Why striking teachers can’t win

Striking is one of my pet hates and a topic that will come up as often as it appears in the news. So when I saw news that teachers were going to strike yet again, my mind triggered. I saw this article in the Telegraph and wanted to share it with you. It’s an article by Gillian Harvey, and it talks about why people shouldn’t jump on the teacher-bashing bandwagon. Here is what she says;

As a staunch supporter of teachers, and someone who often writes in their defence (also known as screaming into the abyss), you might imagine that I’d be glued to my TV on strike days, keen to hear the ins and outs of media coverage, Government response and public opinion. So you may be surprised that my reaction on hearing that strike action is to be discussed on a radio talk show, news forum or social media page is usually to reach for the ‘off’ button. Why? Because, more often than not, the issues are overlooked in favour of complaints at the profession daring to raise its voice.

I realise that there must be two sides to every argument, and that it is not reasonable to expect all requests and issues raised by teachers over the years to be satisfied. And I am happy to hear reasoned arguments for or against the reasons behind strike action.

However, whether it is the thinly disguised contempt of newsreaders, or diatribes by parents incensed at the inconvenience of childcare, it seems that striking teachers cannot win. The focus becomes the strike itself instead of the reasons that led to such action.

And yet, what is the alternative when the voice of the humble teacher is drowned by the authoritarian voice of Government time and time again?

Walk into any staffroom across the land and you will find many teachers who wish they had chosen a different career path, or who are in the process of leaving, or who are counting the days towards a retirement that creeps ever further out of reach. The morale of a profession – entered by many with the idea of making a difference, and instilling pupils with a love of learning – is at an all-time low.

Meddling by overzealous and ill-informed Government officials, excessive workload and the ever widening gulf between the perception of the profession and the reality of a teacher’s lot, are taking their toll. Yet, rather than listen, and realise that – in actual fact – teachers’ requests are not unreasonable and are in the best interests of pupils (both in terms of teacher retention and improvement in the classroom), the Government use the publicity of strike action to stoke public outcry at the inconvenience, masking its own failings and drawing attention to the action rather than the climate that gave birth to it. Criticise the strike? Think of it as endorsing Gove and his cronies who would rather stretch the system until it snaps than admit that there is a possibility that their changes – carried out, no doubt, with the loftiest of “best intentions” – might, just might be making things worse. Put it this way, if the Department for Education was short-staffed tomorrow, would you notice? What about your child’s school?

Complaints at the disruption of strike action also overlook the fact that teachers have chosen July – the month of the school trip, sports day and gradual winding down for the summer – as the month for action. Not a GCSE exam day. Not a day during the revision period. Not, in fact, a day that will, in all honesty, affect the education of pupils. Teachers are professionals; they work extremely hard under increasingly untenable conditions. The majority of teachers strive to improve year-on-year and want the best for the pupils they teach.

The reason they are seen as “constantly complaining” is due to the fact that they can see a profession they love, and schools to which they have dedicated much of their professional lives, being broken beyond repair. So before you jump on the teacher-bashing bandwagon, consider this: the very fact that the country seems to ‘grind to a halt’ when teachers walk out is because teachers affect each and every one of us. Yes, it is a great pity that strike action is being taken; but it is an even greater pity that the lack of consideration for the views and expertise of a profession has led to such action being necessary.

To secure the future of education in Britain, changes do need to be made. But teachers should be at the forefront of these changes, in the interest of improving the provision for our children long-term. Politicians, who seem happy to simply divert public attention from the crisis in our schools, by pointing the finger at teachers, simply wish to paper over the cracks – at least until after the next election.

I have to say when I first read this, I thought this was an attempt to justify aggressive action by a profession that should know better. But when you read this again, it speaks so much common sense. We all know the government want to try and justify their actions, they want to be re-elected in the coming year. They don’t want to be seen to be a bunch of weaklings who can’t hold their ground on anything and thus get ousted from their seats to an opposition party.

Those who have followed me for a while already know my views on who should define the curriculum, and government doesn’t come high up in the list. We can see that successive governments have been tinkering with the curriculum. We all know the needs in the technological department have changed over the years, with new ideals being developed amongst other things, but governments have never got it right, every curriculum is not fit for purpose in the profession’s eyes. Does the government need to be involved in the education of our children? For me no.

I will always be against strike action, and I will not ever represent anyone who wishes to use such measures, but I am not against people speaking out about the damage that the government are doing to our education system, I would just prefer less aggressive methods than perhaps damaging the future of our children by striking, regardless of what time of year it is.

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