Why Parents Should Support the Teacher’s Strike #standupedu

stand up for educationI think this post has been brewing for seven years now. Since I left teaching. I want to talk about why I left.

Firstly, the strike isn’t just about pensions, it is about pay, conditions and the affect of ‘teacher churn’ on classes and children. Teacher are leaving in droves and it has a huge impact on children. It is also about the structure of education which is in chaos, councils can’t open new schools and hastily opened free schools and academies are operating without qualified teachers. Today’s strike is about encouraging the government to:

•    Ensure all teachers are qualified
•    Make sure every child has a school place
•    Stop attacking teachers and ensure there is no teacher shortage
•    Work with professionals and experts to develop an exciting modern curriculum
•    Fund education properly

Not wanting to blow my own trumpet, but I was an excellent teacher. I built a new department from scratch, my department achieved results with huge dollops of value added. Kids didn’t just meet their potential, they exceeded it in their time with me. But after a few years I became utterly fed up with it. It was a never ending cycle of paperwork, observations, box ticking.

Five years after qualifying, 2 in every 5 teachers are no longer teaching. National Union of Teachers

I get that you need to be accountable, that we can always improve. But I hated that feeling that I was constantly failing when my results were anything but. I would sit in my line manager’s office, she would be telling me what a great job I was doing, I would be in tears about how totally out of control everything felt.

Michael Gove keeps criticising teachers. Morale is plummeting. NUT

I’d always been known as an incredibly organised person, but my desk constantly resembled an avalanche. I rarely had time to eat or go to the toilet, I got to school at 7.30, I left at 6pm, taking work home with me.

I was under too much pressure to enjoy time with my students. They were amazing kids, but trying to juggle constant new initiatives, manage all those personalities, issues and trying to shove your beloved subject through the framework of the latest Ofsted approved lesson plan completely sucked all the joy out of it for me.

Rushed changes are stressful for children as well as their teachers.   NUT

I won’t skip over pay completely here. Being a Head of Department was simultaneously a privilege and the biggest joke. I once worked out I was paid the equivalent of £25 a week extra to line manage 3 other people, look after two classrooms, to be responsible for huge amounts of expensive equipment and be responsible for the progress of hundreds of students’ exam results, not to mention the painful process of chasing and moderating hundreds of pieces of coursework, oh and the extra weekly meetings, weekly bulletins and ‘Ofsted friendly’ handbooks, you know just in case they dropped in at a moment’s notice.

I would be up at 5am some mornings marking, because I had fallen asleep on it the night before. ‘Holidays’ were spent in a kind of shell shocked daze trying to reconnect with interests, friends, family and a partner I had ignored for the whole term. Trying to mark, and prepare, to fight the never ending battle to get ahead. There was no work life balance.

Basically teaching stopped being fun.

One day a friend and I joked about getting pregnant so we could get out of there. In reality that was my exit strategy.

I’ve looked back lots since then, but I won’t teach again. That makes me feel guilty. Having the power to change lives, all that training, energy and creativity I invested, all those lives I could change. I’ve found other ways to change the world, but I miss working with young people.

Since then I have watched so many of the highly qualified and committed group I trained with leave teaching completely or move into private education. This made me realise it wasn’t me that failed at teaching, but teaching that failed us. We made huge sacrifices to train to teach and we gave it our everything that PGCE year. I’m going to blow their trumpets too here, they were all seriously amazing teachers, A huge loss to mainstream education.

Academies and free schools are now allowed to employ unqualified teachers. This is a big threat to standards of education.        NUT

I taught creative subjects. I taught some of the actors, film makers, journalists, advertisers of the future, The UK’s creative industries drive growth and attract tourism, outperforming all other sectors of UK industry. They accounted for 1.68 million jobs in 2012, 5.6 per cent of UK jobs. Michael Gove doesn’t see that, he’s driving a draconian return to traditionalist education that just isn’t working.

The Government should start listening to what teachers and education experts say. It should work with them to develop an exciting and inspiring curriculum that equips children for the modern world. NUT

I’m watching it now in my own children’s primary education. Amazing creative teachers. Exhausted, grumpy, over worked kids who are switching off learning. It doesn’t add up.

Parent’s evenings where we talk through levels in numeracy and literacy, where I have to ask what my 5 and 7 year old kids painted, sang, danced played with or created. The teachers know of course, because they’re great teachers, but it feels so far off the educational agenda it is as if we have to be given permission to talk about it.

All this isn’t good enough, for our teachers or for our children. Which is why I urge parents to support the strike. There is more information on how parents can help here. The NUT Twitter is @NUTOnline, the hashtag is #standupedu

 

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23 Comments

  1. Becky
    26/03/2014 / 6:51 am

    Just had parents evening it was almost all about targets and if they were meeting them. I had to ask what subordinate clauses were ! my kids are 6 and 9 where was their art, their poetry, how they are doing at sports, socializing, using their imagination. Left feeling a little sad despite them doing so well. (the teachers themselves were lovely however!)

  2. 26/03/2014 / 7:28 am

    My 7 year old, apparently needs to concentrate more on remembering to add speech marks in writing as well as the commas and exclamation marks. SHE IS SEVEN!! And she would rather be role playing, or creating a tap dancing routine in the playground with her friends. I’m not sure I support striking as a way of gaining parental support, BUT I completely agree with the points you’ve made here Penny. It is shocking that teachers are leaving, and it will be the ones that care that do this.

  3. 26/03/2014 / 8:22 am

    I fully support the teachers strike, some of the approaches Gove is suggesting have me considering home education, which is not something I truly want to do, because I have been really happy with the education my older two have received from their brilliant teachers, but I worry whether my youngest will get the same.
    My seventeen year old is planning on becoming a teacher…..wonder if I should let her read this in preparation for the reality or let her find out for herself. It would be a shame if she didn’t pursue it, as she would be marvellous, and she particularly wants to pursue special needs teaching, an area that so desperately needs people like her, but is probably one if the hardest to work in when faced with targets etc

  4. parentshaped
    26/03/2014 / 8:59 am

    For the first time recently, despite amazing teachers, I have thought I would like to take mine out a day or two a week to spend more time outdoors and away from reading and writing. I know some happy teachers who would never give it up, people who found the right job in the right school. There’s a lot to be said for having the right personality to cope with constant change and a willingness to cut corners for your own sanity too. I would never want to put anyone off, schools are so incredibly varied and mine was based on working in an improving school that increased A-C GCSE results by about 40% over 5 years – not easy on the staff but amazing for the kids. I know 2 or 3 people who moved into special needs from mainstream.

  5. Kate
    26/03/2014 / 10:52 am

    I do not support the teachers strikes, as much as some teachers work very hard, so do most others in other professions. I feel in primary school in particular that changes do need to be made. Schools run by too many women , they won’t accept new training and change and it’s needed . SEN is appalling in primary schools and training is not wanted or given as that’s far too much paper work and how dare females in schools be told anything! The High schools are left to mop up mess and pick up pieces to give the dyslexic children, autistic children a decent chance, hard for them as no IEP’s done! no structured written down documented support given in primary so they start from scratch. There are bad teachers in all schools who are kept on because of spineless HR dept. Also all we hear is the same one liners from all of the teaching industry and I am not sure that most of teachers know what the changes even are the government are wanting to put in as some of them if looked at closely are actually great , especially SEN. All we hear is Gove this Gove that, but it’s all the same one liners teachers say, what exactly in the changes , and specially which changes do they not like? Examples ?. Also lots of moaning about the big bad Tory party allowing Gove to do his role, but it was in fact Gordon brown who put him into his position of shadow for children and families ! Not even a Tory decision. I find teachers complain far to much and if they do not like the job yes leave and let’s have some young fresh teachers in who can just get on with the job they are paid to do. And paid very well too with the best perks in the public sector and far far better than private.

  6. Sarah
    26/03/2014 / 11:12 am

    I agree with Kate above – most professionals work unbelievably hard. Having gone in as a parent helper to my local primary school on a weekly basis for 9 years, the administration seems very disorganised and some teachers create unnecessary work for themselves. In there defence, though, they do have a lot of energy to keep the children occupied all day long.

    It’s great when you have willing children, but some are quite disruptive. When I was at school, there was no teaching assistant, so how come the TAs aren’t being used more efficiently? (Having been a parent helper, I’ve watched TAs just sitting there, instead of using their initiative and finding jobs to do e.g. they could tidy the children’s worksheets and put them in a useful order, sharpen pencils and especially deal with the disruptive children by taking them to a separate area and spending time helping them to catch up, or else let the teacher do this and the TA supervise quiet time for the rest of the class etc.)

    There are very mixed views on children playing v learning and the parents’ comments above are typical of what I hear from other parents. Mine were so bored just playing though, that I had very disruptive children at home, begging me to do more reading etc with them and not wanting to go to school, right up until year 6 when the work eventually got more interesting. They love secondary school.

    I feel more sorry for secondary school teachers, who are having to sort out the mess that the primary schools have avoided. Our new head teacher is amazed how many children simply aren’t ready for secondary school. (I thought Tony Blair wanted to sort out Primary Schools first?!)

    Teachers have plenty of holiday time in which they can earn extra money doing private tuition.

  7. Sarah
    26/03/2014 / 11:14 am

    Oops, just spotted that I wrote “there” instead of “their” in the first paragraph!

  8. Actually Mummy...
    26/03/2014 / 1:39 pm

    Thank you for writing this. I think too much emphasis in media is put on the pensions and pay side of things, in order to create opposing arguments and controversy.
    No-one can argue with what’s actually going on in schools, especially if they are experiencing it as a parent. This is a really useful read to understand the wider reasons.

  9. parentshaped
    26/03/2014 / 2:02 pm

    @Kate thanks for commenting.
    I agree that all professions work hard, but I think teachers are the ones with our children’s future in their hands and the power to still take action, not just for themselves, but for children.
    I’ve outlined some of the concerns the NUT have above, concrete examples in the first para.
    Politics aside, the concern in Gove is not listening to what teachers say about changes to schools and the curriculum, teacher training and teacher turnover.
    The trouble with teacher turnover is that ‘fresh young teachers’ don’t have the experience to just ‘get on with the job’ they need experienced role models and mentors. We are losing huge numbers of teachers in England, whereas turnover in Scotland is much lower potentially because testing and monitoring for example aren’t as punishing. Turnover is a real concern, it is costly and very detrimental to schools. We’re losing talent and experience.
    I won’t take that comment about moaning personally – I persevered for seven years!
    There is a huge amount of teacher bashing in the media, online, here and in real life – it is no wonder teacher motivation is at an all time low.

  10. parentshaped
    26/03/2014 / 2:16 pm

    @Sarah
    I agree that children have changed a lot since you and I were at school. That is another huge issue and part of the problem education is facing. Schools do need to change radically to keep up with modern life but what we have seen is a long long list of reforms and changes which are scrapped and replaced to meet the ideals of each political party.
    When TAs have enough training and teachers have time to plan with them they can make a huge difference.
    Re your last comment. I did a week summer school for extra money in the summer holidays and because I enjoyed spending longer stretches working creatively with children. That was the only time I could have fitted anything like that in. But, this is not just about money, which is why I wrote this post – it is about working hours which are ridiculous, work life balance the rest of the time – which isn’t happening, the state of schools, maintaining training standards, and society respecting teachers in line with other professions.

  11. parentshaped
    26/03/2014 / 2:30 pm

    @ActuallyMummy Yes until I read up I just assumed it was all about pensions. But the NUT are very keen to involve parents in campaigning for much wider change.

  12. 26/03/2014 / 2:40 pm

    I’m nodding in agreement. I left primary teaching for much the same reasons and I’ve watched most of my PGCE cohort do the same. Teaching is losing creative, enthusiastic, caring people because of the constant attacks by politicians and media which sow a blanket distrust of teachers as a profession and undermine them at every turn. As a parent I want teachers to stand up for what they believe to be right and to show the children in their care that they are not supporting the changes being forced upon them. My clever, cooperative children are exhausted by the constant testing and assessment which proves so little and demands so much of all involved. Gove’s attitude to the history curriculum says it all for me – a man unprepared to listen to experts in the field, determined to plough his own narrow furrow at the expense of the children and teachers being churned in his wake. I thank all who are striking today for making a stand for education, for standing up to be counted and for dealing with the abuse that is being thrown at them.

  13. Lucy
    26/03/2014 / 9:20 pm

    I expect to get shot down in flames here, but frankly Im a bit sick of hearing the bleating that teachers do, we all work hard, yes putting in 12 hours days without the extraordinary holidays that might mitigate that as well. We have all had a pay freeze/drop during/following the recession, we’ve all seen perks and benefits change, pension age creeping ever further into the distance yet apparently teachers are one of the few groups who can’t seem to just crack on and accept things have changed and got significantly harder.

    There are SO few jobs that you can walk out of at the end of the day and not think about til the following day, its a fact, we all work after hours if we want a decent job with decent money, and from where I sit teachers earn decent money. Yes you went to university to qualify but so did the rest of us, you chose this career, this argument is not new, teachers have been moaning about long hours/pay/conditions for as long as I can remember so if you don’t like it – don’t pick it as a career.

    As for the argument that you are shaping children’s futures, you are indeed as are the rest of us on 60 hours a week, so only teachers matter then? Good schools have great teachers DESPITE all the government tinkering and overhauling, this is about leadership, dedication and management.

    It strikes me that the days of teachers having it all ways are coming to an end and the teachers can smell that blood in the water, I can see the government turning around and saying ok well work 8 hours a day instead but only have 5 weeks holiday like the rest of the country, but I’m guessing that wouldn’t go down so well either eh?

    I want creative leadership and project based learning in schools and it CAN be done with the right teachers and management, thats why free schools are popping up, to do things differently and better and I for one am tired of all the scaremongering and media bull thats routinely touted out about them. Heaven forbid we should try and do something different

    • parentshaped
      27/03/2014 / 8:09 am

      As you can see from this post I gave teaching my all for seven years, I haven’t complained publicly until now. I find words like bleating and moaning frankly insulting given the huge amounts of energy, time and self I invested in getting the absolute best and beyond for my students. Lots of teachers will also find your choice of words insulting. There is not need for that.

      Research has shown teaching involves more interactions per minute than any other job – you are constantly on show all day and responding to young people’s often ego driven needs – that’s what makes it uniquely challenging and exhausting in term time. Beyond that you are doing all the other jobs. Easter holidays spent exam marking, summer spent planning, prepping classes, analysing exam results, half terms planning and marking.

      Secondly the strike isn’t just about money, it is about conditions in schools. However, as I outlined above, don’t think the money, especially for those staff that take on extra responsibility in schools and creatively shape the curriculum and manage the school is enough to retain talent. Bright, imaginative and highly qualified teachers are leaving in droves to pursue other options. Who do you want teaching your kids? I think it is sad that teaching is losing such a high percentage of talent don’t you? Turnover is detrimental for schools.

      Teachers unlike many have the option to strike and that is unique, we all matter, our children’s futures matter, so that power that remains should be used.

      Having it all ways, that just makes me laugh. I know I wouldn’t want my kids in school with only 5 weeks a year holiday, but if you would rather we sat and marked and planned in a school building than at home so be it.

      Huge reforms are needed and Gove needs to work WITH teachers on this.

      Some free schools will work, some are quite frankly are terrifying.

  14. sarah
    26/03/2014 / 9:40 pm

    I can’t believe the negative comments towards primary schools on here I am a primary school teacher and I would like to say I complete ieps for children in my class I would say personally I bend over backwards for the sen children in my class and so does the senco at my school. I and other teachers in my school have been on training courses this year (willingly!!) The ta’s are absolutely amazing in my school as well they dont sit around doing nothing and tbh get an awful wage for the work they do! On the work vs playing argument I teach year 1 and at the start of year 1 some of them were not ready for structured learning all day so instead I had completely structured mornings and more play based afternoons but with tasks they had to complete at some point my children have really enjoyed this and have progressed well.
    As for working hours I wont moan about them as yes I have chosen the career and I do love it! But the idea of making school days longer I do not agree with because of the negative affect it will have on children considering currently my children begin to loose focus from 2.30 onwards!

  15. Jane
    27/03/2014 / 7:17 am

    @Lucy. I think perhaps you could look again at what teachers are saying. It would appear they want the very best for our children. They want to inspire, motivate, engage and enthrall children. It would appear that that isn’t happening. I write that as an objective point.

    As a parent I am distressed that my 10 year old comes home telling me that *another* supply teacher ‘didn’t teach us what we were supposed to do’ but very happy that she was inspired to learn about bacteria by making yoghurt through that same rebel supply teacher. Her homework is all about spotting active and passive verbs. The joy of enquiring and creating is seen as ‘not what we’re supposed to do’. Can’t wait for this current generation to be adults – unemployed ones at that.

    As a teacher, with 25 years experience and recovering from a breakdown – first time off sick in 25 years… I am just so sad. All teaching has become is a numbers game driven by fear.

    I’ve always worked hard and long hours, even (gasp) throughout those ‘long holidays’ we hear so much about. Do you really think Lucy, that we do all the grading, teaching, target setting, contact with parents, make displays, have meetings, drive forward ever changing initiatives, make resources, cry in the toilets etc in the 7 hours a day during term time? Really?

  16. 27/03/2014 / 8:39 am

    How typical that people assume that the strike is a campaign for more money. Instead of using such insulting terms as bleating and actually read and understand what the government are trying to do to your children’s education!
    @Kate – reading between the lines i think you have a personal issue with SEN in schools. Trust me the changes they are trying to bring in are not going to improve the situation for those children who need additional help! The new system of education will create a one size fits no one schooling. Children who don’t fit the mould or who struggle to concentrate and keep up with the majority will fall by the way side ad be ignored!
    The teaching staff in your child’s school put up with a huge amount from all sides. They deal with the egos not only of the children they teach, but the parents who waltz in at the end of the day and assume that they know better and abuse and insult them, and of the local authority & government who assume they understand how the school works because of a randomly calculated league table.
    @Sarah – forgive me but as a parent helper – you know very little about the working of the school and your opinion of LSA’s is horrific- and it’s the attitude of parent like you that I’m talking about!
    LSA’s are paid an appalling wage (average – £8,000 a year) for a tough job and deal with a lot of crap – maybe try being supportive of them before you insult them!
    The teachers want a better future for all your children – they strike because they have no choice – they strike on behalf of all public sector workers who conditions, pay and end users are being beaten down by the government – this one and previous ones! Nurses, policemen, social workers, firemen, are all suffering

    And for those of you who work in the private sector who feel let down, underpaid, understaffed, and that your client/end user is being hard done by or that the system needs changing for the betterment of society – then stand and shout with the teachers! Demand that things improve and fight for a better world for everyone!
    The bleating is coming from you – the inactive – the person who complains in the silence of their home – not the person who stands up for their rights and demands that things change!
    Please – look more carefully into the debate before you slam them for their actions!
    I’m behind them all they way!!

  17. 27/03/2014 / 6:37 pm

    As the wife of a teacher and daughter of two retired teachers I must say some of the negative comments here about teachers has left me feeling really sad. I think making generalised statements about “female teachers” or “primary school teachers” is incredibly short-sighted and narrow a view to take, as you are talking about a tiny proportion of the teaching population who you have come into contact with. As for “letting them leave and bringing in fresh new blood” well, that’s a whole lot of experienced, talented, passionate teachers you’ve just disregarded in one sweeping statement. For what it’s worth, my husband works with NQTs who are also already considering leaving the profession because they can’t cope with the 70+ hours a week, constant pointless paperwork and box ticking that gets in the way of doing the actual job. All for less than £25k a year, by the way. As a parent, I want my child to be taught by professionals who feel valued and motivated in their role, not ground down by a system that seems to blame all of society’s woes (including a failing economy) on education and the teachers in the classroom. There are so many inspirational teachers out there who are shaping out children’s lives that it’s time to support them.

  18. DJS
    31/03/2014 / 1:39 pm

    I have found it hard to support the teachers strike. This is mainly due to the experiences my SEN children have had at school. Whilst I am sure there are many able and skilled teachers, in the area of special educational needs (particularly autism, aspergers and comorbidities) I have found a serious lack of expertise. The lack of understanding of the autism spectrum, constant testing and lack of support caused my children to develop mental health problems. At one point my son was so ill he couldn’t attend school and had to be referred to CAMHS. He was only 10. The school were disinterested. Even though they had a duty of care they weren’t interested in him and I had to fight every step of the way for additional support. As a result I had to give up work to become a full time carer and advocate all because school didn’t care enough.

    No doubt the teachers amongst you will attribute my lack of support to my bitterness over how my children have been treated and in a way you are right. You can’t go through what my family have been through and not be affected, mentally or physically. I am not alone in this either. Many families like mine are being seriously let down by the education system and the consequences can be very grave. Fortunately for us we’ve turned our children’s health round and now they’re happier and healthier but to do this I’ve had to prioritise my children’s health above education. For my daughter this has meant home educating her because, frankly, it wasn’t safe for her to go to school unsupported (or supported by people who had little idea of aspergers). She was at risk of developing more serious mental health difficulties.

    However it makes me sad that it has got to this. I never wanted my children’s education to be like this and I never wanted to fall out with teachers either but the fact is there are some individuals who should not be working in the system. The SENCO who had complete disregard for my son (and more recently my daughter) brings the teaching profession down I’m afraid. Nothing is done with teachers like her, so it seems and no one wants to admit to it either. She continues in her job and will shortly be retiring on a pension whereas I’ve had to give up work, live off carers allowance and rehabilitate my children.

    Personally I’d like the teaching profession to recognise the failings in the area of SEN and do something about the teachers and/or schools who fail children like mine. Yes there are some amazing teachers out there but there are also some who are less than amazing and who, sadly, are inflicting damage to children’s lives (and their families). Its time the teaching profession recognised this and did something about it. Until they do, then the relationship between some parents and teachers will continue to be strained and it becomes harder for us to support you.

    (And by the way I work PT in community education so I understand the affects of politics on education.)

  19. DJS
    01/04/2014 / 9:17 am

    Further to your comments sent to my inbox, I do not think it inappropriate to comment on how my children have been treated. The point I am trying to make is that my support for striking teachers has been affected by how they (and I) have been treated by the education system. As for holding one person or school up as representative of a whole profession, I have never said that. Indeed if you read my previous comment I have said that there are many able and skilled teachers (I personally know many). Unfortunately the way my children have been treated has affected how I view education. It has also caused me to review my own career in education.

    I am sorry that this is not what you want to hear. I don’t intend to discredit teachers or their reasons for striking. On the other hand, its about time that the education profession acknowledged what was happening in the area of SEN and the impact it is having on families like mine. Perhaps if they did, then parents like me would feel supported rather than made to feel even more marginalised. We may then find it easier to support you.

    • parentshaped
      01/04/2014 / 9:33 pm

      Apologies, my reply was meant to be a comment not an email, not sure what happened there!

  20. gretta @ mumsdotravel
    11/07/2014 / 11:55 am

    The teachers I know through my children’s schools and personally all work incredibly hard. I support the strike, mainly because I can’t believe that this government is allowing unqualified people to work as teachers. Someone I know graduated from Uni last year and was taken on straight away as an A’ Level chemistry teacher at an academy. She was given no training and her boss refused to help her in any way as he disagrees with the employment of unqualified teachers. Needless to say it was a disaster and she left after a few months. In my view both she and her students were badly let down as she should never have been given a job as a teacher in the first place.

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