Don’t Be Fooled: Why You Should Support Teachers
I wrote the following as a note on Facebook yesterday. And then I saw the evening news, and decided it needed a larger audience. The media seems to be state-run when it comes to covering the strikes over pensions, so much so that I genuinely think the majority of people are in the dark when it comes to why public sector workers went on strike, and may do so again. Read on …
This week, I have heard teachers called selfish. I have heard them accused of squandering children’s education. I have heard lots of other things too. Thankfully, I’ve also heard them defended by non-teachers, by private sector workers.
Don’t be fooled by what the government and the media tell you. It is not the full story.
You may not be aware that teachers’ pay is set by an independent review body. The government set it up to stop arguments about teachers’ pay. Teachers have no right of appeal against the decision of the review body. The government is not supposed to have either, but they, as we all know, think themselves above the law (whatever party they happen to be).
A few years ago, teachers were given a (low) pay rise, which included an automatic review if inflation hit a certain trigger point. The government agreed to this. When inflation hit that trigger point, the government changed the index on which inflation was measured for this purpose. When inflation hit the trigger points on all measures, the government ignored the promise of a review. Remember, this was not an automatic pay rise, simply a review, but the government refused to honour it.The government does not set teachers’ pay rises and yet announced last year that they would be subject to a pay freeze, without reference to the pay review body set up to decide these things.
Five years ago, teachers’ pension underwent an independent review and were subsequently reformed to make them sustainable and affordable. In 40 years, teachers’ pensions will be self funding in their current format (they are currently subsidised because of the large number of older teachers, but this will sort itself out soon). Now, we are being subjected to another assault on our pensions.
Under the government’s current proposals, teachers will be paying approx 50%, yes 50%, more into their pension each month. Our contributions are already higher than those in the private sector. A teacher currently paying £200 a month into their pension (and this figure includes no voluntary topping up), will be expected to pay £300 a month. A whopping £1200 a year more. But they won’t see the benefit of that in their pension – they will receive 33% less than their current deal, when they finally draw their pension, which they will have to wait several more years to be able to do. Personally, I would have to pay £90 a month more, retire seven years later, at 67 and receive £300 a month less. If I were to receive my pension for 25 years, I would lose out to the tune of £189000.
Although the government and the Daily Mail are fond of suggesting otherwise, teaching is a hard job. It does not finish at 3.30pm (sometimes a teacher is lucky if they’ve finished before 3.30am), and although there are plenty of school holidays, this is not the same as saying teachers do not work for all those school holidays. I agree, they probably enjoy, on average, a bit more than the standard 4 weeks a year, but much of the holidays are spent marking assessments and planning new courses.
Before I was on leave, I taught 5 exam groups, all of which were taking different courses, all of which were on the first year through the course – so it all needed planning from scratch. A lesson lasting 60 minutes takes a minimum of 120 minutes to plan – usually far more. I had other responsibilities, so I only taught for 20 hours a week. Out of my entire week, 2 hours were set aside for planning, preparation and assessment – this is the time the government allows full time teachers during school hours for planning, assessing, marking and evaluating for an average of 25 hours’ worth of lessons a week.
I was head of a department, and so had a lot of admin to complete, and I was given 2 hours off timetable a week to complete it and run my department. I think most people would be surprised at the amount of admin classroom teachers are expected to complete. We often said if only we didn’t have to teach, we’d have time to complete the bloody paperwork.
Teachers’ contracts do not set the number of hours a week they have to work. Instead, they set the minimum number of hours a year a teacher must work, but also state that they must devote whatever time is necessary in order to do the job. There have been many half terms when I have driven to my parents’ house so that they can look after my son so I can spend a solid week planning lessons for the following week.
Teaching is not something that can be done by just anyone. It can be an incredibly rewarding job, but it’s bloody hard work. Good training is vital. And do you know who provides that training? Teachers. And they provide that training in the time they are given off from their own timetable – they receive no extra time to train student teachers and they receive no extra money for doing so, although the school receives a nominal fee for giving a student teacher a placement.
Teachers are not asking for much. They want to be allowed to do the job they trained to do, and to do it without constant interference and criticism like no other profession receives. And they want to be paid a decent salary for doing so – a salary which reflects their expertise. We are constantly told how vital our children’s education is, and yet we are constantly undermining the people who provide that education.
Support your teachers. The vast majority work hard because they believe your child is worth the effort. They do a lot of work you don’t see and will never know about. They often miss out on quality time with their own families in order that your children get the education they deserve. They do it in the face of constant criticism in the media and often with poor support from their management.
They do their job – and more (do you know how many schools would grind to a halt if teachers actually worked to their contracts and did nothing else? Those great after school clubs are not mandatory for teachers, and teachers are not paid for providing them either) in the face of increasing abuse, both physical and verbal, from students, and worryingly, from parents too.
If you value your child’s education, then support teachers. They are not being selfish – they are fighting for the rights of thousands of people, both now and in the future. If we allow the government to constantly grind them down, then before long, there will be no-one left to teach tomorrow’s children.