Monday 22 July 2019
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Comment: ‘In Loco Parentis’

Comment: ‘In Loco Parentis’

Tuesday 18 June 2019

Comment: ‘In Loco Parentis’


In this month's column, the secretive business guru known only as 'The Fool' discusses teachers' strikes and who they really affect.

"The Latin expression 'in loco parentis' (‘in place of a parent’) has significant weight in English common law, and sets out a legal framework governing behaviour in primarily two circumstances.

Firstly, in relation to the legal rights and responsibilities of a non-biological parent acting in the place of a biological one, and secondly, in relation to the role of an educational establishment acting in what it believes to be the best interests of its students. 

On the subject of schools and responsibility, the ongoing series of strikes by local teachers is obviously having an impact upon various parties. In order of absolutely no importance, civil servants locked in endless squabbling with union representatives, students, many of whom are imminently facing the most important examinations of their lives, and, lest we forget, the needless suffering of many States members, desperately struggling to avoid expressing a firm opinion on the dispute for fear of alienating an elector demographic. 

family_parents_separation_divorce.jpg

Pictured: Parents have also been affected by the strikes.

Of obviously less concern to some, beyond the short-term inconvenience of having to make childcare arrangements for one’s little darlings for the day, is the impact of the strikes upon parents. It is, however, the longer-term consequences of their actions, and the impact upon parents’ future opinions and conduct, that those currently taking action might do well to consider.

Firstly, one of the most interesting things to come out of the strike has been the revelation that the average teaching salary falls in a band between £50,000 and £60,000 per year. Or indeed that a starting salary for an unqualified teacher is around £ 35,000 (and that is before pension, holidays, and other benefits).

When compared to the Jersey average annual earnings from 2018 of £ 38,480 (which would likely be pretty close to the salary of the average parent), well, it doesn’t look immediately as if the teaching profession represents the type of indentured servitude the unions would have us believe.

It also doesn’t take much imagination to guess how the ‘average’ parent might feel about wage demands from a profession where the starting salary is 91% of their ‘average’ salary, or where the average teachers’ earnings are already potentially a multiple of what they themselves earn.

teacher_pay.jpg

Pictured: "One of the most interesting things to come out of the strike has been the revelation that the average teaching salary falls in a band between £50,000 and £60,000 per year," the Fool says.

Secondly, with teachers’ actions coming right in the middle of exam dates, who do we imagine will shoulder the blame (rightly or wrongly) should students fail to achieve the grades required to qualify for the next stage of their education?

Whilst Jemima’s failure to get the 3 D’s needed for her ethnic ceramics degree isn’t going to cause a seismic shift in the universe, the effects of the failure of one’s progeny could last a lifetime. (As, one imagines, could the contempt felt for anybody who chose to disrupt their last minute exam preparation in the pursuit of greater personal financial enrichment).

Thirdly, private sector strike actions are designed to disrupt the financial position of an employer who, presumably, it is hoped will eventually bow to wage demands in the face of falling profits.

In the case of public sector employees however, the ‘employer’ doing the negotiating is under no financial constraint, as the government will not run out of money, and therefore there is less time pressure for a resolution to the demands.

pay_negotiations.jpg

Pictured: In the case of public sector employees however, the ‘employer’ doing the negotiating is under no financial constraint.

Parents will therefore remain on the hook for both time and money, however long the industrial action goes on, paying for a service their child is not receiving, and being subject to inconvenience from a dispute they have no ability to resolve. How’s them apples? 

If the teachers demands are met (whether that comes from raiding reserves or increased future taxation), the financial pain will only increase, as taxpayers will be asked to pay more to a group of people who, in addition to already being fairly well rewarded, were also willing to put their own financial demands ahead of their children’s’ futures.  

(This sets an interesting precedent for parents who decide to take their children out of school early to save money on holiday bookings. The original objection of ‘endangering your child’s education for purely financial reasons’ doesn’t quite hold its previous weight, one would imagine?)

exam test school

Pictured: "The willingness of both the union and the teachers themselves to use students’ education, especially around exam times, as a political weapon is sickening."

The union presently pushing teachers to strike have publicly boasted that membership has increased by 5% recently, and this of course tells you the primary motivation for their actions. Increased membership equals increased subscriptions. (Albeit that much of that extra money might have to returned to teachers in lieu of lost earnings in due course).  

The willingness of both the union and the teachers themselves to use students’ education, especially around exam times, as a political weapon is sickening. It is likely to tarnish teachers’ reputations far beyond the immediate inconvenience of people having to make ad-hoc childcare arrangements, especially when it is teachers, rather than manipulative union officials, who will be looking parents in the eyes well into the future.     

‘In Loco Parentis’.  Oh, the irony."

The views expressed in this piece are those of the author, and not of Bailiwick Express.

Read the Fool and more analysis in Connect Magazine by clicking here.

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