Leading article: A lesson in selfishness

Share
Related Topics

Today, classrooms across the country that would normally be filled with the sound of pupils getting down to work after the Easter break will be oddly silent. This is because, for the first time in two decades, teachers have decided to withdraw their labour. The result is that almost a third of schools in England and Wales will close or partially close.

At the centre of this stand-off is pay. The National Union of Teachers feels that the Government's offer of a 2.45 per cent pay increase this year, to be followed by a 2.3 per cent rise in 2009 and 2010, is too low. On the other side, ministers are refusing to budge.

It is possible to have a degree of sympathy with NUT members. The cost of living does seem to be outstripping the Government's preferred inflation index. If one accepts the retail price index, rather than the consumer price index, as the true measure of inflation, teachers can indeed claim that they are being asked to accept a real terms pay cut.

But some context is necessary. For one thing, teachers have done well in pay terms over the past decade. Their average pay has increased by 19 per cent since 1997. The acting general secretary of the NUT, Christine Blower, has complained that teachers' pay is not attracting enough people to the profession. But thousands more teachers have been recruited since 1997, often encouraged by generous signing-on bonuses.

For another, teachers are by no means the only employees in this position. The public finances are much tighter now and the "pain" of the slowdown needs to be shared fairly across the public services. This particular pay offer was recommended by the independent School Teachers' Review Body. It ought to have been accepted by the NUT, as it has been by their colleagues in the other four teachers' unions.

Finally, there is the question of tactics. The withdrawal of labour is an utterly counter-productive way for the NUT to make its point. Rather than embarrassing ministers, a strike will only hurt pupils, particularly those revising for GCSEs and A-levels.

This is not the first time the teaching unions have seemed to put their own interests before those of pupils. The unions have consistently opposed efforts from the Government to reform the education system. Most conspicuously, they have opposed the establishment of city academies. This is not to excuse the Government's habitual and misguided attempts to micromanage the education system. But it does underline the point that education needs to be a joint effort by all parties to serve parents and pupils better. Too often, the teaching unions, in particular the NUT, have seemed to be pulling in the opposite direction.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Guru Careers: Software Developer / C# Developer

£40-50K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Software / C# Developer w...

Guru Careers: Software Developer

£35 - 40k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Software Developer (JavaS...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant / Resourcer

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: As a Trainee Recruitment Consu...

Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, HTML, CSS, JavaScript, AngularJS)

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, JavaScript, HTML...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Errors & Omissions: the paraphernalia of a practised burglar – screwdrivers, gloves, children

Guy Keleny
The PM proposed 'commonsense restrictions' on migrant benefits  

So who, really, is David Cameron, our re-elected ‘one nation’ Prime Minister?

Andrew Grice
Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine
Letterman's final Late Show: Laughter, but no tears, as David takes his bow after 33 years

Laughter, but no tears, as Letterman takes his bow after 33 years

Veteran talkshow host steps down to plaudits from four presidents
Ivor Novello Awards 2015: Hozier wins with anti-Catholic song 'Take Me To Church' as John Whittingdale leads praise for Black Sabbath

Hozier's 'blasphemous' song takes Novello award

Singer joins Ed Sheeran and Clean Bandit in celebration of the best in British and Irish music
Tequila gold rush: The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product

Join the tequila gold rush

The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product
12 best statement wallpapers

12 best statement wallpapers

Make an impact and transform a room with a conversation-starting pattern
Paul Scholes column: Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?

Paul Scholes column

Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?