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…”
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