moved abroad to teach. He now has smaller classes, kids who want to learn and we live in a place where violence towards teachers just doesn't exist. My advice to other teachers still in the UK is to teach abroad. You are more respected and although the workload is still the same, the stress is definitely less.
Su Dickens, Qatar

Unfortunately many of the comments show the root cause of the problem. The public as a whole seems to have the impression that teachers do very little work and get paid a good salary. Neither is true, most teachers work every evening and much of their holidays marking work and preparing lessons. The salary they get paid does not reflect what other people with the same level of education and ability would get within industry. The public needs to make up their mind - either they want highly qualified and intelligent teachers who can provide a good education for their kids or they pay less than adequate salaries and get less than able teachers. You get what you pay for.
Mark Davies, UK

Nice long holidays and early finishing. Do any of these people remember school? Where do they think teachers mark books and papers in class! Now lets think 30 kids 15 minutes on each kid. 5 classes of 30 2 sets of homework a week. So that's 300 pieces of work a week at 15 minutes each. Wow sounds like they get great weekends and nice long evenings spent on marking. Oh yes and let's remember the overtime for which they don't get paid for detention and after school activities where they have to look after other people's brats from whom they aren't allowed to defend themselves for a pittance.
James Clarke, UK

If you are a teacher you will find Australia and nearly every other country will accept you with open arms

James Clarke, UK
If you are a teacher you will find Australia and nearly every other country will accept you with open arms. Let the people here educate their kids! They don't deserve teachers at the standard we have for the salaries we pay them. Let all the teacher-haters deal with a nice expensive nanny instead which will probably be paid the same or more than you then you have the home tuition fees as well.
James Clarke, UK

Teachers everywhere should get a pay rise! Why should schools pay so much money to agencies, (lining their pockets) for supply teachers? If they gave the extra money to the teachers directly as an incentive, maybe along with some sort of bonus scheme if they didn't take any time off, many more people would want to teach. It's unfair that the supply teachers get better pay than normal teachers yet do so much less work - no lesson planning, no marking, no responsibility, less pressure. As for the agencies, it seems ridiculous that schools are not allowed to hire supply teachers directly, but have to go through an agency who take such a big cut of the money. If the schools were allowed to hire directly they could save a fortune and in turn pay their permanent staff more. Something has got to change before this country becomes totally uneducated.
Sophie, UK

Those of you who say that teachers should be content with their 9am-3: 30pm jobs and three months' paid holiday clearly have absolutely no idea what teaching is like in the year 2002. Many routinely work from 8am to 6pm, also bringing work home. Those who have responsibilities other than being a basic classroom teacher often end up working through their holidays too. So far, so just like the rest of us. But, I challenge any critics to spend a full day teaching state school classes of 20-30 teenagers - many of whom, in Inner London, are barely motivated. At the end of the first day, I think you would find yourself physically, mentally and emotionally drained. And then you'd have to go back in to work the following day and do it all over again. Teachers don't necessarily have it harder than the rest of us, but nor is their profession a bed of roses like some contributors here seem to think. Add in to the equation the fact that the government no longer just wants them to teach, but to be administrators and proxy social workers as well. I support pay rises for competent teachers, but I would also like to see a much tougher line taken on incompetent teachers. To do this, we have to ensure that successful teachers are rewarded and given an incentive to stay a) in the profession and b) in the areas where they are needed. Just like in any other profession.
Stuart, England

Let them strike, if the government feels that the future of your nation's youth is actually worth something

John, Anaheim, Ca, USA
Well this is one area in which our two countries are virtually identical; the people with the most important jobs that deal with the most important resource (children) are receiving insulting pay for all their trouble. Let them strike, if the government feels that the future of your nation's youth is actually worth something, then let them put their money where their mouth is; oh I'm sorry I meant YOUR money that you oh so willing paid in taxes like good little citizens.
John, Anaheim, Ca, USA

The only people who disapprove of strikes are right wing rednecks, many of whom have had to start working for themselves because they were unprotected by a union when faced with the intransigence of a greedy employer.
David, Canada

It's hardly unexpected that teachers in London feel that they can't afford to stay and that many in the rest of the country can't see the profession as a financially sound choice. I left the UK in 1996 having completed 21 years in teaching. As a Head of Faculty and acting Deputy Head in Outer London I earned just over 28,000 pounds. I now work in a delightful (private) school in Connecticut as a regular classroom teacher and earn the equivalent of 48,000 pounds - and I am grossly underpaid compared to colleagues in the public sector over here. How did I afford to live in London - simple my wife earned 5 and now 10 times my salary. Without that I wouldn't have got on a bus to London never mind taken a post there!
Jim Cairns, USA

Shaun of Teignmouth: I could read and write well before I entered school, because my mother reared her own children instead of dumping them onto strangers when they were tiny babies. The low attainment of today's children is the direct result of parental neglect. Teachers are now social workers struggling to repair the damage caused by the voluntary disintegration of the family.
Kyle, ex-UK

If showing kids that people can stand up to the heavy hand of Government is a "bad example" then bad examples should get everyone's vote

Stephen Luke, Wales
Yes it is totally justified. "Setting a bad example to children" crows a Government minister. Well if showing kids that people can stand up to the heavy hand of Government is a "bad example" then bad examples should get everyone's vote. For those that whinge that teachers have it easy: shut up or put up. Go and do 4 years of training to end up in one of the most responsible jobs in the country for poor pay, long hours and constant stress from poorly disciplined kids bought up by parents who whinge about teachers having it easy! The Government must give all our public servants better pay and conditions. If we aren't careful all our public servants will be on strike soon with none of them in work.
Stephen Luke, Wales

I resent the message from Cammy Gallagher, about the short day that teachers work. My wife is Keystage 1 Primary teacher and she works far longer hours than 9-3.30! She is in school at 8-10 AM never leaves before 6PM most nights - some nights it gone past 7PM before she leaves. She is at present marking work that her children have completed, previously both of us spent one and a half hours preparing work for tomorrow on the computer. Yes she gets long holidays. But even in the holidays she is always thinking about school and buying bits for school out of her own pocket, and spends at least 2 weeks out of the 10 weeks holidays in school preparing for the next term. It takes most of the holidays for her to recover! I would not be a teacher for 100,000 and 6 months holidays!
Tony Walker, UK

I am off to somewhere where I can afford to buy a house

Kris Meadows, England
I am a teacher who is taking strike action today. This not something I want to do but my hand has been forced by the government. I have only been teaching three years, but in that time I have seen quality teachers leave my school to areas where the cost of living is much cheaper, or actually leave the profession all together. They have been replaced by a succession of supply teachers or even worse, a teacher is just not up to the job, but was the only one to reply to the job advert.

I am a good teacher who is already head of a department, and achieved a 100% C or above with my GCSE students last year. But in a years time, I am off to somewhere where I can afford to buy a house, and actually have some disposable income left at the end of the month. Most likely I will be replaced by the only applicant for the job, for as long as they can stand and breath they are in. And who do I feel sorry for, the students who I leave behind.
Kris Meadows, England

On my current salary I could not afford the mortgage for the cheapest one-bedroom flats in our area

Nick Baker, UK
I am a teacher in London and I am on strike. I am doing this because I believe this is in the best interests of my pupils and my profession. Last month I took a group of students on a trip to central London and we stopped at McDonalds. I saw an advert there for trainee managers- starting salary 20,000. I have a degree, a Masters degree, and a Post Graduate Teaching Certificate and have been teaching for two years- and I still earn less than that!

This demonstrates the reason why so many teachers either leave the profession or move out of London schools. On my current salary I could not afford the mortgage for the cheapest one-bedroom flats in our area. If this country wants teachers with good qualifications and enthusiasm then it needs to recognise we are university graduates and deserve something approaching typical graduate starting salaries.
Nick Baker, UK

Personally I'm fed up with teacher's whining about their pay and hours. And any comparison of their salary to that of a Metropolitan Police officer is patently ridiculous. Millions of us commute, work longer hours and for less money and/or holidays. In any event, either sack your current negotiators or find another way to engage with government - strike action is unfair on the children and in the long run will wipe out any support you can expect from the parents. They have to take time off from their own busy, underpaid jobs to look after the kids.
Ed Sweetman, UK

I really don't think that the teachers are doing themselves any favours. Many people living and working in London earn less than they do, but don't bleat on about their "terrible" situation. The teacher on BBC breakfast this morning was whinging about earning over 23K and the fact that she would have to travel over an hour into work from a place where she could afford a house. Sorry but that just doesn't endear me to your cause. You earn more than a lot of people and the vast majority of us have to commute to work day in day out (yes even during your long summer hols!) A reality check really wouldn't go a miss!
Vicki Hockey, England

All it will achieve is a one day holiday for the teachers

Colin Baker, Aylesbury, UK
All it will achieve is a one day holiday for the teachers and for michievous children to be out on the streets learning absolutely nothing and getting themselves into trouble. The teachers are as bad as the kids in this situation.
Colin Baker, Aylesbury, UK

It is justified. I am forever amused by the notion that ends can be achieved through peaceful mean. The fact is that NO one listens to dignified quiet protests. The only way to get attention is through more forceful means of expression. Strikes in my view are justified. Have heard government ministers prattle on about morals etc. Funny, they had voted themselves huge wage increases. From what I remember, about 40%? On what basis?
R Ganley, UK

How can teachers even think of having the nerve to strike? What other employees do you know that start work at 9am, finish at 3.30pm and have almost 10 weeks paid holiday per year? They have no right to strike in the slightest. I find it insulting to my children and utterly ridiculous.
Cammy Gallagher, Southampton, UK

Why not simply choose to move to a school that's not in London?

Pete Vukusic, UK
We all have choices. Why choose to live and teach within London if the weighting allowance is considered prohibitively low? Why not simply choose to move to a school that's not in London? We are constantly being informed of the nationwide shortage of teaching staff, so finding an alternative is not an issue. While I am sympathetic to the relatively poor basic salaries of teachers, it is unfair on others in the profession who do not work in London, if biased treatment were offered in the form of a hefty London Allowance.
Pete Vukusic, UK

I think it is highly justified. The majority of teachers are paid awful salaries and when you think about it they are educating people who have a good chance of earning a considerable amount more than the teachers do in the future.
Chris Gower, London, UK

No way is it justified. Teachers earn a good living for what they do. Their hours of work and holiday entitlement are absolutely ridiculous. They get more benefits than most employees and I don't see what they have got to moan about.
Fraser Howse, Brentwood, England

It would not be politically acceptable to raise teachers allowances significantly more than for nurses, policemen or firemen

Steve Glover, UK
I taught Modern Foreign Languages for 20 years in 3 separate schools in the North of England in two of those as head of department. My wife works as a part time teacher (half timetable) and I have many friends who are teachers. Most are fairly comfortably off but the familiar strain is still there. I have travelled a lot over the last two years in the south of England around London in my job for a web company and don't know how people around London cope with living there at all. You need to live fairly near to school to survive in teaching-there is no flexi-time as the kids are going to be there at 9am whether you are or not.

Teaching is stressful enough from experience without having to live a long way away, so some arrangement has to be reached to allow teachers to live near their schools. For younger teachers hostel type accommodation may be an option but this would hardly be appropriate for teachers with families unless teaching is to become like belong to the army with barracks and the like! It would not be politically acceptable to raise teachers allowances significantly more than for nurses, policemen or firemen so there's no real answer, apart from trying to push decentralisation and move more large institutions northwards. The quality of life is very good up here-and I know this is an old chestnut but there is NO way round the issue.
Steve Glover, UK

As a parent of school-age children I find myself torn by this issue. I do not like the education of my children to be disrupted. However, it is clear that if teachers cannot afford to live in an area, there will be no teachers. The minister has acknowledged this, but refuses to come up with a solution. This is not just a problem for London. I live in the Winchester area, where property is also well beyond the reach of teachers at the lower end of the pay scale. On balance, I support this action, but would be concerned if it became a regular event.
Chris Klein, UK

See also:

14 Mar 02 | Education
Pupils sent home as teachers strike
06 Mar 02 | Forum
NUT strike: Your questions
05 Mar 02 | Education
Capital's teachers vote for walkout
30 Jan 02 | Education
Teachers' fury over London weighting
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