Why we should stand behind teachers

20 Jul 2014


I'm an active member of a trade union, so the right to strike is one that is close to my heart. I do concede that we don't have that right in a literal sense. But when all you have is your labour to withdraw, how else do you get your message across? 

I don't think anybody really deep down wants to strike. Whether that is a firefighter, teacher or taxi driver. But when those you elect start hitting your pensions and attacking your working conditions, what else can you do? These were the sentiments held by teachers across the country when they protested ten days ago.


When you read the package of a standard teacher, I must admit it makes me green with envy. All the major holidays off every year; that's Christmas and New Year, Easter and a very long summer. Then add in the bank holidays and the standard holiday package and you get a fair impression of the perks of being a teacher.

What the unions and Department of Education fail to tell prospective teachers however is that individuals will be required to work long and exhausting hours. Without giving names, as I have been asked to maintain a level of discretion, I have discovered that teachers are averaging more than 48 hours per week. A teacher’s day doesn't simply end at 17:00 hours. They have to go home and in their own time draw up lesson plans and mark pupil’s work - efforts that many politicians simply don't recognise.

Employers aren't even requiring teachers to sign the European Working Time Directive. For those who do not know, this legislation protects your working rights and prohibits excessive working hours from being enforced by your employer.

It is hard not to feel sympathetic towards the teachers. I was lucky as I wasn't directly affected by the strike action, but I do know several parents that had to take time off work to be with their children for the day. This of course comes at a financial loss to the parent. I do wonder whose purse will be covering the loss of earnings for these parents? Will it be the teachers? Will it be the unions? Will it be the coalition? In the end, it is the teachers who are blamed.

The coalition’s response to the strike has been simply fascinating, especially in the midst of a cabinet reshuffle, where David Cameron made sweeping changes. Teachers will be ecstatic that a seemingly clueless Michael Gove has been replaced after four disastrous years in the job. The fear I have is that Mr Gove has merely been moved to a more influential role, in the form of Conservative Chief Whip.

Moreover, the new Education Secretary, Nicky Morgan, is a former corporate lawyer. She also voted against legalising same sex marriage in 2013. When asked by the Leicester Mercury why she voted against legalising same sex marriage. She responded: 

"I think that was one of the issues people, especially those who asked me to vote against, found hardest to accept and it also tied in with my own Christian faith too. Marriage, to me, is between a man and a woman."

Thus, we have gone from the incompetent Gove to an Education Secretary who doesn't support equal rights for LGBT people.

I strongly believe that the education sector must reform. We need to start by listening to our teachers and supporting them. This means giving them a working environment that is conducive towards rigorous standards and world-leading performance. 

But, as it stands, it's business as usual for the Westminster bubble. Out of touch and not listening.

By Sean Mallis

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