Why do I strike? You have been told many things by the government, fed to you by the media about why I strike. You have been lied to.
I do not strike for money! I do not earn £65K a year as the adverts suggest. I, like all fulltime classroom teachers, are on a pay scale ranging from £22K to £37K and it takes 11 years to reach the top. A good wage though! However I could earn more in industry, I did! I also, like so many others, organise trips. Which we don’t get paid for. I, like so many, help on Duke of Edinburgh expeditions walking in the rain, being the shoulder to cry on, the medic, the health and safety officer and mountain leader. Which, we don’t get paid for. I run afterschool clubs for sports, hobbies and interests. Which, we don’t get paid for. I do 120hours a year in afterschool sessions with my GCSE classes trying to get your child “their” grade. None of which I get paid for, so please believe me I do not strike for money!
I do not strike for my pension! I am a 35-year-old Design Technology teacher and I can’t see how I can still be one at the age of 68. Do you want a 68 year old in charge of 20 or 30 teenagers with sharp objects and heavy machinery? No, me neither, so I will never get the luxury of claiming my full pension, and between you and me its not that good anyway. My early pension will be even worse, but I could leave the scheme and get a private one if I wished. If we all did this it would crash the scheme entirely and you the taxpayer would end up paying for it but I could, if I wanted, leave and get a private one. So believe me I do not strike for my pension! So why do I strike?
I strike because of what I have seen happening to your children’s education. I strike because I have seen schools privatised through the academy system. You were told your children’s schools were better off on their own, out from local authority control. Now they have destroyed most of the local authorities they tell you your children’s schools are weaker on their own and should be Multi Academy Trusts (MATs). They told you academies would be more efficient, now they tell you efficiency is built through joint enterprise. They have removed the power of schools, through local authorities, to argue or object to changes. This is why I strike!
I strike because they promised choice and gave your children less. They told you academies and the destruction of the national curriculum would allow schools to study a wider range of subjects and not be confined by national guidance. Then they introduced the English Baccalaureate (EBacc), and Progress 8, which pretty much destroyed your children’s choices. They ignored and put down the arts, music, performance and expression. They ignored and reduced engineering and the design subjects despite the massive growth and need in those sectors. They pushed all the subjects to the edges and forced a Dickensian version of education where Maths, English, Science and Languages trump all else. They linked these to performance measures so schools could not have free choice, for if they do they will plummet in league tables and incur the cost of an OfSted inspection! I strike because they promised choice and gave your children none!
I strike because of how your children are judged! Every year your children can never win. If they do well the government and media call cheat! The exams must be easier, the grade boundaries must be too low, your teachers must have cheated some how. If they do badly the media and government call slackers! Your son or daughter must have not worked hard enough, the school must have failed them, they must have spent too much time on the arts and not on the things that mattered, or they are just not as “smart” as the last generation! I strike because of how your children are judged!
I strike because they promised clarity and gave confusion! They said changes to GCSE’s would help peoples understanding and lead to clarity. So now students don’t get A*-C grades they get 9–1 grades! Do you feel more enlightened? Does this make it easier to understand? They scrapped national levels at secondary school. In the past even if your two children went to different schools they would still be judged by the same framework and given a level from 1 to 8. Now every school makes their own system so one school might tell you your child is a level 7 while another might say they are 4, or gold, apple, bronze, 34, 2 stars, B or anything else they decide for that matter. Does this bring clarity to your understanding of how your child is progressing? I strike because they promised clarity and gave confusion!
I strike because of how we are judged! I strike because of outdated league tables which judge your children on data collected 5 years ago. They don’t care or judge if your child reached their aspirations, or got the career they wanted just if they met the governments outdated version of success. I strike because of Ofsted who smile and tell us all “we are here to work with you” but who hide behind locked doors when they deliver their verdict. They tell us what we do wrong but offer no help or suggestion of how to improve. Could you imagine if I told your son or daughter their maths equation was wrong and then promptly walked out of the room. Only to return 20 minutes later and tell them they are moving sets because they still haven’t solved it? I strike because of how we are judged!
I strike because I see teachers leaving! I see inspiring, passionate, amazing teachers leave the profession or leave the country. I see students distraught as they are “abandoned” by their favourite teachers because they simply can’t take anymore. I see what teaching does to your health, I see the pressures, the workload, the judgements, the media and government attacks, the relentless change and I know why they leave. I strike because I see teachers leaving!
I strike because they value money more than your child’s education! They have ruthlessly cut funding to education. Schools are underfunded, forced to make redundancies and cuts to the service they provide, which is the education we give your children. Many schools are in deficit year after year and some are staring at bankruptcy but then I guess the government will be able to sell them to large Academy chains. In the classroom money is tight, so tight! In my case I have been forced to take handouts form local factories. Yes your children’s teachers rummage in skips to keep your sons or daughters classes going. I like to think I’m saving the environment one piece of wood at a time but, is this where you wanted the government to take your children’s schools? We are trying to find solutions without affecting your children but its hard work and our workload is increasing, and our energy decreasing. Other schools have gone down the larger class sizes, less subjects, less departments, less staff, route but whatever their solution your children suffer. I strike because they value money more than your child’s education!
I strike because they have stolen young people’s future! Since they introduced the £9K a year tuition fees I have seen so many amazing, talented, inspiring, ambitious young people decide not to follow their dreams and go to university because of the huge debt it will incur. I have seen bright, amazingly bright young stars of the classroom decide to sell themselves short and give up on their dreams because of their lack of money. Education should be for all not just for some and lets clear one thing up. Universities do not get more money now. They used to get £12K from the government, now they get £3K but are allowed to regain the rest from the students. So, many universities are getting the same amount of money as they did, but get less applying to study, as so many are put off by the cost. I strike because they have stolen young people’s future!
One of my lecturers once told me that, “teaching is the process of facilitating ones own redundancy”. That is why we teach. We hope that those we teach will strive far beyond our horizons, far surpass our achievements’ and we will have played a tiny part in making the next generation a far better one than our own. We hope we will see the next generation be more enlightened, more compassionate, more reasoned and they, not us, will create a better world. I do not strike because I care about myself. I strike because I am passionate about their futures, passionate about their rights, their hopes and dreams. I strike because this generation needs to stand and protect the next. I strike because of the erosion of their futures. I strike because money is held aloft above their futures. I strike because of how they are treated, how they are judged, how they are used. I strike because of the lies and the misdirection. I strike not because I want to, but I strike because I must!