Pay Up for Education, Millie Barrett – St Catherine’s College
Teachers: ‘the backbone of society,’ a well-attributed phrase that has never been more apt. Teaching staff – front-line workers, most of whom tirelessly go above and beyond to provide young people with the skills and education they need to ultimately achieve their full potential. So, why are they striking?
If you think the sole motivation of strikes is a pay rise, think again. This is just one component of the increasing list of serious issues. Teachers are expected to achieve and improve results, despite a dwindling lack of resources – and this isn’t just about equipment. Staff cuts, particularly support staff, directly affect children and young people; when support is withdrawn through lack of funding, the impact is felt by all, not least those who are vulnerable or with additional needs. For over a decade, funding for schools has been diminishing and the cost-of-living crisis means it is being felt more drastically now than ever before.
NEU representative of St Catherine’s College, Michael Clayton-Harding said, “Children who have been in school for twelve years have been in underfunded schools their whole career…” This brings it home that this is not a new issue – it is a feature of schools, schools that have only survived this far because of the goodwill and dedication of staff who are now at breaking point.
Recent pay rises were welcome, but schools have been asked to fund this from their budget, without any additional government funding. How can they, when many are so stretched that staff rely on their own donations and fundraising just to keep things functioning? Should staff have to buy pencils and glue for pupils when the money runs out? This is what is happening in schools across the country.
Schools require government funding to support not only staff but the pupils too. If this is not rectified, recruitment will continue to plummet, and everyone will feel the inevitable consequences: education in crisis.
Back to the matter of remuneration – teachers work overtime, unpaid, as standard. There is simply not enough time in their allocated working hours to manage the workload: planning lessons, marking, homework, pastoral care, communication with parents, behavior follow-ups, clubs, and of course, actual teaching. Whole weekends spent locked away completing the overhang of the week. In most other careers, going home to several further hours of work is either unnecessary or compensated for, yet this is not so for teachers. Dealing with things ranging from surprise cover lessons to physical and verbal assault is exhausting and stressful. In fact, an ECG technician disclosed that the career with the highest number of referrals for stress-related heart conditions is teaching. None of this is reflected in the below-inflation pay rise currently on offer. Teacher strikes aim to highlight these and other issues.
Teachers do not want to be on strike, they would rather be in class doing the job they love and do so brilliantly. Support them and you are supporting the future of education. It’s a no brainer, isn’t it?