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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.
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.
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?
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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!
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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