On Thursday 10th July, members of the National Union of Teachers, one of the biggest teaching unions in the UK, went on strike over teachers’ pay, conditions and pensions. This was alongside five other unions in the public sector.
In London about 600 schools are known to have been affected, with hundreds of others closed throughout the country. Some were closed for the day while others are running partial services because of the shortage of staff.
The strike was condemned by the Department of Education for disrupting the education of children. The strike comes towards the end of the academic year, when many students are likely to be consolidating their learning from the past year in preparation for in-school examinations.
One senior teacher at a primary school in London said: “I’m not striking because my union did not vote to strike. Regardless of whether or not anything changes, I believe in the right of individuals to register their discontent.”
This teacher, whose school ran a partial service, with some classrooms closed because of a lack of teachers, is also a parent to a nine year old at a primary school in west London. She supported the right of teachers to strike; despite the effect the unrest might have on her daughter’s education.
Some parents were concerned about the unrest that the strike caused on their own jobs with many forced to take holiday days to look after their children, while others were simply angered that their children were suffering because of their teachers.
Christine Blower, the General Secretary of the NUT, said that teacher’s “deeply regretted” having to take strike action. However after months of negotiations they did not feel their issues had been addressed.
To be a successful teacher requires dedication far beyond the classroom. It is estimated that 50% of teachers quit within the first five years due to stress. This demonstrates the high demands of the profession, demands that the union feel are not being recognised.
Earlier this year Ann Maguire was murdered while teaching in a classroom at a school in Leeds. Described as “the mother of the school” she is an example of those teachers who dedicate much of their lives to ensuring that our children are educated in the best way possible.
Her death represents the risks teachers undertake when entering the classroom and, while this case is outside the norm, teachers are forced daily to undergo a barrage of verbal and sometimes physical abuse when within the classroom. This is despite the fact that most are just trying to ensure their students are given the best opportunities possible.
While we must ensure that children are being educated in the best possible way, we can also not neglect those teachers who are inspiring our children. It is important for them to be valued and to be able to ensure that they can expect something for the services they put in, and that their safety is guaranteed, rather than simply being used and abused.