“Teachers are worth the pay. Much of the work they do goes unnoticed, yet once they are gone we will be forced to sit up & pay attention.”Ian Lavery MP
By Ian Lavery MP
Since I became a Member of Parliament back in 2010, I have often found that some of the most rewarding and affirming visits I go to in my constituency are to schools. I love talking to the children and teaching them about how our political system works, as well as hearing about what they have been learning about in and out of school and their future ambitions.
But in recent years I can sense a change in the atmosphere in schools when I visit, in particular since the pandemic. This is most obvious when I take time to talk to the teaching staff who find themselves under immense pressures from a system only interested in results and one that does not appreciate the hard work they do.
Although pressures in schools have been mounting ever since the Conservative Party took over at the same time I entered Parliament with their devastating cuts that hit the schools in the most deprived areas the hardest, the pandemic has resulted in a tangible increase on the pressures of teachers, who are now working harder and longer hours for less pay in real terms than they got back in 2010.
Due to cuts to school support staff as a result of a shrinking budget teachers find themselves working around the clock to keep up with the unrealistic and often pointless demands of Ofsted.
School staff do not fear accountability and high standards, but anyone can see that the current Ofsted system results in backwards practises and does not get the best results for the staff or students in our schools.
Just last week the NEU ballot had a turnout of 66%, or 195,564 members, with a staggering 98% rejecting the offer put on the table. This is unsurprising given the paltry offer, which would have ultimately resulted in another pay cut and is an offer below the level offered to their counterparts in Wales and Scotland. As the government continue to treat teachers with contempt, hopefully this emphatic rejection of this offer will be a wake up call for them to get serious and put a proper offer on the table.
This is not just about pay, as important as that is for teachers to support themselves and their families, but about the quality of education that is on offer to our children. When I speak to teachers across Wansbeck, I find hard working individuals genuinely passionate about their work of looking after and educating the next generation. They are not only aggrieved about what has happened to their pay, terms, and conditions over the past decade, but veritably upset about what they are seeing in our schools and fear for what the future holds for their students and colleagues.
This is the same story across the board when it comes to striking workers. I have travelled the country visiting picket lines over the past year or so and have spoken to thousands of workers from teachers, nurses, doctors, rail staff, posties and many more. What they all have in common is a heartfelt commitment to their work and a wish to fight back against what they can all recognise instinctively as an injustice against themselves, their colleagues, and their vocations.
Teachers, like their comrades on strike from other sectors, are worth the pay. Much of the work they do goes unnoticed, yet once they are gone we will be forced to sit up and pay attention. Our country is facing a crisis of recruitment and retainment in jobs that only a couple of years ago were hailed as essential. We need a radical change of attitude to find long term solutions to these issues that sadly seem utterly missing from our political discourse today.