Mr Bigg's Blog A blog about politics, theology, education and the rest…


Teachers: To strike or not to strike?

Posted by Mike

In short: to strike.

As a teacher and a member of the ATL I feel quite strongly that we should take action against the government's pension proposals. Teachers are being asked to contribute more to their pensions (6.4% up to 9.6%), to work for longer before pensionable age (up to the age of 68), and to receive less of a pension when they finally do retire.

As much as I'd love to say that teachers are in the job for the love of it (which most are), it's not quite as simple as that. There is a social contract between teachers and society. We understand that we are unlikely to earn what we could had we become lawyers or bankers. We work long hours, which are often draining intellectually and physically (and yes, the holidays are good, but most of us do work in them). In return, teachers ask that they can retire comfortably. The government is undermining the substance of this social contract with their pension reforms. In 2006 the unions agreed changes to the Teachers' Pension Scheme that was intended to take into account the problem of increased life expectancy. The changes now feel more like an attempt to plug a hole in the public finances rather than come to a fair arrangement.

Pension reforms will damage education

The government has already axed much of the funding for teacher training and cut training places. This already discourages good candidates for applying to the profession. To significantly reduce the benefits of a teacher's pension will further discourage people.

Also, who wants their children to be educated by people well into their 60s who want to retire (and is disgruntled about their pension)? I, for one, find the prospect appalling.

A discontinuous strike will not harm children's education

A day towards the end of the summer term, when students aren't to be sitting exams, will do no long term damage to a child's education. For the government to suggest that it will is disingenuous.

An irritated profession, who have their good-will stretched further, will be damaging to education.

United strike action is essential

I'm fortunate enough to work in a great school. I love going to work! It would be tempting to think that causing trouble in a school that I like is counter-productive. However, it's important that teachers send a message to the government as a whole. We shouldn't necessarily strike for our own benefit, but consider the future. My mind is not fully made up yet, but my inclination is that I ought to strike for all of those teachers who struggle every day with difficult students and over-bearing management. I ought to strike for all of those would-be teachers who may be put off from the profession. Ultimately, I ought to strike for the students whose education will be damaged by these ill-considered reforms.