Teachers across England and Wales went on strike yesterday over pay, pensions and teaching conditions.
The strike, led by the National Union of Teachers, affected 10,000 schools during the one-day walkout. A YouGov poll found that 61 per cent of teachers supported the strike, and 47 per cent of the public opposed it (28 per cent supported it, 24 per cent said 'don't know').
The Government has announced plans to introduce performance-related pay, giving headteachers the power to set the salaries of their own staff. The proposed pay structure is supported by only 21 per cent of teachers.
So what do the teachers have to say?
Pupils are not commodities
"The NUT strike is for the pupils as well as the teachers. Education is being systematically dismantled and denigrated by the Government who have no respect for teachers or your children. They need to be shown that schools are not factories to be run for profit, teachers are not machines to be pushed for consistently greater output until burnout and, most importantly, pupils are not commodities, to be pushed roughshod through a one-size-fits-all production line in order to produce the 'correct' data at the end."
Louise Watts, History Teacher, London
What alternative do we have?
"It's with great reluctance that most teachers take strike action, but when we feel as powerless as we do - constantly battered, maligned and misrepresented - what alternative do we have? I felt that it was the only way for us to get our voices, and the truth, heard. The view that we are damaging children's education by withdrawing our labour for one day is also disingenuous. So many of us give so much extra on so many other days - teaching after-school sessions, accompanying or leading visits and planning enrichment activities."
Anonymous, English Teacher, West Midlands
We need more staff
"I am supporting the strike because I would like the Government to realise that, if they want teachers to do more in terms of administration, intervention and data analysis, they need to provide schools with more staff in order to spread this workload. Unlike Boxer in Animal Farm, we will not just 'work harder'!"
Rebecca Fletcher, Head of English, London
All unions should strike
"It's unfortunate that only one union is striking. It's difficult for teachers to put up a united front when we are so fragmented."
Joe Gordon, Maths Teacher, Sutton"
60 hour week until I'm 68
"Teachers work a 60 hour week to guide pupils through continual disturbances to the curriculum. The ever enveloping red tape that is bureaucracy acts as a deterrent for anyone who may have entertained the idea of becoming a teacher. I find it derisive that we should be grateful that our pay has been frozen, and that we are expected to wait until 68 to gain a full pension, (my father is in a care home for dementia at 66, if this condition is hereditary, it looks like I just miss out on being able to enjoy the 'fruits' of my labour). Furthermore, I find it extremely condescending that someone who has no real experience of what it means to work in education is even taken seriously - this is the biggest joke of all. No one will be laughing when England subsequently nosedives because the Government does not value the importance of a good solid education."
Camille Catherall, English Teacher, Surrey
Managers shouldn't have more power
"Teachers are willing (despite what the Government says!) to work hard. But working conditions and bureaucracy, mostly relating to pleasing Ofsted, is a big issue. Lots of time is spent doing work that doesn’t actually improve the impact you can have in the classroom. We shouldn't be giving (often bad) managers more power to alter the pay/fire teachers who are already overworked and stressed. Gove also shouldn't be putting his cronies in at Ofsted as that makes him ridiculously powerful in terms of proving his education policies to be successful. The best teachers are the ones who have been doing it for a long time. At the moment, from the outset, it seems like a ridiculously tall order to do it for 30 odd years."
Anonymous, Teacher from a ‘Satisfactory’ School
We need the best graduates
"I'm striking because I love my job. I care about the future of the students I teach and I care about future generations who enter into education. I want to work in a system where their needs are put first. Standards can and will rise but not without adequate funding and support for teachers. As an NQT I have witnessed people leave the profession before even completing their first year. To attract the best graduates working conditions need to improve. Many teachers, including myself, feel a moral purpose to their work, but that should not be used to hold us to ransom."
Nadia Anderson, Social Sciences Teacher, Nottingham
The future of teaching
"I've been a teacher for a decade now and things have worsened progressively. Every teacher puts each pupil first and choosing to strike is a difficult thing to do. Some people can become blinded by the effects on them (e.g. childcare) rather than trying to understand why they are taking this action. People should appreciate that teachers are fighting for reasonable conditions for the teachers of the future, and not just abandoning a career and the future of our country's children."
Anonymous, Primary School Teacher from Kent
Cooperation, not competition
"We've forgotten that teaching should be a bottom-up profession rather than a top-down one. Performance-related pay, for example, will lead to individual teachers putting their own short-term goals ahead of the long-term interests of the collective in order to climb the ladder. Many good people in the profession believe in cooperation rather than competition."
Chris Sloggett, History Teacher, North London