We’ve been called to strike on 30 November over the pensions issue.
Am I going out? Yes I am. So I’d better start working on placards to carry, slogans to shout… the last time I went on a demo we were shouting “Maggie Maggie Maggie, Out Out Out” so I’m a bit out of practice (and if anyone reading doesn’t know who Maggie is – go away and stop making me feel old!)
I know in some people’s eyes I’m being unprofessional, uncaring, selfish…. (insert insult of choice here). But if you’re prepared to suspend judgement for a few minutes, have a read of some of my answers to the sort of questions I often get asked, so at least you can say I’m a terrible person on a slightly more informed basis…
Q: Why should teachers and other public sector workers get a better deal than people in the private sector?
A: Firstly, I think everyone should get decent pension arrangements! But to me the key point is that the pension arrangements were part of the package when we signed up to teach. Changing it now, IMO, is about as fair as offering me a job paying 30K then changing it down to 20K after I’d turned other jobs down. If they want to change it for new entrants, I wouldn’t approve (see below) but it wouldn’t be so unreasonable…. I’m a bit old to be looking for a new career now.
Q: Don’t you care about disrupting kids’ education?
A: Of course I do! But I don’t actually think kids’ education is going to be substantially damaged by a day of strike action – if absence of a day was that crucial, we’d never be allowed to go out on courses etc. One of the other suggested actions – a “work to rule” – would be a lot more damaging, since it would affect all the additional things we do (extracurricular activities…. helping kids with their work at lunchtime or break… mock interviews… school trips….) over a longer time period.
But more important than that – these changes are likely to affect teacher recruitment. You know that huge pool of people desperate to become secondary school maths teachers we have at the moment? (Oh you don’t? Nor do I, come to think of it…) Well, if you make the job a less attractive proposition, that’s not going to help, is it? Particularly as the government are so keen on only having “well-qualified graduates” and “subject specialists”. So – even if you think I am doing harm to my classes by missing them for a day, if it helps stave off the problem of fewer decent teachers for future generations, I’d think the “greatest good of the greatest number” argument holds.
Q: What good is it going to do?
A: I don’t know if it’ll help. But at least I’ve tried. And I think it’s actually good for kids to see that people can and do protest against things they perceive as unfair, rather than just being passive.
Q: What will you do if more strikes are called?
A: If it got so it really was harming kids’ education, I’d find it hard. When I was at school back in the 80s, one of my teachers was officially out on strike (and hence wasn’t paid) but came in to teach her exam classes – I suspect I might end up doing that (and that’s now going to lead to a different set of people saying I’m a terrible person).
Q: Are you going to give your colleagues grief if they don’t strike?
A: No – I’m a nice person, I am! I don’t want to fall out with people, and I respect people’s right to make their own decisions. But I do want everyone to realise there’s a decision to be made, consider it carefully and not make it on spurious grounds.