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

Cancer Research UK: Corporate Partnerships Volunteer Events Coordinator – London

Voluntary: Cancer Research UK: We’re looking for someone to support our award ...

Ashdown Group: Head of IT - Hertfordshire - £90,000

£70000 - £90000 per annum + bonus + car allowance + benefits: Ashdown Group: H...

Ashdown Group: Application Support Analyst - SQL Server, T-SQL

£28000 - £32000 per annum + Excellent benefits: Ashdown Group: Application Sup...

Ashdown Group: Systems Analyst / Data Analyst (SQL Server, T-SQL, data)

£28000 - £32000 per annum + Excellent benefits: Ashdown Group: Systems Analyst...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Errors & Omissions: Outgunned by a lack of military knowledge

Guy Keleny
Ukip leader Nigel Farage in Tiny Tim’s tea shop while canvassing in Rochester this week  

General Election 2015: What on earth happened to Ukip?

Matthew Norman
Major medical journal Lancet under attack for 'extremist hate propaganda' over its coverage of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict

Lancet accused of 'anti-Israel hate propaganda' over coverage of Gaza conflict

Threat to free speech as publishers of renowned medical journal are accused of inciting hatred and violence
General Election 2015: Tories and Lib Dems throw their star names west to grab votes

All noisy on the Lib Dems' western front

The party has deployed its big guns in Cornwall to save its seats there. Simon Usborne heads to the heart of the battle
How Etsy became a crafty little earner: The online market has been floated for £1.2bn, but can craft and capitalism coexist?

How Etsy became a crafty little earner

The online market has been floated for £1.2bn, but can craft and capitalism coexist?
Guy Ritchie is the latest filmmaker to tackle King Arthur - one of our most versatile heroes

King Arthur is inspiring Guy Ritchie

Raluca Radulescu explains why his many permutations - from folk hero to chick-lit hunk - never cease to fascinate
Apple Watch: Will it live up to expectations for the man or woman on the street?

Apple Watch: Will it live up to expectations?

The Apple Watch has apparently sold millions even before its launch tomorrow
Don't fear the artichoke: it's a good cook's staple, with more choice than you'd think

Don't fear the artichoke

Artichokes are scary - they've got spikes and hairy bits, and British cooks tend to give them a wide berth. But they're an essential and delicious part of Italian cuisine
11 best men's socks

11 best men's socks

Make a statement with your accessories, starting from the bottom up
Paul Scholes column: Eden Hazard would be my Player of the Year – but I wonder if he has that appetite for goals of Messi or Ronaldo

Paul Scholes column

Hazard would be my Player of the Year – but I wonder if he has that appetite for goals of Messi or Ronaldo
Frank Warren: Tyson Fury will be closely watching Wladimir Klitschko... when he wins it'll be time to do a deal

Frank Warren's Ringside

Tyson Fury will be closely watching Wladimir Klitschko... when he wins it'll be time to do a deal
London Marathon 2015: Kenya's brothers in arms Wilson Kipsang and Dennis Kimetto ready to take on world

Kenya's brothers in arms take on world

Last year Wilson Kipsang had his marathon record taken off him by training partner and friend Dennis Kimetto. They talk about facing off in the London Marathon
Natalie Bennett interview: I've lost track of the last time I saw my Dad but it's not because I refuse to fly

Natalie Bennett interview: I've lost track of the last time I saw my Dad

Green leader prefers to stay clear of her 'painful' family memories but is more open about 'utterly unreasonable' personal attacks
Syria conflict: Khorasan return with a fresh influx of fighters awaiting the order to start 'shooting the birds'

Khorasan is back in Syria

America said these al-Qaeda militants were bombed out of the country last year - but Kim Sengupta hears a different story
General Election 2015: Is William Cash the man to woo Warwickshire North for Ukip?

On the campaign trail with Ukip

Is William Cash the man to woo Warwickshire North?
Four rival Robin Hood movies get Hollywood go-head - and Friar Tuck will become a superhero

Expect a rush on men's tights

Studios line up four Robin Hoods productions
Peter Kay's Car Share: BBC show is the comedian's first TV sitcom in a decade

In the driving seat: Peter Kay

Car Share is the comedian's first TV sitcom in a decade. The programme's co-creator Paul Coleman reveals the challenges of getting the show on the road