Category Archives: Writing

Teachers on Strike – Good idea? Bad idea?

This weekend saw the major teaching unions Easter conferences. There was certainly lots to talk about. Gove. Strike action. Ofsted. They covered it all. I don’t think anyone was overly surprised by the outcome.

Lack of confidence in Gove and his capability to be Education Secretary. 

Lack of confidence in Ofsted and what it stands for.

Lack of confidence in the Government and the current pay conditions.

But when all is said and done, is striking the best form of action?

For one thing, some parents and teachers are against it. Why? It takes teachers out of the classrooms and stops them educating the children, which is, after all, why they are there. Some people are against teachers taking strike action because they feel that teachers already get a fair deal and they should just get on with it. Some people think that we’ve all got to help the country get back on its feet.

Some people support the strike because it’s important for teachers to stand up for themselves and what they believe in. If everyone just accepted what the Government did and didn’t make their voices heard, then what kind of nation would that create?! Standing up for decent pay & conditions is right and just, not just for teachers, not just for those working in education, but for everyone who feels that the Government is taking advantage of them, which is pretty much most people.

No one wants to strike. And it might not be the best plan of action. So what are the alternatives? On Twitter, some people are suggesting that instead of striking on a school day, teachers go in on a Saturday and give an extra day. I don’t know if I’d be in support of that, but it certainly is different. What is important is that the message of why teachers are unhappy with Gove, Ofsted and the Government as a whole stays central. Educate the children on what’s going on, create YouTube videos of students telling Gove & Cameron why teachers deserve better pay and conditions, hold rallies and debates to come up with a more creative and positive way of tackling the issues. Because, after all, isn’t teaching a creative profession?! Surely we can do better?

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Myths about Teaching

While writing my previous post, I  became incensed by the comments I read in response to Sir Wilshaws comments about teachers pay. And it got me thinking about what people think about teaching today. Everyone has an experience of school, but being a student gives you a very different perspective to that of a teacher. My OH regularly defended my profession to people who ‘joked’ about it being easy and all about watching videos, by saying he’s never seen anyone work so hard. He had no idea what teaching involved until we got together and he saw it for himself.

  1. Teaching is a 9 – 3 job. False. If a teacher is only working from 9 – 3, then within the first day, they’ll be behind. A teacher has to plan all their lessons every day. Depending on the number of classes they have (a teacher of English will have fewer classes than an RE teacher, but have to plan more lessons), the amount of time they spend doing certain tasks will vary. When teaching, not only to you have to stand in front of the class for 5 – 6 hours a day, you also have to plan each of these lessons. You then need to mark the work from each of these lessons. You’ll have to do 2 duties a week and organise the pastoral care of your tutor group. Throw in meetings before and after school, as well as training, parents evenings, open evenings and other possible events depending on your subject. I’d like to meet these teachers who only work 9 – 3 and ask them how they do it!
  2. Teachers get tons of holidays. True. But how many people do work during their holidays? Not many I’ll bet. Again, not every teacher will work during the holidays. Some might, some won’t. But in order to stay on top of everything, there are an awful lot of teachers who work during at least some of their holidays. The only time I didn’t work during my holidays was when I went abroad. As my OH wasn’t a teacher, we didn’t go abroad every holiday. So I would work during Christmas, Easter, at least one half term and half of the summer holidays. When I was Head of Department, I would go into school during the first week of the summer holidays to sort things out from the end of the school year & prepare for the new one, and then again at the end of the summer holidays for results day and getting things ready, like displays, organising books, getting to know the students who had specific learning needs etc.
  3. Teachers get a good deal with pay & pensions. Mmmmm…kind of. Teaching can pay very well, depending on your cost of living. In the last few years of my teaching career, the money I earned for being Head of Department (all £200 of it) went on my diesel. No joke. The pay I received for being head of department in no way reflected what was entailed in that job. And this is thing, teachers might get a decent amount of holidays but they do an awful lot outside of their contracted hours. Day trips, residential trips, buying things out of their own pocket, getting in early etc. If I calculate the number of hours I worked on average during term time, and not even factoring in working on the weekend, it boils down to earning just above minimum wage. Now I know not every teacher worked like I did, but something tells me that working as hard as I did for effectively minimum wage, means I wasn’t getting a good deal. I wish Wilshaw had brought up this idea of pay rises for hard workers when I was still there! Do teachers need decent pensions? Probably not, because the statistics of teachers dying early in retirement is shocking. Raise the retirement age even further, and they’ll be dropping in front of their white boards.
  4. Teaching is a job for life. False. When I started teaching back in 2002, I thought teaching was a secure profession to go into. Who had ever heard of teachers being made redundant? They’re essential right? True, to a point. Due to the ‘economic downturn’ or whatever you’d like to call it, times are very tough for schools. Even making schools academies isn’t the silver lining in the Tory Government cloud. It was only a few years ago when the school I worked in called for voluntary redundancies. This year, only a tiny handful of teachers will be replaced after a massive handful left. Teaching is not secure at all.

My Granny considered teaching to be a noble profession. But if you look at the comments on newspaper & TV websites when anything to do with teaching comes up, you’d think that teachers were the scum of the earth! And that they alone were the cause of everything that is wrong in the world.

I don’t understand at what point teachers became the root of all evil but I wish it would stop. Nothing in life is fair & I don’t think that lots of people who work hard in their various professions or fields get a good deal either. I don’t think its fair that sections of the Armed Forces or other public services are so underpaid or have rubbish pensions. The same way that I don’t think its fair for the Government to claw back money from those who are most vulnerable in our society because the wealthiest created a massive financial black hole. Sadly we live in a world that isn’t fair & there will always be people who think teachers have got it easy. They are wrong, obviously, because none of us who work hard & don’t see an equal financial return for that hard work, whatever it is, have got it easy. But hey ho, that’s just how it is.

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Global Citizenship & Botoxed Handbags

I’ve been working with RISC for a few months now. I’m writing some educational resources that will go on their resource bank which is free for teachers to use once they’ve signed up.

Yesterday saw the release of their 3-year long report: ‘Global Citizenship: From the Margins to the Mainstream.’ The aim of teaching Global Citizenship in schools is to help students develop the knowledge, skills and attitudes that helps them to respect and understand the social justice, diversity and sustainable development, among other things. Including global citizenship is easy to do and very necessary.

I spoke at the conference about the resources that I’ve been writing. I got nervous, spoke way too fast & didn’t use the prompts I’d written for myself. Useless! People often expect teachers to be great at public speaking. It’s not the same. As a teacher, you know more than the students infront of you. That’s not always true of the teachers in front of you! Anyway, the key note speaker was Lucy Siegle who was fantastic and I managed to get a free copy of her book ‘To Die For: Is Fashion Wearing out the World?’ which I cannot wait to read. One of the anecdotes that Lucy told was about a handbag that was for sale. It was made of snakeskin and had been botoxed to help it stay fresh & young. There are no words!

Anyway, it was a wonderful day. Full of like minded people who see the importance of helping young people understand the world in which they live, as well as getting them to see how our actions have an impact and that we need to make sure that we make the right choices.

Before I go I will leave you with this video clip from TED that RISC shared with us. I hadn’t heard of the author but I will definitely be reading her work. This is why global citizenship is so important.

Chimamanda Adichie: The danger of a single story

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A week in the life of my Guardian blog

Last week I wrote a blog for the Guardian Teacher blog about the funding of RE. I had no idea what to expect. Naturally I was thrilled to have something I’d written on the Guardian website. I write two blogs of my own anyway, this one and my craft based one, A Crafty Chai, so am used to the process. When I get comments on my blog posts, they have always been positive.

I had no idea what to expect from the RE one on the Guardian. I tried to remember not to take any of the comments personally. People always have something to say and I guess the fact that 55 people commented on the blog post is better than no one saying anything. The interesting thing was the mixture of view points. There were some from people who were shocked by the lack of funding for RE and some from people who don’t think RE should be on the curriculum at all. It was interesting to see people responding to other people’s comments. I didn’t want to get involved, as I have a tendency to take things quite personally (& I have to admit I did have a bit of trouble sleeping after reading some of the comments!)

But discussion and debate about all subjects and the point of education is important, especially in the light of what the Government is currently doing. There has been a lot of discussion recently about the lack of jobs, unpaid work experience, drops in university places and whether education really does prepare todays young people for the working world. I feel that the current pressures on schools to perform is unrealistic and this is not best for the vast majority of our young people. Whether subjects like RE  are currently doing what the Government wants them to do is debatable.

I really enjoyed writing for the Guardian ( and I’ve enjoyed calling myself a ‘Guardian Professional’!) I hope that I can continue writing blog posts for them. But next time, I won’t read the comments before bed!

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