GENE BRODIE, education correspondent, reports from a teachers’ union meeting on the increasing levels of grievance among schools’ staff
According to the Chinese saying, it is a curse to live in “interesting times”.
At a rather bullish annual meeting last week of the Croydon branch of the National Education Union, Ellie Sharp, who was standing down as president, opened with the assertion that “this is an exciting time”.
Annual general meetings of any organisation are rarely exciting, but Sharp had read the room. There was a palpable feeling of excitement among the 50-odd school reps who had packed into the hall at the back of Ruskin House.
Delegates were warned early on that “the press are here” and if they did not want to be identified then they should say so when they got up to speak. I looked round, waiting for the press to show themselves. I scanned the entire room before I realised that the reference was to me.
I tried to keep my little notebook out of view, in much the same way that teenagers might try to use their mobile phones surreptitiously when in class.
I managed to make a note of some numbers: There were 3,375 NEU members in Croydon. This figure had been boosted by another 170 members that had joined in the past week since the strike ballot results had been announced. Nationally, the NEU said that it had received 32,000 membership applications last week.
There are plenty of stats. How about this one: one-third of teachers leave the profession within five years of finishing their training.
Then there’s this: 1-in-8 children are taught maths by non-specialists.
There is, at the same time, a nationwide recruitment crisis. The teachers that are leaving are not being replaced. Things are going to get a lot worse before they get better. Exciting times indeed!
And behind all this, we appear to have a government that believes in the sanctity of the market in almost every context bar one – paying wages that the market appears to be demanding.
Well-paid politicians show their support for education by starving schools of funding and not even providing the money for the 5per cent, below-inflation pay rise that they say the teachers should get.
Teaching is getting tougher with bigger class sizes, unmanageable workloads, fewer support staff, fewer breaks… As a teacher, the longer you work at it, the poorer you get. No wonder there is a recruitment crisis.
If there is any silver lining to this cloud, it is to be found in the union, not the government.
As an extra incentive to get people to the big NEU march in Westminster on the first strike day this Wednesday, February 1, the NEU is organising a placard competition. Teachers are mostly creative types, so they might fancy the idea of raiding their art departments and putting together a clever banner or two. The winners will take home union merchandise (lanyards, probably), some biscuits and a £50 voucher for their school library.
In what other industry would you have unions striking while at the same time raising money for their members’ employer?
There were questions from the floor – what was the best way for members and their families to get to Westminster for the demonstration, given that ASLEF and RMT are also on strike that day? Bloody railway workers! Answer: the union is laying on buses.
How much would be deducted from members’ pay packets? Answer: approximately 1/30 of a month’s net salary and less than £2 off their annual pension. The strike looked affordable, even for those members at the lower end of the salary scale.
As an added incentive, the union would pay for breakfast for those members who picketed schools at the beginning of the day, just as many schools these days (and sometimes individual teachers) provide breakfast for their pupils.
A lot of schools will be partially open, with just some classes or year groups being asked to come in, and with the timetable being altered that no teacher is asked to cover a lesson that would have been taught by a striking NEU member. A lot of schools will be closed, inevitable in Croydon where a strike ballot turnout of 74per cent was much higher than the 53per cent national figure.
One teacher at the meeting said that they have already set their out-of-office text for Wednesday. “It says, simply, ‘I am on strike today’.”
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A Company knows that to retain the best talent one has to pay the premium rate.
A Company also has to pay the going rate to retain competent people.
A Company pays for good HR practices to improve those that fail to perform or replace them.
The Education system in England requires a decent overhaul and modernisation
Rishi Sunak wants to grow the Country via Educating our youth.
All that requires decent invstment and financial management
Not many Conservatives would argue with that. Nor would many Labour/Libs/Greens
So how come successive conservative Governements have not achieved any of that to date especially in Croydon?
Yes we are broke due to shit decisions of Political parties. Very few people now give an airborne ”F” about statements about what most Ministers believe anymore. They want evidence first and honesty foremost.
So before any politicians starts with the blame of strikers like Flip Flop Philp- Lets get it out there now
This strike (as will others) – will have other impacts.
Parents will have to take time off work, some will lose jobs, productivity will suffer, the economy will take a hit. Childrens future prosperity is at risk – this country will go backwards in literacy. All of that hurt will take place and could have been avoided.
If you fire a bullet at a person and just provide a T shirt for protection – it is trite to blame the T shirt for not protecting the wearer from that bullet. Perhaps you should have provided Kevlar? So why blame those taking to strike action for your failures?
Please tell me the difference between the cost of this one day – or even 90 days of strikes – compared to the damage of chronic underfunding, the cuts from austerity and poor structural systems, Government policies and regulations have caused over the last 15 years!
Seriously – show the figures and damages those policies and failures like Truss tanking the economy have caused and compare them to the days of strikes. Be sure to arm Flip Flop or other talking manikin with those figures and not more jingoistic bollocks playing to (whichever) party zealots hymn sheet.
So if the Teachers and Nurses and Transport workers cause us to spend more time in looking after the children and not producing and in effect we are doing the work that we we pay for in taxes. Well we have become quite used to that in Croydon have we not Mr Perry?
Do not worry about trickle down to Charities – many have closed or will close – is that not right Mr Perry?
Many will suffer – but be sure that blame lies squarely on this Government for all their failures.
Will it cost more to reverse this? Yes will it engender more tax in the beginning but probably not medium term if managed and other resouces are brought to bear and incompetence removed.
This Cabinet talks about efficiencies but has not as yet provided any concrete systems or methodologies let alone evidence.
We have had the Mythologies according to the Honorable May, Johnson Truss and now Sunak.
We are living with the effects locally of Fisher, Newman, Ali and Perry’s actions and hearing their blame bleats of each other again without much substantiated evidence from any Public independent inquiry. So one can excuse a Croydonion their cynacism if they can even be bothered to listen to their claptrap.
Really – All it requires is a Cabinet with a decent backbone and some integrity – and the understanding that yes there will be some who will vote against you at the next election and you may lose power – but you are there to take that hit for the Country by doing the right thing and being successful in delivering it.
5 Year in opposition is better than a Generation! History has a way of repeating itself.