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Comment: “Here is our side of the story”

Comment: “Here is our side of the story”

Tuesday 30 April 2019

Comment: “Here is our side of the story”

As parent worry grows over some children having as few as seven days in school in May amid a mix of bank holidays and strikes over pay, a local teacher is putting forward his colleagues' "side of the story".

In his latest column, Beaulieu IT teacher Rory Steel explains what it's taken to push teachers to this point...

“As the teachers’ strike plans progress my social media wall is filling with posts of worry from parents all over the island. The disruption will force many to use up holiday time or have to take the day unpaid, this inevitably causes frustration, anger and ultimately resentment.

So why are teachers doing it? Why would we want to cause this reaction and what is the point? After spending some time discussing these and other questions with an old friend recently, they didn’t appreciate the ‘why’. If they didn’t maybe others don’t, so here is our side of the story… 


Pictured: Rory Steel wants to put forward teachers' "side of the story".

'Above inflation rise? Are they kidding?' - The headline-grabbing story of greedy teachers demanding an above-inflation rise while only working 09:00 to 15:00 each day with so many holidays is, of course, one I’ve heard many times but it is one that takes some time to unpack. I’ll try to tackle it with the easy stuff first. 

People in the private sector will rightly remind me that they also don’t just work 09:00 to 17:00. Like any job, there are some that work more and some that don’t. The maths teacher in me wants to look at the numbers, so I will.


Pictured: Eurostat findings 2018.

According to EU statistics, the average UK working week is 42.3 hours a week over 253 working days, roughly 2,140 hrs. Even taking a more conservative average for teachers, 55 hours over our 195 days takes us to 2,145 hrs. While this methodology is very basic, it does confirm what I say to my friends, we work comparable hours, just in a different way.

Most people have likely received very little increases over the last decade and it hurts but teachers have, simply put, received less. Information from the States Economic Unit shows that average Jersey pay increases have followed RPI. Over ten years it may not have seemed this way but this data is derived from tax information and is simply a fact. Teachers’ pay has over the same period not done the same and this gap has been widening over time.


Pictured: Rory says that whilst average pay increases have followed RPI, teachers' pay has not followed that trend.

I know that the belief 10 years ago was that teachers’ pay was too high so adjustments were made. However, this incremental reduction has long ago adjusted itself and is now just real term cuts. The balance needs to be redressed. It’s been long overdue. Teachers know that strikes affect parents and students’ learning - we don’t want to do it, we know it will cause animosity, but it is all we have left. 

No matter your feelings on strikes, if nothing changes it will be your children that suffer in the long term. In the UK, 4 in 10 teachers are planning to leave and 30% leave within five years of starting. Simply put - we are losing more teachers than we are replacing at an alarming rate. The profession is simply not a desirable career for young people. Schools will, and are, being left with higher classroom numbers and worryingly fewer specialists teaching. 

The joy of teaching is being eroded, many in the profession are feeling the extra time is no longer being appreciated, the career is literally being devalued. As the saying goes, you get what you pay for, who do you want teaching your child? I am seeing more and more job adverts in the UK asking for a teacher, any teacher, not specifically one in that subject, it's getting desperate, especially in the STEM subjects. We follow UK trends and are dependent on UK universities to train the vast majority of our teachers. 


Pictured: This won't be the first time that teaching unions have resorted to strike action in retaliation to stilted negotiations over pay.

Teachers don’t want to annoy you, we don’t want to damage the relationships with our parents, we just want equal pay. 

I hope I have conveyed the teachers’ story fairly and when the strikes come please remember it. We know it will cause disruption, but please direct your frustration in one of two ways. Either disagree with the position I’ve laid out and write that post on social media about how good we’ve got it, or direct it to the people that make the decision on our pay.

Just remember, if it’s that easy a job, why not become a teacher, we are desperate for more…”

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

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Posted by William Boyd on
Of all the sectors in conflict with our 'government' over pay, the teachers are the group who can really hold the employer's feet to the fire. Reason? There is nobody to look after the parents' children when the teachers are on strike. This is the teachers' trump card. Good luck to them in their fight. Time somebody took a stand.
Posted by John Henwood on
I think it was Mark Twain who coined the phrase, "There's lies, damned lies, and statistics". I don't doubt Mr Steel's frustration, but he chooses only those parts of the story which support his position. Why, I wonder, in addition to his salary, does he not refer to his pension? Unlike almost every other sector, he is enjoying, in addition to his salary, a contribution of 16% of his annual pay from the public purse to his pension. How much would toilers in the private sector (who are severely disadvantaged by his selfish action) like such a boost to their lifetime earnings! And why doesn't he explain that local teachers earn between 30% and 40% more than their UK counterparts? Tell the whole story Mr Steel, but tell it after you have given up holding the Island to ransom.
Posted by William Boyd on
UK teachers don't have to live with the rip off prices here in shops and stores of the much vaunted private sector. Can't speak for teacher recruitment but U.K. nurses see the salary offered to nurses here, come for interview, then they do the sums as to whether they will be actually better off coming here. Many, many say "thanks for the job offer but no thanks". Many other salaried workers have good pensions and those who do are having theirs paid by customers. The old pension moan is past its sell by date unless Mr Henwood wants a race to the bottom, which he does by all accounts going by his free markets at all costs previous posts. Who got us in the mire at the recession? Step forward the private sector. Who nearly bankrupted the western world? The private sector AKA banks and finance houses. Let us not forget either the PFI scandals in the U.K. Remember Carillion? Remember British Rail? The private rail industry now receives twice as much government money in subsisdies in real terms than BR ever did. Enron shares anybody? Scottish Widows? The thieves who bought British Leyland for a pound an dsyphoned off millions. Capita? A disgrace of an organisation, failed miserably trying to recruit for the armed forces. Oh yes, they took that away from those who knew what they were doing and handed it to Capita. The list is endless of failed privatised companies and others still with their noses in the government trough. Private good, public bad? Only ideologues think that now.
Posted by Wayne Bond on
Also, 'average salary is always open to interpretation/distortion in the same way as 'average house prices. Private sector pay is likely distorted by those at the highest levels - a greater disparity between the highest and lowest than in teaching...
Posted by Rory Steel on
Evening John. I only have a 1000 words and you are correct the pension is good. Please remember I have to live off the wages for 45 years first. Jersey house prices and general cost of living are the reason why ALL sectors are paid higher than the UK but we're certainly not 40%. Selective statistics work both ways. Feel free to talk more with me on twitter (@jerseyITguy). I assume you will be applying to be a teacher due to our excessive pay and benefits you mention. Why are teachers leaving and we are struggling to recruit if it is so attractive?
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