Lucy Snow: Striking teachers deserve our support, not vitriol


Click to follow
The Independent Online

Perhaps Sara Malm hated school. That's the only explanation I can come up with for why teachers are the target of such vitriol in her article: "Going on strike is disgraceful, selfish and, quite frankly, passé," published on Friday.

Malm has since claimed on Twitter she doesn't hate teachers, but strikers. This is hard to accept in a piece littered with acerbic nuggets like "I would really love to see you argue... why your six-week summer holiday is 'essential'", but then she has a lot of dislike to go round.

Without quite articulating it, what she really hates is the fundamental right of workers to unionise, negotiate collectively and, if necessary, strike.

Malm writes as if teachers get a kick out losing a day's pay and letting down children they have worked to nurture.

Particularly insulting is her request that teachers "grow a pair", as if any complaints they have are baseless.

A friend, who worked for 20 years in the private sector before becoming a teacher, told me that in no other job is there such an expectation, and necessity, to work beyond "official" hours.

It is simply impossible for teachers to work to rule, taking into account lesson planning, marking and extra-curricular activities.

What Malm's sneers ignore is the impact good teaching has on the lives of children. After years of struggling to keep up and tears over homework, I was diagnosed with dyslexia at the age of 11. I can say with complete confidence that there is no way I would be about to graduate in English at Leeds without the commitment shown by my teachers. The accusatory "lazy teachers" attitude peddled by Malm is enough to put anyone off teaching, let alone the quality graduates that under-pressure state schools so badly need.

As a society we must value the job teachers do in order that more children can have a positive school experience. Of course it's inconvenient to rearrange childcare for that one-day strike, but teachers aren't supposed to be childminders. They are educators, and if they feel they are being denied the right tools for the job, parents should be supporting them every step of the way.

As one of said excellent teachers told me: "We are standing up to a government that is launching an attack on state education which will inevitably drive down standards in schools."

That Malm compares this resilience to a five-year-old stomping their feet makes me shudder.

I would suggest to Malm that those strikers' problems – and this is glaringly obvious in the case of teachers – are society's problems.

So, what did you think of young writer Lucy Snow's column? Let us know at

Simon Kelner is away