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Teachers Strike Across the North West

Thousands of teachers strike over pensions, pay and hours.

Written by . Published on July 1st 2013.

Teachers Strike Across the North West

UNIONS stated that nearly 3,000 schools were affected on Thursday as thousands of teachers spread across 22 authorities around the North West staged a one-day walk-out, including the hundreds of NUT and NASUWT members that descended on a startled Piccadilly Gardens at around 11am.

“The Victorians had performance related pay and they got rid of it – it simply didn’t work.”

This in turn meant that thousands of parents with increasingly depleted amounts of hair had to make alternative arrangements for tens of thousands of antsy schoolchildren across the region.

Christine Blower addressing the crowd

Christine Blower addressing the crowd

NUT chief Christine Blower, stated that she “seriously regretted” the disruption caused to parents and pupils but that the government were putting teachers “under attack”.

Meanwhile, the Department for Education states that “less than a quarter of teachers voted for the strike”, suggesting that the move to strike, even within the unions, may not have been a particularly popular one.

Tory bashers

Tory bashers

So what exactly are the teachers so miffed about? And should we be miffed for them?

Well teacher Keith, 52 (Keith wished not to be named, which means he’s not actually called Keith - he looked like a Keith), certainly thought we should, “We’ve had our pay frozen for three years, my school has had dozens of job losses and our pensions have been reduced while we’re having to pay more into them.”

Fair enough. But isn’t everyone having to cut back and be a tad thrifty? With Chancellor George Osbourne recently announcing £11.5billion of further cuts to public spending, are the cuts necessary?

“No absolutely not”, Keith spouts, “these cuts are damaging the future of young people.”

Hundreds gathered at Piccadilly Gardens

Hundreds gathered at Piccadilly Gardens

Retired teacher Bill, 66 (also not his name) was particularly worried about Education Secretary Michael Gove’s move towards performance related pay for teachers, “The Victorians had performance related pay and they got rid of it – it simply didn’t work.”

So if Gove’s move towards performance-related pay was installed, how would it be assessed? “Well the government doesn’t really know themselves, that’s one of the problems.” Bill continued, “It’s too hard to enforce, teachers work together, they share resources – how exactly are they going to monitor these improvements. It just hasn’t been thought through?”

But if the government could successfully monitor performance, then wouldn’t paying the best performing teachers the most money just make more sense? Meritocracy and all that.

Bill doesn’t really think so, “Even if the government could do it, teachers wouldn’t want it. It creates the wrong atmosphere; teachers will stop working together and stop sharing resources because they’re looking for individualistic gains.”

“That isn’t what teaching is about, we’ve got school league tables, and next we’ll have teacher league tables. It’s an unhealthy way of doing things, and very unpopular.”

Gove overGove over

Ok, but if it’s so unpopular, why was there only a 25% turnout by teachers in the vote for strike action?

“Well all unions struggle to get a big turnout because of the way the government has skewed the rules to make it harder to vote,” Bill explains. “The unions can be sued over voting. But it makes it overly slow and bureaucratic – why can’t we vote online?”

Good point Bill.

Even so, Mr Gove said in March that he was willing to meet with both the NUT and NASUWT unions to discuss their issue, but insisted that the government’s position on each of the union’s issues was “fixed.”

Michael GoveMichael Gove

But it's easy to see where the teachers are coming from. Recent reports suggest that the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (Ipsa) are set to announce recommendations for MPs wages to rise from £66,000 to £70,000, a move even David Cameron has called "unthinkable" in the light of so many public spending cuts.

With the Education Secretary unwilling to budge on reforms coming into play this autumn, and with the unions moving for a vote of no confidence in Mr Gove, expect more strike action this autumn as teachers head out on a national one-day walk-out.

So book your babysitter in advance – or throw your kids in a locked room with a pack of Dairylea Lunchables and an Xbox. 

Follow David Blake on Twitter.

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